The season of Epiphany helps us focus on how Jesus helps us love others amid any hurt, anger, or offense.
By Daphne Sidney, Superintendent Australasia
Is there any worldly philosophy that would tell us to love our enemy? If asked for my coat, that I give the person an extra one? If I am slapped on the cheek, that I turn and give my other cheek? What about fairness and justice?
The verses I referenced are not political statements but personal ones as Jesus made clear in his Sermon on the Mount, and established throughout his life. We are not to take revenge and not to hate back when shown hate. Rather, we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
The world’s expectation for hurt is to retaliate, to respond in equal force at least proportionately, if not more, just to teach them a lesson. To overcome and not retaliate or harbour animosity to personal slights is difficult, no doubt about that. It is only in and with the divine light of Jesus, living in the power of his love with the help of the Holy Spirit, that we are enabled to respond differently.
Jesus is the light shining in the darkness of this world – this is the theme of Epiphany; he brings light to replace darkness. The apostle Peter enlightens us about the life and character of Jesus who faced angry mobs at times because he had a way of turning everything upside down.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23 NIV)
We see that Jesus entrusted the justice of the situation to his Father. Rather than depending on his own powers – which he had – he committed the situation into his Father’s hands. Knowing that justice is ultimately with God means we can be at peace and put our hurts to rest
Let’s not gloss over this. Here was a divine being who poured out his divinity to become human. Then, as a human, he poured himself out again on the cross, taking every insult, pain, and rejection one could imagine. He took it all upon himself, nobody else. It was on the Cross that all this was dealt with – for us. We need to bring all our pains, hurts, and offenses, and lay them at the Cross. And leave them there, allowing our Father to remind us that we have received great mercy and forgiveness for our own sins. Because of this great gift, we can extend mercy and forgiveness to others. Jesus gives us the life and strength to do that. Notice again what Peter said:
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should following his steps. He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness. (1 Peter 2:21-24 NIV)
It is said of Mother Teresa that she found great strength and sustenance through prayer, bringing her close to Jesus, whom she came to know in a very personal way. In this way she was able to recognize Christ in others. This is a wonderful key to not only loving others but to forgiving others. As Jesus said …whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:40).
In this we have a wonderful freedom – at the Cross of Jesus we can lay down our battles and release the anger and hate and any need for payback. Instead of payback we are exhorted to “pray back,” to love our enemies and pray for them. We live in deep gratitude for what Jesus has done for us, for his immense love, grace, mercy, and compassion, all in the face of what he suffered, to set us free. As we draw close to Jesus in a personal relationship through prayer we are strengthened and sustained to reflect the light – Jesus, who is the source of love, compassion, and forgiveness for all peoples.
P.S. I am not trying to address bullying or domestic violence here. Abuse is wrong, and it should be called out so that it can be addressed, and nobody is obliged to live with constant ongoing abuse. Please seek help should you need some counsel or help in this area.
 Tyndale NT Commentaries I Peter W Grudem 1988