When Jesus teaches us to love God and love our neighbour, we can probably accept it as an ideal to aspire to, even if it seems challenging. But when he tells us to love our enemies, surely he has gone too far? The Old Testament law of “Eye for eye and tooth for tooth” was meant to set a limit on revenge. Rather than allowing violence to escalate, the law permitted the wronged party to exact vengeance that was equal to the harm they had suffered. It was a law based on a realistic understanding of human nature.
But Jesus wants to transform our human nature. Instead of meeting violence with violence and hatred with hatred, he teaches his disciples to love their enemies, even in the face of oppression and injustice.
Jesus is giving us good news, not good advice. He is not asking us to do anything that he did not do himself. We can see the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount as a description of Jesus himself, who did turn the other cheek to violence, and who carried his own Cross to Calvary. He is asking us to follow him.