- “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. Luke 6:27-31 ESV
During Roman times, there was a saying “upset the cart.” It’s where we get the idiom “upset the apple cart” meaning turning things upside down. Jesus knows how to challenge our human nature when he speaks the the crowd about loving your enemies. These couple of verses, if you take them seriously, are arguably some of the most challenging in the entire Bible. Jesus knows this, that is why he began this passage by saying, “I say to you who hear.”
When Jesus spoke these words, his immediate audience were the abused, the oppressed, the forgotten and the marginalized. Rome had, with all of it’s power and might, conquered Israel. The people of Israel were now required to learn another language, use a foreign currency, pay oppressive taxes, yield to new laws and customs and put up with soldiers on their streets and in their neighborhoods. Normal life with it’s traditions and customs were quickly being supplanted by a foreign people with foreign customs. In the midst of this cultural upheaval, the message Jesus speaks to the people feels like he is advocating for an extreme pacifist response to brutality of their oppressors. His words were most certainly the polar opposite of much of the common opinion of his day.
This was the days where Zealots flourished in Israel. Think of Zealots as our modern day Anarchists. Zealots sought to incite the people to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel them from the Holy Land, if need by the force of arms. Simon, one of the disciples was from this political persuasion. The Zealots hated Rome and loved Israel. They wanted to preserve the customs handed down to them from their forefathers.Many in the crowd that day were undoubtedly from this political persuasion.
Yet Jesus words were not targeting political positions or political issue. He was aggressively focusing on the hearts of the people. If they would embrace his words and put them into action, the results would be that they would find the freedom they were looking for in-spite of the external circumstances.
The principles are true for us today. We still have battles. We even have enemies. In this life we will have difficult days. If we want true freedom, it always begins by not just hearing His words, but putting them into practice. Loving our enemies and doing good to those who oppress us can be hard, but it is always a great place to start. Praying for and giving to “an enemy” especially when it costs us something is the road to strength and the road to freedom. The external circumstance may not change, but the heart will.
God bless you this week as you upset the apple cart of your heart.