Eternal God, you grant rain to both the just and unjust; your sun shines down on greedy and generous alike. Transform our hearts to be like yours, scattering goodness to all, showing mercy to all, enacting grace and love to all. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Matthew 5:38-48 The Message
“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
“This is what God does.” “Live out your God-created identity.” “Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” “Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Why? Because we claim to belong to him; how can we do otherwise than demonstrate his character? His character must become ours. And while our sins can never damage God, they can destroy all around us—the very people he calls us to love and live generously toward.
We do no sort of harm to God if we sin, but we do injure ourselves, and those related to us. The God of Love desires that we may be saved from sin in all its forms, so that we may enjoy His fellowship, but sin excludes us from this holy association with God. Then between individuals there is such a close relation that our injury becomes the injury of others, and another’s injury becomes ours. It never has been possible, and it never will be, that we can commit evil without injuring others. To some degree or other our fellow-men are affected by the good or bad that we do. Hence the meaning of repentance is that for the future we will refrain from those deeds which are injurious both to ourselves and to others, and, with God’s help and grace, as Zacchaeus did, make restitution for what we have already done.
—Sadhu Sundar Singh (1889-1929) Meditations on Various Aspects of the Spiritual Life