Use this story as part of a God-time at home, or as a bedtime story. It can also be used alongside this month’s Together sessions.
So Jesus talks to a crowd. A big crowd. A crowd from all over Judea and beyond.
And what he says leaves them just a little confused, at first.
“Do you have enemies?” he asks them.
Of course they do. And more than a few heads nod.
“Then love those enemies,” Jesus says.
“Does anybody hate you?” he asks.
And seeing as haters gotta hate, those heads keep nodding away.
“Then do good things for them in return!” says Jesus.
“Anyone ever curse you?” he goes on.
More heads. Up and down.
“Ask God to bless them,” Jesus replies.
“Oh, and maybe someone has picked on you or taken advantage of you,” Jesus adds.
Of course they have, the crowd agrees.
“So pray for them,” says Jesus.
He’s on a roll now, and the crowd is getting the picture.
“Anyone ever smacked you in the cheek?” he asks.
And several people rub their faces.
“Then offer up the other cheek,” says Jesus. “For them to smack, as well.”
“Anybody ever taken your cloak?” Jesus asks.
Some people sigh and shrug: “Yeah!”
And Jesus has an answer.
“Then offer to give them your tunic, too!”
“Beggars?” he goes on. “Ever been asked for something by a beggar?”
Just about everyone is nodding now.
“Then give that beggar what they ask for,” says Jesus.
“And has anyone ever stolen from you?” he adds.
And there is lots of nodding again.
“Then don’t ask them to give your stuff back,” Jesus replied.
“How would you like people to treat you?” Jesus asks. “Discuss.”
And the conclusion is pretty clear. Everyone wants to be treated with kindness. And respect. And love.
“Then that’s how you need to treat other people,” Jesus says.
It’s the beginning of the answer to all he has said to them. But only just a start. For there is another reason he wants them to respond in such surprising ways to what people have done to them.
“What good does it do for you to only love those who already love you? Even people who don’t believe in God, or do what he says, do that sort of thing.
“Likewise, what good does it do for you to only do nice things for those who do nice things for you? Again, sinners are happy to do that.
“The same goes for lending money. People who don’t trust God are happy to lend if they know they’ll get the money back.
“But loving your enemies, and doing good things for them, and lending money expecting nothing in return is not what the average person does. It’s what God does.
“And if you do what God does, you will receive a great reward and show everyone that you truly are his children.
“For he is kind to those who would never give him thanks or do what he says.
“Be merciful, then, just like God is merciful!”