He makes it sound so simple. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31). I get that. I like to be treated with kindness and respect, and so I do my best to treat others that way. It’s when I dig a bit deeper that I come face to face with my failure: “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men” (Luke 6:35).
He Himself is kind…to me.
The funny thing is, “kind” in the Greek has a connotation of usefulness or benefit. I am constantly in opposition to Him, looking for my own way in my own time. I’m forever struggling with motives–even when I’m doing something ostensibly gracious and loving, I have to wonder what drives my choices. Is it 100% godliness? Or is it ever tainted with the trickle of ego and self-righteousness? Even in the face of my ingratitude and downright evil, He is kind to me.
And so I am faced with the oh-so-simple injunction to love, do good, and lend. It’s not enough to simply be pleasant in the presence of my “enemy.” I have to love–to show agape love! I have to do good–do something intrinsically good, not act a part. I have to lend–what? Give something of value with no expectation of getting anything in return? And all this not for those I love, but for those I hate.
Getting adopted into a family means learning new ways to live. It means behaving in new ways, and appropriating new traditions. Not being born into a family means having to learn–and the best means of learning is modeling. We watch those whom we admire, those we want to emulate in order to fit in quickly. In the family of God, we have the first-born Son as our model and guide: He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.
Let me be like you, Jesus. Let me express the mercy you have shown me, and let me love others with your unconditional love. As I love, remind me of your sweet love that surrounds my every moment, regardless of my thoughts or actions. Let me do good to those I hate, Father. And in the doing, let it remind me of all the good you do for me every second of every day, even though I am woefully ungrateful. Let me lend without desiring or expecting a thing in return, loaning my peace, my patience, and my resilience to those who have harmed me. And as I lend, remind me of all that I owe the Savior of my soul…a debt I cannot ever repay.
Help me be a mirror of your goodness to this world. Mercy and grace toward an enemy may not change him or her. But they will change me, and that is enough, Father.