“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
This is one of the most challenging passages in the entire Bible. When I read Luke's sermon on the plain (or Matthew's sermon on the mount) I always feel that I could spend my life working from only those teachings of Jesus. Love your enemies. Pray for them. As Jesus cried from the cross, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" Can you imagine if we really followed this consistently? Although Christians have as sordid a past as any religion, and although many people who claim to be followers of Christ still loudly proclaim hate, I do see many believers practicing this in their lives. It just doesn't get the attention of the press when someone says, "That's okay; I love you anyway." We find ways to disagree in love - hating sin but loving sinners. After all we are as full of sin as anyone else apart from the atonement of Christ.
I am constantly asking my children to put this into practice. If one of them physically or emotionally hurts the other, I ask the offended party not to strike back. It is difficult enough to teach them to walk away; I can't imagine telling them to stand there and get hit again. But that is exactly what Jesus said! He didn't say to run away. He told his listeners to stand there meekly for another slap!
"Oh, you want my jacket? Here, let me give you my shirt as well."
Your neighbor borrowed your lawnmower and never brought it back? Just let him keep it. The grass withers and fades anyway.
Lend to people who will not ever pay you back? How would we pay our own bills?
Seriously? Are we called to give away everything and get beat up on a regular basis? Well, maybe. Jesus did tell the rich young ruler that the one thing he lacked was to sell everything he owned. But in other cases wealthy people followed Jesus without giving up their socioeconomic status (e.g. Joseph of Arimathea and Lydia). I think the key is that we should always be willing to do these things if God calls us to do it. Anyone in ministry knows that if the church gave money to everyone who asked for it the coffers would be empty in no time. There are too many scammers and too much need. Handing out money willy nilly rarely solves problems of poverty anyway. But when we give our motivation should be to help and love others, not to reap a reward. No earthly possession should be held so tightly that we are not willing to let it go. And when we are not called by God to help, we should show love and try to refer them for help.
In this world, there will always be people who disagree with you, often in very cruel ways. As they say, "haters gonna hate". But we must always respond in love.
“Now there is a final reason I think that Jesus says, "Love your enemies." It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long. Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.” ― Martin Luther King, Jr.