But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.Luke 6:27-36 English Standard Version (Emphasis added)
Jesus never pulls His punches. He does not sugarcoat His expectations. He does not lower the bar for us. No, King Jesus is very clear with His expectations of His followers. The expectation is that we would grow into His image and character. Jesus wants us to become like Him.
Like so many others, I have wrestled with this passage. Does Jesus really expect me to stand there while someone punches me? Does He really expect me to give everything away to any beggar on the street? Obviously He must be exaggerating to make a point, right?
I have heard some Christians reason this way, “Jesus said to turn the other cheek. After that, I am all out of cheeks.” The point being that they would only put up with a limited amount of abuse and then they would fight back. Is this what Jesus meant?
To understand Jesus’ point, I think we need to look at Jesus’ actions. When Jesus stood trial unjustly listening to numerous false allegations about Himself, He did not respond in kind but “like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). When they struck Him and whipped Him, Jesus did not fight back, though He could have called on the Father to send Him “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53). He did all of this out of love and mercy for the very people who were attacking Him. He gave us everything (Philippians 2:7) for you and me. As the Apostle Paul writes:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.Romans 5:6-11 English Standard Version (Emphasis added)
King Jesus asks us to do what He did, no more and no less. We love our enemies and show them kindness, because that is what God does! Easy? No, but no one said it would be. Necessary? Absolutely.