Luke 6: 17-28
27 “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.[e] Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
Well, this is the heart of Jesus’ teaching and acting: it’s how he lived and why he was so thoroughly disliked by many of his fellow Jews. For this is not the teaching of Moses and (most of) the prophets. For them, the enemy was to be smitten, by God if not by human beings. Given the amount of wrong and injustice borne by decent people, who wants to hear about the mercy of God? God’s not bearing this suffering, so who is he to expect us to love those who cause it? And as people who have borne a lot of suffering can tell you, love doesn’t work on evil people! Only threats of force and punishment have any effect. That’s right, isn’t it? OK Gandhi and Luther King were great people, but they were killed, and Nelson Mandela was engaged in armed struggle.
For Jesus, it comes back to God, the one he called Abba. He did not see God as separate from the life of the world. He numbers the hairs of our heads, he is involved in the fall of the sparrow, he clothes the flowers of the field. So, yes, God feels the suffering of his creatures but he does not remedy it by force majeure. No, rather he ceaselessly works to persuade his creatures that love is the way. Only human beings refuse to accept this wisdom: animals only kill for food or living space.
Jesus imagined that God was involved in his ministry. To trust in this sort of God is to believe that you are part of God’s evolution which leads to the “peaceable kingdom” envisaged by Isaiah, where “they shall not hurt or destroy for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the sea.” Those who are part of this evolution do not want to suffer, but they are ready to suffer, if their part demands it.
Will it work? Nobody knows, but those who trust in the way of Jesus are prepared to take the risk. So, followers of Jesus will not say that it doesn’t work; they want it to work, and hope that it will, like the sower of seed hopes for growth.