4 If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it.
We are called to help our enemies in a proactive way. If there was someone who despised me, and I happened to witness their ox or donkey wander off (or some modern equivalent of troubles), I could easily do nothing. It’s not like I let them escape or personally caused this trouble to happen. I am under no obligation to help them with their troubles. I could rest easy knowing that I didn’t do anything wrong by not assisting since it had nothing to do with me.But God calls us to do something, even for people who are our enemy.
We are to be proactive in helping them. While it would be simple enough to just “not do anything” if their ox or donkey wandered off, we are called to bring their animal back to them. If we see their donkey fall down under its load, we could easily just keep on walking since it’s not our fault, but instead God calls us to stop and help our enemy with it.
This is difficult!
In reading Russ Reznik’s essay Messianic Jewish Ethics in Introduction to Messianic Judaism, he writes “the divine image is obviously not a physical resemblance, but neither is it an abstract spiritual resemblance. Rather, it entails representing God through active engagement with the creation.
This understanding of the image of God gives rise to the Jewish idea that God does ethics before we do, that our ethical behavior is not just a matter of obedience, or even of pleasing God, but of reflecting God and his nature, fulfilling the assignment to bear the divine image.”
It’s hard to imagine what life would be like if God treated us like we treated our enemies. Even when we despise God, God loves us and blesses us. We are called to proactively bless our enemy, not just passively “not” harm them. We aren’t called to do this so much for obedience, but rather as a reflection of the divine image of God. God does ethics first.