What Love Really Means

Matthew 5:38-42
2 Cor 6: 1-10 / Ps 98

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
(Matthew 5:39-40)

Whenever one comes to borrow
We should never refuse to lend;
Who knows where we’ll be tomorrow?
Be glad you’re in the giving end.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:38-42)

Reflection

The principle of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” had been a practice in much of ancient times, dating back more than 2,000 years before the birth of Christ. It was meant to check the damages resulting from blood feuds between adversaries. Considered one of the oldest laws in the book, it was in fact even written in the Old Testament books of Exodus: “If injury ensues, you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot...” (Ex.21:23-24), Leviticus (24:19-20), and Deuteronomy (19:21). This principle was not a “law of vengeance”, but rather one of justice, because it limited the retaliation to the amount of damage that was inflicted. Jesus, however, teaches us that our response to an inflicted injury should go beyond the level of human justice. Instead of “getting even” on our enemies, He tells us to “get them forgiven”. He wants us to avail of His healing power of mercy. No amount of vengeance can heal the wounds of injustice as effectively as genuine mercy and forgiveness. Offering the other cheek means willing to endure the pain of an unrequited debt for the sake of a higher purpose: manifesting God’s love. Love means never to take revenge on your enemies.

If love means never having to take revenge on your enemies, it also means going beyond the ordinary call of duty in order to serve perfectly. “If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” (Mt.5:41) And hardest of all for many of us, love also means never refusing anyone who comes to beg for money. What does one do when a friend comes to ‘borrow’ money for his needs, and the visits become a regular habit (spaced long enough to give you time to earn or save)? An old friend from my boyhood days surprised me with an unexpected “courtesy call” with his wife one Monday morning. Ashen-skinned and looking much older than his age, he said his kidneys were no longer functioning, and he needed to take dialysis sessions twice a week at the regional hospital. Jobless and bereft of any financial options, he and his wife had been going around, visiting friends and acquaintances, and shamefacedly begging for monetary help to pay for his dialysis sessions. A little voice inside seemed to whisper, “Love means never having to say ‘I’m sorry…’” as I pulled out my checkbook. His wife started to cry with gratitude as he shook my hand profusely. Just to console them, I said without thinking, “As long as there is life, whatever the cost, no matter the shame, keep on fighting, bro. Never give up. God is on your side.”

Sure enough, barely a month later, my old friend was back, but this time without his wife. “She’s ashamed to come” he said honestly. I didn’t give him the full amount he needed, but he said it was still a big help. Later, I regretted not “going an extra mile” for him, and feared that he might just give up because of utter shame. I decided to include him in my prayers. A few months passed, and I started to wonder whether he was still alive. Didn’t Christ give His everything when I needed to be saved?

Lord, why do we still hold back when we could have given more? Every act of charity is an opportunity that we must perform wholeheartedly for Your love. Amen.

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