Many Christians adhere to the idea of interpreting the Bible literally. What literal means to them is maybe unclear even to themselves, but the word literal generally carries the idea of words being taken in their most basic sense without any element of symbolism, allegory, exaggeration, or colloquialism.
If one assumes a literalistic approach to the Bible, many of the words of Jesus present a real challenge, none more so than those in his Sermon on the Mount. Given the history of western culture under the influence of the church, one would have to conclude that the church does not take Jesus very seriously or literally at all. Their historical stance relative to killing in the name of the state and their obsession with counting over half the earth’s population as demonic enemies demonstrate a full throated rejection of what Jesus taught and exemplified.
The basic theological issue here is whether Jesus and God are committed to transforming humankind and, in the process, the world as a whole. Some may conclude that God has long since given up on any idea of transforming humanity in general and is focused exclusively on culling out a special people to be with Him in the hereafter. Others probably look for a broad societal transformation in our future but perhaps one which comes about because God intervenes in human history violently as His final act. Neither of these views take the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount or of Paul in Romans 12:21 at all seriously.
It is natural enough to want a demonstration of love before we love in return. That is the way the human ego works. It is a perfect reflection of the carnal mind, the source of worldly thinking. It’s easy to rationalize that I can’t love those who threaten me and mine because to do so would force me to be unloving to those I care about. However. if I take Jesus literally, it behooves me to accept that love is more powerful than violence, retribution, and punishment as tools to transform men and their behaviors.
Can we take Jesus too seriously? That remains an unanswered question. It’s a fact that Jesus died after embracing meekness and kindness in his life and teaching the same. Men rejected him and his message of love then and killed him as a subversive. Our general response to the same message today amounts to a renewed rejection. We appear convinced that our commonsense is more true than the literal words of Jesus