“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
What Jesus calls us to do is not to simply love and forgive our enemies. As hard as that is, it’s almost easy compared to what Jesus asks. When someone steals from us, not only are we to forgive them, but we must give them more as well! Don’t just lend people money free of interest, give them the money! Give to all who beg of you. Yes, even the people using the money to buy drugs. And on top of all this, do it happy and with a loving heart.
The is still so counter-culture, 2,000 years later. Even Christians in America expect repayment for stolen goods, and the US remains probably the most lawsuit-happy nation in the world. Nobody turns the other cheek, not even those we would call good people. We like to pick and choose verses out of this passage and ignore the rest.
But we can’t do that! God has given us the most important gift in the universe: forgiveness. And He is asking us to pay it forward. But true forgiveness runs deeper than we might usually imagine, past simply saying “I forgive you” and in to understanding. When we really forgive we look at a thief and we say, “I know you’re stealing because you’re in need and don’t know what else to do. Here, take my cash too. You need it more than I do.” Real love is looking at a drug addicted beggar and saying, “I know you’ll probably use the money to buy drugs, but you look hungry, so here, take it.” (Hint, say that in your head. It sounds rude and demeaning out loud.) Or, “I know your cardboard sign is probably lying about you being laid off, but I forgive your lie, and you probably still need this money more than I do.” God forgives us and loves us in this way. We are addicted to sin and use His blessings to sin more. We are no different from the begging addict (!) except that we have ultimate forgiveness. The least we can do is pay it forward.