“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” (Matthew 5: 38, 39).
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." (Matthew 5: 43-45).
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye also unto them: for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7 :12).
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 25: 9).
Whatever one might believe about Jesus of Nazareth (known also as the Messiah, Savior or the Christ) none can deny that, historically, his presence on this planet changed some of the world's thinking for all time. For instance, prior to his active ministry, the cold and cruel principle of 'an eye for an eye' (revenge as justice) ruled the behavior of most world civilizations.
His teachings of the principle of love-to-the-extreme was a radical departure of what seemed to be the accepted fair and just law for humanity. Love, as any standard for relating to others, was held to be a weak thing to the ancients—and it certainly wasn't viewed as any principle for obtaining earthly power. So, while the teachings of Jesus were accepted by a small segment of the Jewish and Islamic society, many continued to accept the old way of revenge, as a principle to live by.
Our world, today, reflects both views of what constitutes fair and just law. When disputes arise, part of the world's population believes, (or at least tries to follow) the Christian values of loving one's enemies and leaving compensation to God's will; the other part of the world faithfully embraces, or follows, the Old-Testament ways of revenge as God's way of justice. The current (over half-century old) situation between Israel and Palestine is one such conflict which stays true to the original 'eye for an eye' religious tenant. Both sides agree on that. Revenge has become a cycle for all concerned, that perpetuates the conflict, swallowing up each new baby that is born as a new convert for the conflict. There is no peace with continuous revenge—but then revenge never promised peace, merely human justice.
Now, in this situation, Christians need feel no superiority. Those of us who profess to follow Christ Jesus as the Master, rarely find the enlightenment which allows the universal love, which Jesus recommended, to resolve conflicts in our daily lives...at least, not to the degree in which Jesus preached. Trying, or desiring to do something, isn't really the same thing as actually doing it. We still turn to human defenses, as individuals or countries, to solve most of our conflicts. In actual practice, we're all guilty, to some degree, of wanting revenge as part of the resolution, when wronged. This dynamic exists because we still don't know the spiritual importance of love—divine Love—that the Master comprehended. We don't know its presence as law or power with us. We simply don't know what Jesus knew, however much we want to honor the principle he taught. Mainly, we don't clearly See the importance of universal love as the principle for everlasting life and peace.
So what did Christ Jesus know that set him apart from the people on planet Earth, in both his time and our own time here? And how was his healing of diseased, injured and even 'dead' people, related to this principle of love which he taught? What does love have to do with any of it?
Well, it's recorded that Jesus made the following statement about himself, and his God-ordained mission to humanity. While near the end of his own earthly career, (while standing before Pontius Pilate) Jesus said : “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” (John 18: 37). So, from just this single utterance, he tied all his healings and teachings (including the principle of universal love) to the Creator's truth.
But love isn't just one of his teachings; he identified it as the most important one. For when a certain lawyer asked the Master which was the greatest commandment in the law, Jesus replied, “...Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22: 36-40). That gives love a lot of weight in the kingdom of God.
Christ Jesus apparently knew why this love, for both God and man, is so important to each individual in the world—even though the world, up to that time, wasn't perceiving any of it. One of the disciples of Jesus wrote, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is Love.” (I John 4: 7, 8). Thus, with Christ Jesus' visit to the human condition, the principle of love, not revenge, was the new standard of justice and righteousness that God was sending to his people.
The subject of vengeance as justice, belonging to the divine Intelligence, God, alone, and the wrongness of man taking action against one's enemies, however, actually goes farther back than the time of Jesus. In the Old Testament, long before the birth of Jesus, these words of God were written in the 5th Book of Moses, called Deuteronomy (verse 32:35 to first ;) “To me belongeth vengeance, and recompense;” This reference to vengeance belonging to God alone, are echoed in one of David's Psalms, “O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth; O God, to whom vengeance belongeth, shew thyself. Lift up thyself, thou judge of the earth:..the Lord is my defence; and my God is the rock of my refuge. And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their wickedness;” (Psalms 94: 1, 2, 22, 23 to ;).
In this psalm, David doesn't take, for himself, the right of vengeance. He clearly acknowledges God's authority over all. But David's time was later in human history than the first laws of Moses made their appearance. (Historically, I believe the book of Deuteronomy was written at a later time than the book of Exodus, and David's time was later still.) So, the progression was increasing in world thought, from the claim of man as a judge over his fellow man, to God as the only judge over man. The old-testament prophet, Isaiah, presents God as saying, through him, “...my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 25: 9). The principle of love was this higher way.
So, by the time of Christ Jesus, the judgment of God was beginning to be seen as the judgment of a loving God, not a humanly, vengeful God. Vengeance, as a quality or tenant of God, was losing its hold on the collective mind, and beliefs, of greater humanity. Jesus presented the divine Intelligence, Wisdom, Righteousness and Purpose of God as the only mentality capable of judging humanity. Even the teaching of forgiving others in order to be forgiven ourselves shows a divine wisdom and fairness that defies argument.
While I'm certainly not an example of one who has risen to any perceivable level in expressing the standard of love, (loving people that cause me grief is always a 'work in progress' for me) I can share one, tiny proof of its power in the human condition:
Many years ago, I took a job in sales. Since I had no experience in this field, I asked God to help establish me, as a successful sales person, so that I'd fit in. Then, having asked, I knew to trust that the divine Intelligence and Wisdom would “...perfect that which concerneth me.” (Psalm 138: 8). Without going into detail, a wonderful plan began to unfold to my thought, that resulted in a really, huge sale for me. After that sale became public, I was established.
But you know that old saying, 'Be careful what you ask for.' In making such a big splash, I called attention to myself. While many colleagues congratulated me for the sale, a few others started false rumors about my honesty and character, in attempts to discredit me. During this time, one man, who wasn't having much success at selling, felt particularly threatened by my big sale. I think he really liked me, but couldn't get past the resentment. So, just a few weeks after the sale, I was praying again.
This time I prayed for protection on all sides. I felt no ill-will against anyone, because I understood how envy can take us over. I knew that God, the divine Intelligence within, had shown me how to establish myself in the field; so my good fortune was right and didn't hurt anyone else. But now I needed to see my safety in God's love, as well. When I prayed for peace from so many sudden 'enemies', it came to me that I already knew how to handle this situation—just love them all.
Well, my response to this message was, “What's love got to do with it? They're still resenting me for the size of this sale, and I only wanted to be included.”
Then it came to thought, “But don't just passively love them, by withholding revenge; actively love them, by blessing them. Obey the teaching of Christ Jesus. These individuals believe themselves to be your enemy, because they erroneously think you're standing in the way of their own good, somehow. So, love your enemies. Do good to them. Bless them. Particularly bless the man who really doesn't want to feel resentment against you, but feels like a failure.”
This stumped me; how was I to bless them? Then the mental reply was, “The highest good you can do for anyone is to know the spiritual truth of God's love and care for each one. See all their own good and success as God's children. Know that the divine presence, infinite Spirit, provides, abundantly, for each and every identity in creation. This is what it means to bless someone. Blessing others is to know God's love and care for them—maybe, or especially, when they don't see if for themselves. Seeing, and really knowing, God's loving provision and health-giving presence with them, will help bring it into the human experience for them.
So, that day, I learned the method of blessing people—even my enemies. I opened my spiritual eyes and saw how much love God felt, and was actively out-pouring, to the man who was struggling with my brief success. He wasn't my enemy; he just thought he was. I thanked God for being Love, and for providing for each and every one of Its children. I had no enemies, really. Those few who were attacking me were really my spiritual brothers who weren't perceiving their true, spiritual birthright and inheritance from God. So I perceived it for them.
Within just a couple of days, it happened. Suddenly, the individual who was having trouble establishing himself in the sales arena, was contacted by a business that wanted him personally to handle their needs. Word of this spread, and soon the man was doing regular business. The lack of sales and activity vanished from his daily life. Before the month was out, his anger toward me melted in the glow of his own success and provision coming through. I hoped this was also true, in some measure, with those I didn't know, who were resenting me. I hoped their own spiritual provisions from God, were breaking through the sense of material lack that made them resent someone else's success.
What was important for me, however, was to see the power of God's invisible love and care, breaking through the illusion of failure and inactivity for this colleague. And in loving this 'enemy', I was actually permitted to share in the human appearance of God's abundance coming forth for someone else, out of the spiritually, invisible dimension, into the material form it needed to take for this individual.
But even higher than this, for me, was the discovery that blessing others is actually a distinct, mental activity, that anyone can do, any time. Blessing someone is seeing and knowing that, despite their own beliefs, God's grace has never ceased to provide for them, despite the physical illusion of lack. By exercising this mental activity, by obeying Christ Jesus' teaching to love all by blessing all, (including those who don't love us and try to harm us) we're actually proving that there are no conflicts of interest in the kingdom of God. There's no need to envy anyone. God's ever-present provision for each identity in Its kingdom, forever, cannot be hidden, wiped out, or destroyed. It's always present to be called forth, from the spiritual realm into the temporary, material sense of life. The ability of God's power, to break the illusion of separation between divine Love and Its children, shows that we are all God's privileged children. No one is left out of the divine, everlasting abundance, despite any and all material appearances of lack.
So, what did Christ Jesus know that was so important about love? He clearly perceived that it's backed by the divine 'powers that be.' All the healings, and seemingly super-natural acts (called miracles) that he performed, indicated that the expression and motive of love is needed to bring the kingdom of heaven into the human experience. Love is key to healing all manner of lack—lack of supply, lack of health, lack of eternal life. He saw the love of God for all creation, and he preached the presence of this invisible love to everyone, showing that it would meet every need in our lives.
His healing over all the human forms evil assumes shows that, when we love all others (despite any human reason to hate them) we stand before the will and power of God to act in the material dimension. In loving, we call the kingdom of heaven down to earth—the spiritual truth breaks through the material illusion of untruth. And while we appear to bring the love, abundance, health and other blessings to someone else, we really end up blessing ourselves as well—for no one can activate the power of universal love, the divine principle of God's kingdom, without receiving the same blessing we called forth for another.
When the principle of loving our enemies is activated, and the human scene adjusts because of it, the need to punish someone for losses, or persecutions we've suffered at their hands, vanishes in God's inexhaustible provision for us. It leaves as we learn, step by tiny step, that no one, and no thing, can separate any of us from the invisible, loving care of God, ever-present to bless all, and replace anything materially destroyed by another. The physical healings of Christ Jesus even knew the power of this love to keep us immortally whole and alive.
In the kingdom of God, the spiritual creation that is always present, we have no enemies. And what does love have to do with that? Everything.