“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”— Jesus Christ
He’s basically saying: “Dude, be nice to everyone, even the people who treat you poorly. The sun rises and sets for both of you, just as the rain falls for both of you. How is it noble to only be nice to the people you already get along or agree with? Everyone does that!! I mean, srsly, people…”
The tax collector comparison was because tax collectors back then were not the occasionally pleasant little bean-counters that they are now; they were incredibly corrupt, and brutal enforcers. Think loan-shark + evil-CEO-stereotype, mixed with a bouncer out for blood who did his own dirty work. Anyone who was even friends with one of these guys was a social outcast and deeply hated.
As for the pagan comparison…he wasn’t talking about the nice ones that are around now, that have the cute perfume shops and wear pretty scarves. He meant the kinda sketchy ones who were into sacrifices (and not just animal sacrifices, either). Remember, this was the time of the Roman Empire; there were some scary-ass people doing crazy sh*t back then.
His point was that even these people were nice to one another in their respective circles, because it’s easy to be kind when the other person has something in common with you. That’s great. True goodness, however, is being kind when it’s difficult.
A note: Although I myself am Christian, I didn’t quote Christ merely because of that fact. I quoted this person because, religious aspects aside, he was an incredibly influential person. In a time of ruthlessness, slavery, starvation, revolution and corruption, He created a counterculture, not of revenge or lawless anarchy, but of peace and self-reflection. Neither politician nor one born into wealth, this simple carpenter, son of a carpenter, had a way of speaking that presented culturally unpopular concepts in a logical and practical way, and earned him the respect of his peers. I figured that regardless of whether he is seen as a political genius, kind eccentric, Messiah, mystical prophet, or just a nice guy in the wrong century, this made him more than worthy of quoting as a relevant philosopher.
Happy Easter Season, everyone! ^-^