“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:27-36)
In exchange for random acts of violence, Jesus expected targeted acts of kindness. Jesus asked people to act contrary to their natures, even contrary to what seemed like good sense. Rather than responding in kind to the people around us, he told people to respond always with good, no matter how badly they were treated.
It is natural to return evil for evil and good for good. It is unnatural to do good for those who do us wrong. Jesus argued that genuine righteousness cannot be dependent upon others. Returning kindness for kindness is quite ordinary. Even the worst of people act like that. So what?
Jesus challenged the people listening to him to be like God. When the neighbor who never returns your stuff asks to borrow your rake, Jesus said that you have to let him have it. And you need to do it expecting that he won’t give it back. In fact, any lending, of money or property, is to be done in the expectation of being ripped off. And you’re supposed to be good with that. Because that’s the way God treats us all the time. Mercy takes the place of judgment—and of justice. We shouldn’t give back as good as we get. We should only give back better.