Source: Orthodox New England
Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ says some pretty amazing things in the Bible, things that are hard to understand, things that test the strength and depth of our faith. But of all Jesus’ commandments, one of the most difficult is the command to “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27–28). But could it be that this particular commandment is simply impossible?
Just look around, there are so many people these days who are out to get us, and in difficult economic times, you really need to look out for “number one” because if you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Certainly, we are called to love God, and to love our neighbor, but doesn’t this only apply to our good neighbors? If we treat everyone around us with love and kindness, ultimately someone is going to walk all over us, take what is ours and leave us to perish. Surely, Jesus did not mean to say that we should love these people. Did He?
In fact, He did.
Christ says to us in St. Luke’s Gospel that if someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other cheek, and if someone takes your coat, offer your shirt as well. He says that we should give to every one who begs from us, and if someone takes what is ours, don’t ask for it back. But this sounds absolutely crazy. What kind of foolishness is this? It is, quite simply, the foolishness of the Cross. As St. Paul says, the Cross is foolishness to the Gentiles (1 Cor 1:23). The Gentiles to which St. Paul was referring were primarily citizens and residents of the Roman Empire, and the Roman Empire was founded and maintained by the sword, through the bone crushing power of its armies. “Survival of the fittest,” has always been the way of the world: the strong survive at the expense of the weak, who are crushed and devoured. But this is not the way of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Jesus asks, “If you love those who love you, what credit is it to you?” In other words, if “love” does not cost you something, then it is not the love of God. “Love” that does not involve a personal sacrifice for the good of another is not love at all. It may be a convenient exchange of pleasantries to ensure good business relations, but it is not love. The love of God is the love of the Christ on the Cross. It is the love that Jesus showed to the Roman soldiers when he prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” as they pounded the metal spikes through his hands and feet (Luke 23:34). It is the love that Christ shows to every one of us in the free gift of his Broken Body and Spilled Blood. And on our own this kind of love is impossible for us. But with God, all things are possible (Mark 10:27).
United to God the Father, in Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit, we are able to love the unlovable people in our lives, and this is the miracle of faith. When love seems impossible, when that least- lovable person in your life does that one thing that drives you absolutely crazy, that is the moment that true Christian love is possible.
In that moment, we cry out, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner” firm in our faith that He gives us the grace to love when love is otherwise impossible. Then, filled with the gracious love of God we offer ourselves to our neighbor in love, as Christ offers Himself to us in love. And in so doing, we are filled with immeasurable joy.
The commandments of Jesus Christ are impossible, because God does not desire that we merely live according to the flesh, in the realm of meager possibilities of this world. Rather, God gives Himself to us, so that we can do the impossible; so that we can follow Jesus Christ on the way of the Cross; so that we can lead a life that is otherwise impossible. For the Christian life is that which God makes possible through His own impossible, sacrificial love for us.