This is the gospel reading for February23, my Birthday
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
These words of Jesus are so beautiful, mainly because they describe what we know about how Jesus lived his life. He actually did these things. Everyday. Even the days when he was put on trial and crucified.
They are not so much rules as an attitude; a way of being with others; everyone, not just your friends. And he understood very well that all people are not born into the best of situations. Roman soldiers were on the periphery of life there in Galilee, ready to make slaves of any trouble makers. Yes, slaves. That’s what they did to whole towns; put the people and their children and the progeny forever, into slavery. Jesus knew the situation and he knew the stakes. No wonder this passage sustained the lives of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
Yet it is not out of reach for anyone: for those on the hillside in Galilee, or for us. It is an attitude of thinking of others first, whoever they are.
Can you imagine what it would be like to start your day saying, today I am going to be like Jesus. I am going to go about my usual life, responding to everyone around me the way Jesus says to respond – the person on the street asking for money, the co-worker, the spouse or room-mate. Whatever they ask, to give and never put yourself above others; all the while being cognizant that you and they are children of God, and that is why we act in this way.
Try it for a day. What would happen?
Sunday is my birthday. Should I wait until Sunday to try it? Maybe not. Maybe I’ll try it today. I’ll let you know what happens.