Readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost

Matthew 16:21-28; Romans 12:9-21; Jeremiah 15:15-21

“Revenge is sweet…and not fattening.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Call it what you wish -“revenge”, “getting even”, or “payback”, but returning pain on someone who’s caused us pain is a quite satisfying human response that no one had to teach us when we were children. Revenge is the way of nature…sinful nature.

But God has taught His children to live differently. The prophet Jeremiah, for all his sinful doubting and complaining to the LORD, does one thing right. He takes his own desire for vengeance upon his persecutors and offers it to the LORD. (Jer 15)

Jesus embodied this way of loving one’s enemies when he endured the shame and injustice of the cross in order to save a world that was hostile to his lordship. Now he bids us to carry our own crosses, which includes denying ourselves the (fleeting and self-destructive) pleasure of getting even with those who hurt us (Matt 16).

In the epistle reading, the apostle Paul exhorts us to practice genuine (Christ-like) love with our neighbor. He offers a lengthy list of examples of how such love is expressed, concluding with an appeal to shower our enemies with love rather than hate, and leave the business of final reckoning to God (Rom 12).