“Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor 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 that despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father who 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. For if ye love them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
In a world of violence, the Cross, that eminently counter-cultural symbol that lies at the heart of the Christian faith, is a scandal. At its core, however, the scandal of the Cross in a world of violence is not the danger associated with self-sacrifice. Jesus' greatest agony was not that He suffered. Suffering can be endured, even embraced, if it brings forth desirable fruit, as the experience of giving birth illustrates. What turned the pain of suffering into agony is abandonment; Jesus was abandoned by the very people who trusted Him and, it would appear to fully human eyes, by the God in whom He trusted. "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34).
My God, my God, why did my radical, self-sacrificial obedience to Your way lead to the pain and disgrace of the Cross? The ultimate scandal of the Cross is the all too frequent failure of self-sacrifice to bring forth positive fruit: you give yourself for the other – and violence does not stop but destroys you; you sacrifice your life – and stabilize the power of the perpetrator of the evil. Though self-sacrifice often issues in the joy of reciprocity, it must reckon with the pain of failure and violence. When violence strikes, the very act of self-sacrifice becomes a cry before the face of God. “Why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Miroslav Volf, Exclusion & Embrace, ( Abington Press, Nashville) p. 26, edited and adapted)So we must ask, do we offer ourselves a living sacrifice of love even to our enemies, to bear fruit that we may qualify and quantify in this world? Or do we offer ourselves a living sacrifice of love even to our enemies, because this is the Divine Commandment, the Divine Order where the fruit itself is not only of this world, even unrecognizable to this world, and thus beyond created means of measure? We must love because we are Christian, and God Himself is Love (1 John 4:8).