Love Your Neighbor as Yourself

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

No one can interpret Sacred Scripture like the Word of God Himself, Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today, Jesus shows us just how far we have strayed from an authentic interpretation of the Law of God. Continuing the formula He used last week, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil.”

We have come to interpret “an eye for an eye” as a demand for equal justice—as a minimum requirement for satisfaction. We do not feel justified until those who hurt us have been equally hurt. But this is not the way of Jesus. The commandment, “An eye for an eye,” was meant to be the upper limit of our response—that we would do no more harm in responding than they did to us. Jesus now takes this one step further; He tells us to “offer no resistance.” We are called to respond to hatred with love, to violence with more love.

Does this mean that Christians must be doormats or slaves of evil men? No. But it does require us to be willing to go beyond what is expected of us and reach out in charity. We do not allow them to harm our dignity, nor do we ignore theirs. Our attackers are also people loved by God. They are just as worthy of God’s love, and probably are more in need of an encounter with Christ. Defending ourselves does not demand that we reject the other person or their needs.

Something led them to attack us. If it was something we did, some harm we caused, then our excessive kindness and charity will make up for our previous fault. If the cause is something they lack which we can provide, then it is more virtuous for us to share willingly than to be forced to give! Separated as we may be, they are still our brothers and sisters. No one is beyond our obligation to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Peace in Christ,

Father Matthew Kuhn

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