This Sunday’s Gospel about love of enemies ranks #1 in what I refer to as the “Jesus, you’ve got to be kidding” category. Now, I know that Jesus is not kidding, but I believe that the typical initial human reaction to Luke 6:27 is just that: utter dismay.
I once asked a group of students, after reading this passage, if they “buy it.” They looked at me like I had 3 heads, primarily because no one had ever asked them this question. After a few moments of silence and hesitation, one student boldly said, “No…that would never work, especially not in my neighborhood. If I turned the other cheek, I’d be dead.” Aha! Now, we had something to talk about! We then ventured into a very fruitful conversation about what Jesus is calling us to do and how it can be done realistically.
I think we need to do some reality checks like this once and awhile to see if our students really “buy” what Jesus is proposing or if they are just going along with the program. To “buy” into the Gospel is to truly make it your own and to integrate it into everyday life. Jesus was not kidding about loving enemies, turning the other cheek, and praying for those who persecute us. For a good explanation of how we can truly live these, see Pope Benedict XVI’s Feb. 18 address to the folks in St. Peter’s Square.
Enemies do not have to be out to kill us. We make enemies out of others all the time by thinking of them as rivals and adversaries. To love them is to change the way we view other people in general and, doing so, to participate in a love that “changes the world without making noise.”
Personally, I feel that if we cannot properly teach this part of the Gospel, we will ultimately fail in forming disciples of Christ. Any suggestions about how to teach the concept of love of enemies/turning the other cheek?