SERMON ON THE PLAIN, Part 2

 jesus-preaching

BE…JUST AS YOUR FATHER

Luke 6:27-38

True love, in spite of what the songs tell us, is the love of God, shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The Bible teaches us that “Love is of God,” and “God is love.” Therefore, is it a surprise that our Lord teaches us to “Love our enemies,” and “to bless those who curse you?” Nothing shows the world that we are children of God more than when we love unexpectedly. It’s easy to love those who are lovable, but when we love those who are not, that gets noticed.

Luke is concerned about people, so once again it is not surprising that he devotes a significant number of verses to show how Christians ought to treat people, especially those who, from another perspective, deserve to be treated the exact opposite way to the way Jesus taught.

1. The Precepts

These “made-in-heaven” laws established for us by Jesus are mirrors that reflect the merciful character of God the Father. Their purpose is to make us more like Him. While the world may love parts of Jesus’ teaching, especially the “Golden Rule” part, these laws are for Christians, not for the unsaved. No doubt the world would be a better place if everybody followed the “Golden Rule,” following it does not earn one a place in heaven. These laws are to be followed after one has repented and confessed Jesus as Lord and Savior. The temptation is to reverse this order: live right, then get saved. The Bible, like the hymn, stresses the correct order:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.
Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind;
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in Thee to find,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come.

To stress the moral and ethical parts of the Gospel, to make them the law, is to lose the Gospel. This teaching is given by Jesus as a way to manifest salvation; to show an unbelieving world what a “new creation” looks like.

But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:27—30)

The phrase, “to you who are listening” tells us that Jesus is about to get very, very serious. He is not addressing casual listeners, but those who are paying attention, soaking up His teachings this day. So, what Jesus is about teach is for those who are following Him or will be following Him.

Concerning blessing

Loving your enemies was a revolutionary thought in Jesus’ day. This teaching went completely contrary to what the scribes were teaching at the time: “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” Matthew 5:43. This must have caught “those who were listening” by surprise. The question we should ask ourselves is, How far do we take this admonition? The answer lies way back in the Old Testament. In this teaching, Jesus was really clarifying part of the Law, the part that had been misinterpreted by the teachers of the Law.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:18)

For generations, the religious teachers had been teaching that this meant a Jew was responsible for loving a fellow Jew. Jesus is correcting this misunderstood admonition. His followers were not allowed to treat an unbeliever or even an enemy in a way differently than they would treat fellow believers. As is Luke’s custom, he makes the “upside down” (or maybe “rightside up” is more accurate!) nature of the Kingdom clear.

If we note what Peter wrote, we see that this revolutionary teaching was really just as old as Judaism itself.

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. (1 Peter 3:9)

From there, Peter goes to quote from the Law of Moses. A good example of “loving your enemy” is given by none other than Moses himself. Maybe our Lord had this in mind as He was teaching this day:

“If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to return it.  If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help your enemy with it.” (Exodus 23:4, 5)

Concerning Prayer

…bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6:28)

Not only should believers have love in their hearts for the unbeliever or an enemy, they must go even further than that. We ought to pray for those who may oppose us or even do us harm.

If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. (verse 29)

How literal do we take Jesus’ “slap on the cheek” comment? Should Christians let everybody else just abuse them and walk all over them? Some would say yes, pointing to Jesus’ example. Others suggest the “slap on the cheek” is really referring to an insult or a slight. In light of the rest of the New Testament, and looking at the example of Paul, it seems that Jesus is not suggesting His followers sit back and let society, especially the judiciary, take advantage of them unless that advances the cause of the Gospel. If our suffering causes the glorification of Christ in some way, then we should suffer as Jesus did. If not, Christians should claim their civil rights, even as Paul did, because anarchy itself is unbiblical.

The essence of Jesus’ teaching is simple. We may not “like” the criminal who just robbed us; we may not “like” the person at work who gossips maliciously about us, but we must see them as Christ sees them: a sinner in need of prayer. God is not calling us to make these kinds of people our “best friends,” He calls us to pray for them and treat them as we would treat a friend.

As Jesus prayed for His enemies while He hung on the Cross, and as Stephen prayed for his enemies, we should be prepared to do the same. It’s the highest of roads to take.

Concerning Giving

Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. (Luke 6:30)

We need to read each word in this statement carefully. This admonition is very specific. Jesus is NOT teaching that Christians are to give everything they have to just anybody. If a person comes to us asking for something from us, we shouldn’t be stingy, we should freely give to them what they have asked for, as long as we are able to. But we have to be good stewards at the same time. For example, if a drunkard on the street hits you up for money, the odds are good he will use the money you give him to buy more booze. In his case, while he is asking for money, what he needs is the Lord. In his case, buy him a meal and share Jesus with him. It would be wrong to enable the sin of another.

Jesus is teaching that it is better to be taken advantage of (being robbed) than to give into feelings of anger or revenge. So, if somebody takes advantage of your generosity, don’t get angry with him, just let it go.

However, as we asked previously, how far do we take this admonition? This sermon is full of extreme, startling statements. It was Jesus’ intention to drive home His point—his punchline—with extreme language. Of course, there are times when it is quite correct to stand up and claim your rights (see John 18:22, 23 and Acts 16:37—40 as examples). For the Christian, though, our motivation should never be revenge. That’s why Jesus said that if somebody takes something that belongs to you, just write it off. There are times when it is just Godly to forego our rights, just like there are times when we should claim them. Christians, as taught elsewhere, are citizens of Heaven. We are obligated to follow Heaven’s rules of conduct, not the earth’s. But sometimes, obeying the rules of earth may glorify God in some way. That should be our guide: does my conduct glorify God or make me feel better?

Some Examples

The world loves its own. Sinners are capable of wonderful acts of kindness. But our love for the world is NOT to be like their love for each other; it is to be like God’s love for them.

Love

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32)

The love of the unsaved is given, generally speaking, only to those who love them in return. God wants us to love others with the same kind of love with which He loves us: agape love; unconditional love. The love of God embraces even those who hate Him. There was no hatred in Jesus as He hung on the Cross. It is of no credit to us if we love those who love us back.

Works

“And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.” (Luke 6:33)

Again, worldly people, sinners as Jesus called them, can do good things for other people. In Jesus’ mind that’s no big deal. It’s completely common and understandable why anybody would want to help a person who has helped them in the past or may be helpful in the future. We call that the “Godfather Philosophy,” or, “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” But the motives for the Christian in doing good works must be way, way above the motives of any worldly person. The ungodly will show kindness to those who show kindness to them, but Christians are obligated to treat all people mercifully, as God treats them.

Grace

“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.” (Luke 6:34)

The unsaved have no problem lending things to anybody as long as they get them back. This is a most common exchange in the world. But Christians need to act as God acts:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. (Matthew 5:45)

3. The Promises

If the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts so that we able to love our enemies and treat them better than they deserve, God will reward us. Of course, we aren’t obedient for what we can get out of God, but God is fair and will openly reward the obedient.

A great reward

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 children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. (Luke 6:35)

This sounds like Jesus’ summary statement, and it sort of is! Verses 34 and 35 are not found in Matthew’s version of this sermon. Matthew adds some phrases that would would have been meaningful to his Jewish readers, but Luke’s reader, a Gentile, needed to read these passages on “loving enemies.”

There is an eternal principle in Luke 6:35 that applies to anybody in the faith. If we treat people well, even our enemies, and if we don’t treat them with contempt, God will reward us. When we treat people like this, we are acting like God’s children, because that is how He acts.

Children of God

Believers are to act like what they really are. If we claim we are children of God, we have to start acting like children of God. It’s natural for children to take on some of the characteristics of their parents, and so it should be Christians.

God has high standards for His children:

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (Luke 6:36)

Here is the clincher. A person may be able to act right and do right, but he will probably fall short. Remember, the Pharisees? They did much of what Jesus taught, but for all the wrong reasons. They tithed spices, for example, but had no “justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (Matthew 5:20). The righteousness of believers MUST exceed that of the Pharisees, and everybody else. Our righteousness should be measured against God’s. Are we as righteous as God is? That’s the most important consideration we should take away from Jesus’ sermon up to this point.

 

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