But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. (Luke 6:27-30)
Making Christ’s love the default mode for how we relate to others challenges all of our assumptions about how to thrive in this world. Think about Christ’s words above and apply them to your daily life. It looks like a recipe for allowing others to run all over us. This would be true if we tried to live those words just among people we normally like. To apply such love to one’s enemies is a daunting task. Sometimes the best we can do is love them at a distance – in other words stay far away from them, but then pray for them and ask God to bless them. I never think Christ wanted us to stay close to abusers to allow them to continue to abuse us. Nevertheless, Christ’s words challenge us in how we deal with people we don’t like. Christ commands us to love them. Biblical scholar Dale Allison comments:
In loving the enemy, the disciple is only imitating God, who causes the sun to shine and the rain to fall upon all, not just the righteous (cf. Psalm 145:9 and Proverbs 29:13—God gives light equally to oppressor and poor). God’s generous actions break the rule of reciprocity and cost/benefit analysis. In accord with this, in [Matthew] 5:43-48… God’s kindness does not convert the wicked. On the contrary, God is good to them, notwithstanding their continued unrighteousness. The same is true for the faithful disciple. Jesus does not say the kindness will end enmity or bring reconciliation. Although as a matter of experience, this may happen from time to time, the text actually seems to presuppose just the opposite situation: Despite the goodness God has brought to people through the creation, there are nonetheless wicked people.
But the rain still comes down upon all, just as the sun still shines upon all. God’s goodness can be without apparent of effect. The lesson is manifest: to act in the hope of reconciliation would be to do less than God does; it is just what everyone else, as a matter of fact, does. So Jesus asks the disciple in this instance to act on principle without attention to the consequence. There is no guarantee of getting this for that, kindness for kindness. Nothing is said about breaking the cycle of revenge, or about bringing the enemy into the fold of faith. One doubts, then, whether the Sermon on the Mount really suggests that love of enemies is ‘the way to lasting peace on earth’ (Multiman, Way, 131). (THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT, pp 100-101)
I think of critical importance is to remember that we are not to love others in order to manipulate them. Love is simply to be the choice we make in how we treat anybody. We don’t love others to change how they treat us. We don’t love others to get what we want out of them, that is not love but manipulation. We don’t love others just as the means to get to heaven. Love is given freely regardless of the outcome. Christ never told us to love others to attain some other goal (peace or whatever). Love is to be our default way of interacting with others. But there are times when dealing with an abusive person that the best love we may be able to offer is avoiding them. We may not be able to alter the relationship or end the cycle of revenge, but we can avoid annoying or cursing them. God shows His love for all no matter what the outcome – thus He gives rain and sunshine to both His saints and to those sinners who care nothing about God.