There is a beautiful Fresco in the Sanctuary of Mercy Church near Zaragoza in Spain. The ‘Ecce Homo’ was painted over a 100 years ago by Elias Garcia Martinez. Recently an 80 year old parishioner took it upon herself to restore the damaged old painting. The results have given her fame for the wrong reasons. Realizing she was out of her pay grade she abandoned her work. The Spanish Antiquities was horrified to discover what she had done. Jesus looked more like a ‘Monkey wearing a loose fitting tunic’. Metaphorically speaking, I don’t think they are far off. (The before and after pic at the bottom of this post)
It is said that Christianity has become a religion that seemingly ignores the teachings of it’s founder. This line of thinking stems from the descrepancy between the peace and enemy love teachings of Christ and the Shoot them all and let God sort it out mentality of the Christian right. It really does show you that fundamentalists who believe everything in the Bible is literal – pick and choose. How are we to understand passages like Luke 6:27 any other way than literally.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you……”
“Do to others, what you would have them do to
One thing that is amazing about Jesus’ teachings on this matter is that none of them are passive. All of them are proactive -there is movement, and action. No where does he say, just take it when others hurt you, or ignore it when others hate you. Even in his interpretation of the Golden rule he reverses it from passive to active…’do to others as you would have them do to you’.
In struggling with this passage it dawned on me that Jesus gives us the secret of how we can understand and practice this, and even more important clues as to why we maybe ignoring it altogether.
In the first seven words of this passage we find some interesting dialogue. ‘I tell you who hear me’ as the NIV translates it, or Peterson’s’ the Message ‘To you who are ready for Truth’. There seems to be a pause in Jesus dialogue and he alludes that not everyone is truly listening or ready to what he is going to say next.
This got me thinking. Not all of us are ready to hear Jesus on Peace, or on Enemy love, because we haven’t yet exhausted our other means. Many of us aren’t convinced yet that hatred doesn’t work. Hatred is a strong word let me use a more pedestrian term for it ‘indifference’. Maybe the reason we can easily disregard these teachings is we aren’t ‘ready for truth’ yet.
Ironically the crowd Jesus was speaking to would have been just as troubled by this teaching as us today. Here is a crowd living under oppressive foreign occupation. And Jesus is telling them to love there enemies, how is that going to bring about a new Jewish state. But the first seven words are a clue to something more. Perhaps there were some among those listening who were ready. Maybe they had realized that hatred as a response isn’t working.
I know people in both scenarios. I know some that aren’t ready as Christians to give up on aggression towards those who have wronged them, whether through litigation, separation, or the toxic reality of unforgiveness. But to those who are ready. To those who realize that those other avenues aren’t the answer either, these teachings of Jesus are a clue to freedom. This counterintuitive kingdom, upside down in every way. A messiah born in a barn, that is humble, loving and full of grace shows us with his own life how Enemy love isn’t the easier way, but it is the better way.
Maybe then we will realize that to be apart of a kingdom that is built with love, we better be circulating it’s currency. And maybe Christs’ followers will look more like him rather than a monkey in a loose fitting tunic.