By Roshan Thomas
(Chief-Editor’s Note: Roshan Thomas is a young college graduate who delivered this spritual address at St. Thomas Orthodox Church in Chicago. He is also an acolyte assisting the priest in the santuary duing the Holy Liturgy. We thought his efforts need to be encouraged and would becme beneficial to our youth; and hence his address is published inone of our columns)
Gospel According Mathew, Chapter 5: 38-48
Go the Second Mile
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[a]39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
Love Your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[c] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[d] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[e] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father is perfect”.
The Gospel from Chapter 5 of St. Matthew verses 38-48 is part of Jesus Sermon on the Mount. This sermon extends from Chapters 5 through 7. In Chapter 5, Jesus begins by mentioning, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth….Blessed are the pure in heart,for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” so on and so forth. Then we come to verses 38 through 48, where Jesus takes one step further. Jesus continues, “Turn the other cheek”, “Go another mile”, “Love your enemies” and finally “Do good to those who hate you.”
Take a moment here and please imagine yourself as a Jew who is walking on the sea shores listening to these words. Your people have or had been under a ruler or an authority for the past 600 years. What does this mean? This means that not only you, but your fathers, grandfathers, great grandfathers, great-great grandfathers have faced severe oppression, unfair treatment, inequality, discrimination, hatred, and above all your group was perhaps suppressed, tortured and killed for good measure and or for entertainment purposes. Would you choose to listen to Jesus’ words or would you brush these words and walk away? One could easily comprehend the many weird stares that Jesus received after uttering these words.
Maybe you are a fisherman; you made a small catch for the day and you walk by a tax collector (perhaps Zachheus) whom you may owe your tax. You realize that you don’t have enough to pay him off so you start walking away quickly. The tax collector along with his two Roman soldier body guards’ chases after you, beats you up and takes your money. What would you do? Maybe you’re just enjoying Sabbath around your house, and a group of Roman soldiers walks by your house and prods you. They ask you to carry their armor and weapons to their quarters where they lived. What would you do?
Jesus says in these instances that we must try our best to reflect God’s love. A conversation that reflects this love may go something like this, “(Zaccheus), I see that you’re clearly having a bad day here’s my other cheek. I don’t have anything else but this to offer you.”…or “Yes, sir. Let me help you with your armor and weapons you look like you could use some help.” Why would Jesus say something so outlandish? Jesus was always trying to cut to the source.
Our hearts usually want what seems best for us in this instance or in that moment. We want instant gratification and our rewards quickly. Moreover, our ability to show our righteousness always comes by dehumanizing someone else, comparing us to others, bringing out their flaw and trying to prove others that we are better than everybody. If you ever think about this approach is really strange and in essence we’re giving priority for man’s approval above God. So Jesus here tells us to slow down and look the offender with the eyes of God.
In the eyes of God, there was grace for the sinner on the cross. There was grace for Peter; his own disciple who denied him three times. There was grace for Zaccheus, Samson, David, Jacob, and even Adam (who was his first creation) when he and Eve fell. Why? Because this grace was fueled by an unseen love, so inexplicable, that caused the transformation of minds, change of hearts, by crushing the evil intentions and thoughts to nothing. This is the reason that Noah was saved from the flood, Enoch to not experience death. Love is the reason that caused Moses to catch a glimpse of God without being destroyed. Love is the reason Jonah escaped the abysses of death and that also caused Lazarus to come back from death to life and finally we see the “VERY LOVE” (1Cor.13:4-7) itself hanging on the cross beaten, bruised and battered. This here is God’s love or Agape. All these above examples shows the richness, the depth and the unfathomability of our God’s love. We didn’t earn a single ounce of it and also it was not because we were a great race. It’s because “HE SIMPLY CHOSE” to do so. He from the beginning clearly chose to love us and He didn’t seek for our destruction and death. If the opposite was the case, there would be no continuation after Adam. We really must be thankful and live today to the best of our abilities. Furthermore, if we chose to reflect God’s love slowly we become Christ-like or we reach a state called “Teleios” in Greek meaning mature or complete.
One day in 1963 when Martin Luther King Jr. found out that somebody had burned a cross in front of his house. (for historical context, back in the 1960’s burning a cross in front of a colored person’s house was a visual sign to emphasize that someone like MLK Jr. would/could be lynched, killed or burned on the cross like many blacks in the south during the Civil Rights Era). Seeing this he went inside the house and wore his best suit and came outside and picked up the cross and gave a press conference. He said, “Returning evil for evil multiplies evil, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Love is the only force capable of transforming and enemy into friend. (Martin Luther King Jr,. The Strength of Love). In fact, he also once quoted Matthew Ch. 5 verses 38-48 and said, “An eye for eye will lead the whole world to be blind, and the time is always right to do the right thing.” Clearly, we see Martin Luther King, Jr. reflecting God’s love in a tough circumstance.
Another instance that goes as such is that there once lived a monk in a desert. One day he came home to his hut and saw that his small place was being robbed. Seeing this he knelt and began to pray in a corner of the house with his walking stick. When the robbers left, the monk realized that the robbers didn’t take his walking stick. So the monk pursued them for a few days. Moreover, one day the monk caught up to the robbers and gave them his walking stick and said they forgot to take this also. Seeing his humility and compassion the bandits or the robbers returned everything back to the monk and the monk converted them to Jesus Christ. (OSB Matt CH. 5:38-48). Here again we see the reflection of God’s love in this monk.
So you might be asking how can I reflect God’s love daily. Well…
Number one; pray. Anything is possible through prayer and fasting. In fact prayer is the very language of love to God from us. Never be satisfied in your prayer life and pray unceasingly because your enemy is roaring like a lion seeking to devour. Also, our love is perfected in prayer because we’re tapping into the very source which is God. Learn to be selfless, always learn to give and be compassionate and forgive without forgetting. Resist from comparing yourself with or to others, don’t slander, don’t judge or persecute others verbally or physically. Everybody is going through some challenges and or difficulties so do your best and yield to love. Learn to be the best you can be in and through God. Don’t complain and learn to be thankful for each circumstances whether good or bad. Finally, learn to reflect on God’s love for us and become Christ-like each day without giving up. TVOO