Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, Year C

The Most High is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. So be merciful, just as your God is merciful.

That is the example set before us in Scripture, that we are to do well to everyone, to be merciful to everyone, especially those who don’t deserve it. And our Gospel reading for this morning is full of examples of what it means to do well to those who don’t deserve it. Jesus begins our selection by telling his audience an audacious statement: love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. And not only that, but if anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer them another cheek to hit. If someone takes from you, offer them more to take from you. 

Now, why in the world would God wish for us to do these things?

It all hinges on the idea/premise that our God already does these things. That God shows love and kindness to all people, not only the good and the righteous, to those that we would think are deserving of the goodness of God. But God shows love to everyone, gives life and health and peace to all of humanity, even to those who are enemies of God. Who curse God. Lightning doesn’t come crashing out of the sky to immediately strike down those who curse the name of God. No, but God sends rain on the fields of the righteous and the unrighteous. 

God continues to love even those who hate him. That is the model/paradigm that has been set for us, which we are to do ourselves as the people of God.

And so we are to love our enemies. We are to do the difficult thing, and to not hold on to hate in our hearts, or anger, or bitterness, or resentment. Instead, there is to be a love in us that is more powerful than hate. That is bigger than anger, bigger than our bitterness or resentment. Because God is love, our love as the people of God is to be bigger than our pain, or pride, or fear. 

And, we are to do good to those who hate us. Not to pick and choose who we will be kind to and who we won’t, who we will talk to and who we won’t, who we will help and who we won’t. Instead, we are to do good to all people, even to those who don’t do good to us. To those who even do evil toward us, we are still called on to do good to them, because we’ve already established that we are called to love them, even though they hate us.

And we are called to bless those who curse us. Not to respond in kind, not to do unto others as has been done to us, but to continue to want the best for those who wish the worst for us. 

And we are called to pray for those who abuse us. Not to only pray for those who are for us, who do well to us, or even those we support, but to pray for everybody, including those who oppose us and attack us. Certainly everybody in this life needs more of God in their lives, and some more than others, and so we as the people of God are to pray for everyone, regardless of who they are and our own feelings about them. Our prayers and what we pray for may be shaped by their specific situation and in what ways they needs God’s help, but we are still told to pray for everyone, including those who abuse us.

And if you are in need of an example of what this looks like, we needn’t look any further than the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus, who said these words from our Gospel reading about loving your enemies, doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, and praying for those who abuse you, modeled all of these perfectly as he hung on the cross. He went to the cross to bring life and forgiveness and peace to all people, including those who wanted him to die. He didn’t respond in kind to the way that he was treated along the way, being cursed, mocked, struck, tormented, and abused, but he continued to speak truth gently and not strike out at those who only wanted violence. And while he hung on the cross dying, he prayed that even those who hated him to the point of death would receive forgiveness for their sins. That, my friends, is the example that has been set for us. That is the model of what it means to love our enemies. 

The Most High is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. So be merciful, just as your God is merciful.

So may you… love your enemies, doing good to those who hate you… pray for those who need more of God in their lives… follow the good example of our Lord, who suffered death that all might live, including those who put him on the cross.

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