“Love your enemies”. If I want to follow the Christian way of life, I need to “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly”. Now in reality, just how difficult is that? It is easier preaching and proclaiming but as a human soul it is practically impossible. After all Christianity is not to be witnessed by words alone but through action.
“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”.
I pondered and found it easier to imagine myself as the victim, the long suffering Christian who always try to present the other cheek. My Christian image shines behind my gallant effort, but then very often I had failed to allow them to slap me again. It dawned on me that in the reality of my world, I am the one who slap others and persistently take their cloak.
In this reality of my world today, I guard myself from others. I want to preserve the way I want to look at the world, and subconsciously retain my prejudices against people I dislike. To help my gallant effort, I encamp myself with people who allow me my opinions and add colour to the vision of my world. I call them friends. Simply put, I want to have it my way.
From within this camp I allow dislike for the other to fester. I have strength in a group but this strength is double-edged, blinding myself to the good of the other. I judge, and I eventually condemn by my own measure of righteousness. I weakly use half-truths to scandalise. Effectively, I am taking the cloak of reputation off the other and yet he offers me his tunic as well.
I choose not to see the fruits of his or her goodness. I prefer the lustful satisfaction of fueling my opinions, of having it my way. When I choose to be blinded by my prejudices, I continue to repeatedly slap him or her on the cheek. I am the enemy.
There are many people around me that are doing a lot of good. It might be envy or simply a past hurt I cannot forgive. I refuse to acknowledge that they doing more right than wrong because I prefer to remain in my drunken state indulging myself in the pleasures of self-gratification. Simply because they didn’t do it my way.
In truth in this human life we are both hand and cheek. “Love your enemies” is not a prerequisite, not a demand. It is a way to get out of the madness of our self-opinionated world where we keep slapping one another. It is a call to journey in life as a human soul to become a life-giving spirit.
For all of us who have persevered in this way, having been repeatedly slapped, take it as a privilege. Presenting our other cheek is offering our face of conversion to the hand who slaps. As Jesus died on the cross he said, “Forgive them as they know not what they do”. Practically impossible, but it did happen in our world. It is happening to you.
7th Ordinary Sunday
Very well put Tony. I am too guilty. During confession, a priest told me that I have to remember that God loves me very much and has put behind me all my past imperfections because I repented. So we must embrace his forgiveness and forgive ourselves. That too is a slap on the Lord’s face when he forgives us and we don’t forgive ourselves.Perhaps when we think about St Paul or St Augustine we might find strength in overcoming our short comings and direct our strength and grace to love like Jesus love.