Love Everyone Always

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Sunday, September 3, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Luke: The Gospel for Everyone
Luke 6:27-36
Love Everyone Always

 

 

Introduction

Of all the things that Jesus said, what is hardest for you? Take answers. For many people, it’s “love your enemies.” That’s hard—do you agree? It’s hard on a personal level. Think of someone who is making your life miserable—is it hard to love them? And it’s hard on a societal level. How are we supposed to love the members of Isis, or North Korea’s Kim Jong Un whose missile launches ought to make you nervous?   Of all the things Jesus said, this may be the hardest—but He said it, and we need to take it seriously.

This is the final message in our Summer Bible Series in the gospel of Luke—and what a way to finish! We’re going to read just 10 verses from Luke 6. In these verses, Jesus lays out His ethic of love—love everyone always. It’s radical, it’s crazy, it’s hard—and it’s what Christians do because it is what God has done for us. Here’s a big idea I want you to take home.

Don’t react to people; respond to God. (let’s say it)

When we react to people, we usually react in kind. Tit for tat. Eye for an eye. Yell at me, I yell at you. Hit me, I hit you back. Hurt me, I hurt you back. But as we’ll see, Jesus is going to tell us that our behavior is not to be conditioned by how others treat us, but by the character of God. Rather than reacting to people, we respond to God. We look to our Father; we look at how He treats us and respond. Like Father, like child.

Here’s the passage.

Luke 6:27–36

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 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. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

We’re going to break it down in two parts: love your enemies, and be like your Father.

 

  1. Love your enemies!

Let’s walk through it verse by verse.

27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Jesus gives four commands—love, do, bless and pray—all in the present tense, meaning that we’re to keep on doing these things.

  • Keep on loving your enemies.
  • Keep on doing good to those who hate you.
  • Keep on blessing those who curse you.
  • Keep on praying for those who mistreat you.

So this is not one and done. This is continual action; this is to be our habitual or characteristic behavior as followers of Jesus. This is how we live.

The big idea is that we love our enemies; the other three commands are descriptive of the first. We love our enemies by doing good for them, blessing (speaking well of) them, and praying for them. Which leads me to one of my favorite ideas:

Love is doing what is best for another no matter what it costs you.

Love is doing more than feeling. Love is action more than emotion. The New Testament was written in Greek, and the Greek language had several words for love.

  • Eros was the word for romantic love, passionate love, sexual love. We get the word “erotic” from it.
  • Storge was the word for familial love, the love of parents for children, and children for parents. When we say, “blood is thicker than water,” we are referring to storge, to the bond that families naturally feel.
  • Philia was the word for the love of friends, the warm affection that we feel for those closest to us. The word “Philadelphia” combines philia with adelphos the word for brother—Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love.

All three of these loves are emotions that depend upon the other person. Romantic or passionate love is aroused by something attractive in the other person. Family love happens because of our family relation. Friendship happens because we click with someone—there is chemistry, something we like about the other person. They all start with something likable in the other person.

And if Jesus had used any of these words when He told us to love our enemies, we could have dismissed it as crazy. But He didn’t. Jesus doesn’t ask us to feel the same things for our enemies that we feel for our spouses, our lovers, our family or friends. That would be impossible. Jesus didn’t use any of these words, but a very different word for love.

  • Agape was the word used here, and is the word used of God’s love for us. One scholar (Vine) calls it “the characteristic word of Christianity” because the NT authors infused it with their own distinctive meaning. This love is constant goodwill toward another—“I want the best for you”—that results in beneficial action—“I’m going to do what is best for you.” This love arises from within the giver, and has nothing to do with the qualifications of the receiver. God chooses to love us because He is love, not because we are lovely. The other three words for love are all reactions to the other person—they are lovable so you love them. But this word doesn’t start with loved one and how lovable they are—it starts with the lover, who chooses to love regardless of the loved one’s behavior. This love is our choice rather than something that happens to us. This love is action rather than emotion.

When Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” He is commanding us to do something, not feel something. He wants us to do what is best for them: to do good for them, to bless (speak well) of them, and to pray for them. Jesus isn’t commanding you to feel something warm and fuzzy for your enemy—you can’t control that, but you can control what you do. Do good.

So who is your enemy? Who makes your blood boil? Who makes your life miserable? Who is your enemy? I want you to picture that person. Now, let’s start by praying for them. Don’t pray an imprecatory prayer. Do you know what those are? You pray a curse on them. There are examples in the Bible.

Jeremiah 18:21 So give their children over to famine; hand them over to the power of the sword. Let their wives be made childless and widows; let their men be put to death, their young men slain by the sword in battle.

Kill ‘em, Lord! That’s an imprecatory prayer. Let’s not pray one of those prayers. Let’s pray a prayer of blessing, asking God to do good for them. This is a good place to start.

Prayer

Love your enemies, do good to them, bless them and pray for them. Let’s continue.

29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

Jesus goes on to give three examples of loving your enemies.

First, if someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other. Rather than slapping back, turn the other cheek.

ILL: When I was in college, I had a buddy named Buzz. He was a biker I had picked up hitchhiking once; I shared Jesus with him and he started hanging out with us at church and Bible studies.

Like all of us, Buzz was a work in progress. One Friday night, he invited me and a couple other guys from our Bible study to come to a party he was co-hosting and tell people about Jesus. It was an alcohol and drug-fueled orgy, and so we waded in and started talking with people about Jesus, and the party emptied out pretty quickly.

I got back to my dorm room late and was getting ready for bed when a drunken Buzz started pounding on my door, upset that we’d ruined the party. When I opened the door, he came at me with both fists flailing. I was surprised and wasn’t sure what to do, but I knew I didn’t want to fight Buzz. I was bigger and stronger, and wasn’t afraid of Buzz. That wasn’t my issue: he was my friend. So this was my reaction: I got Buzz on my hip and bent at the waist so he couldn’t land a punch, and kept him there. You could say that I turned the other cheek! After a few seconds of flailing, he gave up, calmed down and we talked.

Actually, that story is appropriate in more ways than one. Jim Edwards says that this “phrase is brawny, (literally) ‘to get socked in the jaw.’” How do you react when you get slapped in the face or socked in the jaw? How many of you want to hit back? That’s my natural reaction too. Jesus calls me to do something different—to respond to God and turn the other cheek.

Second, if someone takes your coat, give them your shirt too. When someone is taking what is yours, offer them more than they’re taking!

ILL: One night a group of drunken high school boys went to the Royer farm after a football game and began breaking watermelons—the produce that provided the mainstay of Royer’s annual income. While the boys were yelling and cussing in the field, the light of a glowing lantern began flickering in an upstairs bedroom of the farmhouse—the Royers were Amish. From the field the boys could see the light being carried down the stairs and then onto the front porch. As the light approached them through the darkness, the boys prepared for a fight. Instead, Mr. Royer told the boys they could have all the melons they wanted, but that the melons they were breaking were not his best. He offered to lead them to the best field and give them as many as they wanted. Mr. Royer even invited them in for a glass of lemonade. The boys were embarrassed and respectfully apologized before leaving.

How many of you would have run into the watermelon patch with a shotgun, not a lemonade? Me too—that’s my natural reaction. Jesus calls me to do something different—to give more than is demanded.

Third, give to everyone who asks, and don’t demand it back. In the next few verses Jesus talks about loaning without expecting to be repaid. What do you call that? A gift. Give to everyone freely with no expectation of repayment.

ILL: I’m selling Laina’s Subaru Outback and a few months ago, a young woman agreed to buy it. She was very excited—this was her first car. We met at a coffee shop, signed the papers, collected the money, gave her the keys and off she went, a happy camper. This was on a Sunday afternoon, so Laina and I headed to our evening service. When we got out of church, I had a desperate text message from her. The car had blown up! She had the car towed to a mechanic, and I agreed to meet her there. She wanted her money back; I gave her all her money back. She wanted me to pay for the tow; I told her I’d be happy to pay for the tow. It turned out that the radiator had cracked and the car overheated. It was a $200 fix and it was good as new—but she was gun shy and wasn’t interested now.

I’ve told that story to several people and they all had the same response: “you’re a nice guy.” Here’s the reality: I wasn’t legally or morally obligated to take the car back. She bought it; it was now her car. And I had no way of knowing that the radiator would crack—when I hated her the keys, the car was running great. But I tried to imagine how she was feeling—20 years old and buying her first car. I didn’t want her to have a bad experience.

Jesus said, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

I think that’s what I would have wanted if I was in her shoes. How do you feel when someone asks and you know they won’t repay you? Do you feel hesitant, reluctant to give? I do—that’s my natural reaction. But Jesus calls me to do something different—to give with no expectation of repayment, to go above and beyond.

This is the ethic of the Kingdom of God. This is how followers of Jesus behave. We don’t do this to be accepted by God; we do this because we are accepted by God. We do this because of the Gospel—we love our enemies because God has loved his enemies: us. We do good to those who hate us, because God has done good to those who hated Him. We bless those who curse us, because God has blessed those who cursed Him. We do for others what we want done to us, because God has done to us what He would want done. God loves everyone always. We are the recipients of this kind of love, so we are able to give it. We love because we are loved. We forgive because we have been forgiven. We show mercy because we have received mercy.

This is why I say that as followers of Jesus we don’t react to people, we respond to God. Our behavior is not determined by the behavior of others, but by the character of God. We do for others what Jesus has done for us. Did Jesus love His enemies? When He was dying, He prayed for those who crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.”

I know some of you are thinking, “But…” As Peewee Herman says, “Everyone has a big but.” “But what about someone who is evil and doing harm? Shouldn’t we resist?” Yes, there are times when evil must be called out and resisted—Jesus did that too.

But as a rule, our first approach should be to love our enemies. And while many people are quick to dismiss Jesus’ ethic as impossible and impractical, there are examples of Jesus’ ethic of love being used to change whole nations.

  • Ghandi used Jesus’ ethic of loving non-violence to liberate India from Great Britain and transform the nation.
  • Martin Luther King Jr. used Jesus’ ethic of love to resist racism and advance civil rights for African Americans and other minorities.
  • A decade-long prayer movement in East Germany broke the ground not only for the fall of the Berlin Wall, but the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation movement played the critical role in dismantling apartheid in South Africa and in sparing the nation a bloodbath of racial revenge.[1]

Are there times when evil must be resisted? Yes. But first, give love a chance. As a follower of Jesus, we must take His words seriously, and believe that loving our enemies is our best chance to turn them into friends.

But there is an even more compelling reason to love your enemies. It’s in the last few verses.

 

  1. Be like your Father.

Luke 6:32–36

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 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. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Jesus points out that He is calling us to a different and higher standard than usual. Anyone can love those who love them. Anyone can do good to those who do good to them. Anyone can lend to those who will repay. This is typical human behavior. It’s not hard to love those who love you, do good to those who do good back, loan to those who repay. That’s easy—anyone can do it. But we are called to something different and higher; we are called to love our enemies, to do good to them and lend to them expecting nothing in return. Why? Because then we are acting like our Father. We will be children of the Most High—the phrase “children of…” or literally “son(s) of…” was used as an adjective and meant “like this”.   For example:

Mark 3:17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them Jesus gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”),

Jesus nicknames James and John “sons of thunder” meaning they were like thunder: loud and explosive. Thunder boys!

Acts 4:36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),

The apostles nickname Joseph “son of encouragement” meaning he was like what? Very encouraging. Mr. Encouragement.

So when Jesus says, “You will be sons of the Most High,” He means, “You will be like God, who is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” Like Father, like son. You are never more like God than when you love people, particularly when you love your enemies, when you do good for them, and give expecting nothing in return. That is what God is like. God loves His enemies. God loves the wicked and ungrateful. God loves everyone always—and you are never more like God than when you are loving.

Jesus ends by saying, “Be merciful as our Father is merciful. Be like your Father! Don’t react to people; respond to God. Don’t let your behavior be determined by the behavior of others, but by the character of God. Be like your Father.

Why is this so important to understand?

If Jesus had just said, “love your enemies” without loving us first, we would have an ethic that none of us can keep. It would be an impossible standard—just one more moral burden to shoulder, one more certain failure before God. But remember, the gospel isn’t DO, but DONE. It’s not about what we do for Jesus, but what He’s done for us. And what lies behind this command to love our enemies is the gospel. God has already done this for us. God loves His enemies: us. We can do it because we have been loved like this. We can DO it because God has DONE it for us.

The good news is that God has loved His enemies, God has done good for those who hated Him, God has given to those who can never repay Him. God has done this for us.

When we were far from God, when we hated Him, or just ignored Him, when we were running from Him or rebelling against Him—whatever describes you—God loved you. God loved you when you were His enemy. God had mercy on you. God forgave you. When Jesus gave His life on a cross, He was loving you. He was doing what was best for you no matter what it cost Him—and it cost Him everything.

If you are a follower of Jesus, He lives in you, and is empowering and changing you. The One who loved His enemies will give you the power to love yours. You can only give what you have; and if you have Jesus, you have the power to love like He does. Love everyone always!

 

Prayer to receive Jesus

 

Closing prayer:

Philippians 1:9–11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

 

[1] Edwards, J. R. (2015). The Gospel according to Luke. (D. A. Carson, Ed.) (p. 199). Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge, U.K.; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; Apollos.

By | 2017-09-18T16:04:28+00:00 September 3rd, 2017|Luke: the Gospel for Everyone|Comments Off on Love Everyone Always