Gospel Reading for the 17th Sunday after Pentecost
Do to others as you would have them do to you. For 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 do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. If you lend money to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit [is] that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, and get back the same amount. But rather, love your enemies and do good to them, and lend expecting nothing back; then your reward will be great and you will be children of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.Luke 6:31—36 (New American Bible (Revised Edition))
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“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Have you ever heard that before? Sometimes we call that the Golden Rule. The Gospel reading today begins with Jesus teaching the Golden Rule.
What does it mean to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? Well . . . Do you like when other people smile and say hello to you? Yes? You should smile and say hello to other people. Do you like being teased? No? You should not tease other people. Do you like when friends share with you? Yes? You should share with them.
We all know this, and it’s usually easy to be nice to friends and people we like. What about people we don’t like, or people who don’t like us? Jesus tells us, in today’s Gospel reading, to love our enemies, and to be good to people who are mean to us. That sounds pretty silly. Doesn’t it? I mean, why would you be nice to someone who is mean to you?
Were people mean to Jesus? Yes. They beat him and hung him on a cross until he died. Was Jesus mean to them? Jesus is God. He could have made them stop. He could have hurt them back. What did he do, though? He loved them, and he forgave them, even though they didn’t ask him to.
If Jesus could forgive the people who beat him and killed him, can we forgive a bully, or someone who says mean things behind our backs, or someone who forgets our birthday? It seems kind of silly not to. Doesn’t it?
Do we want to be like Jesus? I know some people who wanted very much to be like Jesus. Look around at the walls of our church. All these people, we call saints. Many of them were treated very badly because they were Christians. You know what, though? These saints didn’t hurt the people who hurt them. Instead, they loved them. If you look around the head of each of the saints, you’ll see a golden circle. Let that golden circle remind you of the golden rule, and how Jesus tells us to treat everyone—even our enemies—with love. That’s one reason we have icons of saints—to remind us that we want to follow Jesus the way they followed Jesus. The other reason is because we want to remind ourselves that they are here with us, and that when we receive communion today, it’s not just with the people in line with you, but with all the saints, and that, hopefully, one day, we’ll join them, along with our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Christ’s espousing this sentiment is recorded at least three times in the Gospels, and the idea is addressed many times in the Old Testament. Seems like it might be important.
[T]he Lord exhorts the Apostles not to give way to defensive measures against their enemies, but instead bravely to endure all things, even insults and murderous plots. This is what He Himself did on the Cross, saying, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do (Lk.23:34). To prove to the Apostles that this commandment to love ones enemies is possible to keep, He then says, “What you want to be done to you, do the same to others; and be to others that kind of person you want others to be to you.” If you want your enemies to be hard, unfeeling, and angry towards you, then be the same yourself to them. But if you want them to be kind and compassionate towards you, and not to remember wrongs, do not think that it is impossible for you yourself to be the same towards them. Do you see this natural law which is written in our hearts? That is why the Lord also said, In those days I will surely put My laws into their mind, and write them on their hearts (Jer. 38:33). Then He adds another compelling reason to keep this commandment: if you love those who love you, you are like the sinners and the Gentiles; but if you love those who do evil to you, you are like God, Who is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Which do you desire—to be like sinners or to be like God?Theophylact of Ochrid