In my country Nigeria, there is a famous axiom in the broken English which says, “do me, I do you, God, no go vex!” In the formal English language, this would mean “if I pay you back with the same evil God would not be angry.” Everywhere in the world, various legal systems have predetermined punishments for the offences people commit against each other like murder, manslaughter, defamation, insults, and others. It seems that nature supports retaliation as a balancing factor in the melody of existence.
The First Reading (1 Samuel 26:2,7-9,12-13, 22-23), we learn about King Saul’s relentless hunt for the life of David. He pursues him as far as the desert of Ziph with three thousand picked men from Israel. As the search unfolds, the predator became a prey as David and his military assistant Abishai meet Saul and Abner his commander sleeping away at a vulnerable point.
Abishai, David’s assistant, offers to kill Saul with one thrust of the spear, but David would not allow anyone to harm nor lay hands on Saul; the Lord’s anointed. Standing on a remote hilltop across the place Saul and Abner lay, David wakes them up and shows them the spear and jug he collected from Saul’s head as indications that he had the opportunity to kill him as retaliation for all the evil plots against him. Consequently, David returned kindness for wickedness, he gave love in exchange for hatred. He overcame evil with good.
In the Gospel Reading (Luke 6:27-38), our Lord continues the sermon on the plain (level ground) with some instructions that are not as plain as the location as he begins with the command to love one’s enemies and to bless those who curse us. Other instructions under the love for hate standard include non-retaliation and non-violence, unconditional kindness, mercifulness, and forgiveness, refraining from judging people and unfettered charity.
Looking at David’s benevolent reaction to King Saul who was out to kill him and our Lord’s instructions today in the Gospel, we notice what may seem like an “aberration” in the logic of human actions and reactions. However, God’s ways are indeed different from our ways, and his thoughts are different from our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).
In God’s ways and thoughts, the good should prevail over evil. In the Book of Proverbs (17:13), God says, “if anyone returns evil for good, evil will never leave his house.” In his letter to the Romans (12:17-21), St. Paul instructs that we should not repay evil for evil, but we should be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. He ends by admonishing that we should not allow evil to overcome us, but we should strive to overcome evil with good.
We live in an age and day in which paying back is a norm and returning evil for evil lies within the scope of social justice. However, the word of God today tells us to go beyond the social norm and to aim towards what God wants from us. In the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel, we should love our enemies though this may sound senseless for “any right-thinking person.”
In God’s design, however, it is sensible to love without limits even those who are out to kill us. We could recall the visit and the forgiveness late Saint Pope John Paul II granted to Mehmet Ali Ağca, the Turkish assassin who shot and injured the late Roman Pontiff on May 13, 1981, in Rome.
You might be at a stage in your life where you might be hurting over something or someone and planning to retaliate or revenge. You might be “right” because you are not at fault. However, take a little time to think through what our Lord is telling us today:
- To your enemies, show love.
- To those who curse you, bless.
- To anyone who strikes you, do not retaliate.
- To anyone who asks, give (if you have).
- To anyone who offends you, show mercy and forgive.
As we march into a new week, let us continue to keep our eye on the Lord’s timeless instructions today as we also reflect on David’s rare act of mercy towards the one who wanted him dead by any means necessary. Keep in mind also that our God is kind and merciful to us and if He should keep a record of our failings, who will survive? (Psalm 130:3).
Have a graceful Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.