Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’
Jesus’ call to love our enemies was a revolutionary commandment. Under the Old law, loving one’s neighbour meant loving only those within the covenant family of Israel (Lev. 19:18). Jesus widens the scope of charity in the New Covenant, commanding a love that reaches out to everyone, including enemies.
” … present the other cheek too” (v.29): This is a warning against retaliation. Christians must resist the impulse to exact personal revenge on their oppressors and be willing to part with their belongings in the face of persecution. Jesus’ call to “present the other cheek” is a call to forgiveness, a call further revealed in the words of the Lord’s Prayer and in Jesus’ response to Peter’s question “how often should I forgive?”
“Treat others as you would like them to treat you” (v.31): Otherwise known as the “golden rule,” this statement summarises the moral law of the New Covenant and is a sure test to distinguish vice from virtue. From a Hebrew perspective, parents produce character traits in their children. Jesus applies this logic to the family of God: as the Father is forgiving and loving, even toward the unfaithful and undeserving, so his children must imitate his kindness toward all without discrimination.
“Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate” (v.36): Mercy is now the towering rule for Christ’s Kingdom. The quest for holiness in ancient Israel meant that God’s people had to separate themselves from everything ungodly, unclean, and impure, including Gentiles and sinners (Lev. 15:31). Jesus gives holiness a new focus, defining it as mercy that reaches out to others, especially to those who may hate or harm us. It is then that we begin to show oiktirmos, “the mercy and compassion of the Father.“
Director: Religious Education and Evangelisation