Today’s Gospel reminds us of that hard topic – forgiveness, and once again sets out Jesus’ standards for our everyday behaviour. To forgive those who have hurt us, or caused us pain is one of the most vexing demands of being a disciple of Christ. In so many things, following Jesus is loving and practical; being real, being merciful and being kind. Live out love in your home, your community, your church and in the world. These things are not rocket science. But today’s Gospel doesn’t appear to make very much practical sense. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who persecute you. And don’t be too impressed with yourself for being good to your friends. Anybody can do that, Jesus says. The path to true discipleship is to love your ‘enemies’, or those who set out to hurt you, or even those who intentionally pull you down.
Today’s Gospel reading continues on from last week, and is part of, what’s known as the Sermon on the Plain, where just like the Beatitudes in Matthew’s Gospel, we find a pattern for living and being that’s about the Kingdom of God. But Luke adds on this passage about forgiveness. People who want to have these attitudes for living, or to live Christlike lives are forgivers. Even though it’s hard, they work on forgiveness, and they don’t hold onto grudges.
Even though forgiveness, and not holding onto anger and grudges are theological principles, as with so many other Gospel themes, letting go of bitterness and anger is also good for us. Modern psychological research shows us that lack of forgiveness and holding onto deep inner rage is toxic and damaging to our health and wellbeing. Forgiveness is not only good for those we forgive, it’s actually in our own best interest to forgive others for their transgressions against us. We are not engaging in forgiveness to do them a favour, but so that we can heal ourselves. This is a tough issue! The disciples were shocked by Jesus words, as are we. But then the way of Jesus Christ was never meant to be easy was it! It goes against the grain, cuts across all our natural inclinations and calls us to be peacemakers, people who are merciful, people who look out beyond their own needs in the world – and people who forgive.
In peace, Mother Lynda
Gospel Reading: Luke 6: 27-38