Jesus tells us that if you are going to follow him, you need to turn your cheek and love your enemy. He is telling us that in order to be in God’s love, you need to practice God’s love. Yes, you can have a personal relationship with God, but you cannot have an exclusive personal relationship with God. God is not into restricted clubs. If you are seeking this relationship with God, you must turn the other cheek and you must love your enemy.
Here’s where this trips us up. We get this mistaken idea that if we learn to turn the other cheek and love our enemy…which, frankly, we cannot do on our own…then God will love us. It is actually the other way around. If you want God’s love, God wants to give you his love, When you begin to get his love, you find that if you want to truly live and grow in this treasure, you cannot help but turn the other cheek. You cannot help but love your enemy.
My family is a 9/11 family. My brother died in the towers, along with a lot of other people I knew. In the days following the attack, not only did I pray for those who died, I kept finding myself being called to pray for those who did it! At the time, I was being drawn more and more into the love of God, a journey that began in the darkness of death. The more God revealed his love to me, the more I felt compelled to turn the other cheek, to love my enemy. Even today, as I read this Gospel, I thought of someone I know of who I do not like…and I prayed for him.
Look, if we’re going to be disciples, it’s our job to do God’s work of bringing them in, not cutting them out. If you want your relationship with God to be only about you and God, you’re kidding yourself, dangerously kidding yourself. It’s also about everyone you consider to be somewhat lesser than yourself. In that case, you have two people to pray for! This is what I believe Jesus is telling us when he points out how easy it is to love someone who is lovable. It’s loving the people who are hard to love that will be the evidence of God within us.