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TEXT: Luke 6:27-36
SUBJECT: Luke #20: Radical Love
The Christian life is built on love-love for God and love for man. The first and greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind". The second commandment is like it-the Lord said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself".
Pop music says that love is easy. But as much as I like silly little love songs, the message they carry is not true. Affection and desire are easy, but love isn't. Love, you see is an act of giving. We give ourselves and what we have to others. We give without demanding repayment; we give without expecting thanks; at times, we even give knowing we'll get the opposite in return.
But love we must. And love we will. Because God is love and by the work of His Spirit, He puts some of His love in our souls. We're to fan that love like the embers of a campfire, fan it until it burns with heat and light.
This brings us to the middle of our Lord's great sermon. In the first part, He reminds us of what a privilege it is to be His disciple. The poorest disciple is rich right now; the hungriest, saddest, and most rejected believer will soon be satisfied, happy, and fully accepted.
With the great privilege of discipleship comes a great responsibility. As followers of Jesus Christ we have to do more than talk about love. We have to practice love. Love for God, of course; love for the brotherhood, yes, and love for our neighbors, too.
But as demanding as these loves are, they're a snap compared to love required of us here. The standard is so impossibly high that we ought to despair of ever living up to it-or even getting close. But that's all right. What is impossible with man is possible with God.
The Lord is both able and willing to make you the kind of person He wants you to be. So why not admit your weakness and ask Him for the strength to love as you ought to? Do that right now. In humble dependence on the grace of God, resolve to become doers of the Word and not hearers only.
I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's get back to the text.
First we have a command,
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you".
Keeping the command is very hard, but understanding it is quite easy.
The duties are "love, do good, bless, and pray for".
Love is an attitude that is patient, kind, humble, courteous, slow to take offense, and even slower to think evil of others.
Doing good means helping others when they need your assistance, or being thoughtful.
Blessing means speaking well of others and wishing them God's best.
Praying for, of course, means remembering them at the Throne of Grace; it's naming them to God and asking Him to forgive their sins, to strengthen their weaknesses, to provide for them everything they need in this life and the next.
These are the duties we must undertake as disciples of Christ. They're not easy. But they're even harder when you note who they're to be done for!
We're to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who spitefully use us. Under the last heading, Matthew adds, those who persecute us.
In short, as disciples of Christ, we're to love people who are proud, stubborn, selfish, mean, and hateful.
Of special importance here is the positive quality of this love. When asked about love, I know a pastor who only cites one verse; it's Romans 13:10,
"Love does no harm to a neighbor, therefore, love is the fulfillment of the Law".
From the verse, he reasons that the only obligation we have to the unsaved is to leave them alone or to not retaliate when they do us wrong.
What he says is true, of course, except for the word, only. We should not take vengeance on people who hurt us, either punch them in the nose or gossip about them behind their backs, or anything else.
But, though that's true, it's only half the story. Our Lord says do more than that! He doesn't say, "Don't curse those who curse you, Don't spitefully use those who spitefully use you". No, He goes much farther than this. He says to do them good, to treat your worst enemies as if they were your best friends!
Have you heard the words of often that they no longer affect you? If so, you're not hearing them at all. The command to love your enemies is meant to wake us up to the radical nature of discipleship. In other words, being nice is not good enough! Even if you combine it with going to church, reading the Bible, and saying your prayers at bedtime.
The demands of following Christ are so great that nothing less than a New Birth is required to meet them. Trying hard won't do; trying really hard won't do; trying even harder won't do.
"You must be born again".
This is the major command in our Lord's great sermon.
Next we have three illustrations of love. Here they are,
"To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also, From him who takes away your cloak, Do not withhold your tunic either, Give to everyone who asks you And from him who takes away Your goods, do not ask them back".
How do we take the illustrations?
Because they seem so radical, we're all tempted to explain them away or to pretend they aren't there. But this is not right or safe. They are there and we have to take them seriously. Even if we don't know what they mean, we have to respect them as God's Word.
Should we take them literally? If a man busts my lip open, should I invite him to break my nose too? Or, if a mugger grabs your purse and runs off, should you call him back to give him the money you've got in your pocket as well? Or, if someone takes you to court, should you offer no defense? Is this what the Lord is calling for here?
No it isn't. For one thing He Himself did not live by the letter of this law and neither did His Apostle. When slapped in the face at His trial, the Lord did not turn the other cheek, but rebuked the man who did it (cf. John 18:23). As a Roman citizen, Paul sometimes used the legal system to his own advantage. At Philippi, he demanded a public apology for jailing him and later, he escaped assassination by appealing to Caesar.
Secondly, there is a place for justice in the world. God Himself is just and He appoints rulers in state and church to administer justice for Him. And nowhere does the Lord set this aside or forbid us from receiving the benefits of law and order.
The words, then, are not to be taken at face-value.
What we have here is an example of exaggerating for effect. Don't get me wrong: exaggerating doesn't mean lying. It means to overstate the case to make your point.
We all do this. I bet you've said, "I'm dying of hunger". But were you? Were you about to drop dead of starvation when you said that? Of course not. "I'm dying of hunger" is just another way of saying, "I'm really, really hungry".
That's what the Lord is doing here. He's exaggerating for effect. By the three examples, He's telling us that we've got to be more than just-giving everyone his due. As disciples of Christ, we've also got to be generous-giving people more than their due. Love the hateful, be kind to the cruel, speak well of those who gossip about you.
That's what our Lord is getting at here.
He sums it up with The Golden Rule,
"Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise".
Think about it: Is justice all you want? Many will say that's all they want from others. But they're lying. We all need-and want-more than is coming to us. Do you want others to cut you some slack once in a while? If you do, do the same for them.
Why should act this way? Because the Lord commands, for one thing! If He said nothing else, this would be sufficient grounds for loving your enemies. We have to beware of that bratty spirit that won't obey until things are fully explained. No, as the children of God, we have to obey our Father whether He tells us why or not.
Because I said so is good enough reason to obey.
But that's not what our Lord does here. He tells us exactly why we ought to love our enemies and treat them better than they deserve. In fact, he gives two reasons.
The first is negative,
"But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back".
The argument is simple: If all you do is love your friends and help those who help you, you're no better than anyone else. Luke uses the generic, "sinners". But Matthew chose a word much more loaded than this one: he said "publicans". Even they-the low-down dirtiest dogs in the world-are good to each other.
Has Jesus Christ come into the world to make us no more loving than everyone else is? Has He died for us to bring us up to the standards of the world?
In short, when it comes to loving others, is there any difference between being saved and being lost? If we don't love our enemies, the answer is no. But, in truth, the answer is yes, there is a difference between believer and unbeliever. The Lord command us to love enemies, and by His grace, He enables us to do it.
That's the first motive for loving people who don't deserve your love.
The second is even higher:
"But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore, be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful".
What's this mean? It means you ought to love rotten people because God does. Matthew proves God's love for all by citing the common mercies of life,
"He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust".
Think of the worst sinners in the Bible-and how much good they received from the hand of God. Pharaoh sneers at the Lord, yet he felt the same warm sun on his face that Moses did. Hamaan plotted to destroy the Jews, yet he enjoyed the same luxury as Esther, the queen who saved the Jews. Judas Iscariot ate the same food as Jesus Christ ate.
When it comes to earthly happiness, God might be very discriminating. But He isn't. His pours out rich blessings on saint and sinner alike. In this way,
"God is no respecter of persons". "The Lord is good to all; His tender mercies are over all His works".
Do you want to be godly? Do you want to resemble your Father in heaven? If you do, you've got to love everyone, to be kind, generous, and patient with all.
The challenge, of course, is to translate words like, everyone and all into real people. Can you think of anyone who really hates you? If you can't, name someone who has done you wrong on purpose, and never showed any remorse or interest in making things right.
Jesus Christ commands you to love that person. Leaving him alone is good in it's own way, but it's not enough. When opportunity presents itself, you ought to do him some favor. If you can't help him in other ways, you can pray for him.
I've talked to many believers who are eaten up with resentment for their parents. Some feel that way about an ex-husband or an ex-wife. Others are bitter at a pastor who did them wrong or a church that let them down. Many have fallen out with friends or cousins, uncles, aunts, and so on.
They seethe at the wrongs done to them. They badmouth the ones who did them wrong. They wish them ill or, at least, they wouldn't be unhappy to hear they got what was coming to them.
This is not the Lord's way. When it comes to bitterness Jesus Christ has a zero-tolerance policy. His people are not allowed to be that way-no matter what has been done to them! If the Lord prays for the men who crucified Him and saved a man who was cursing Him just minutes before, we cannot live with these rotten attitudes.
And more: As much as possible, we have to do these enemies good. I've told the story before, but it's the finest example of Christian love I know of.
A friend of mine was a good and devoted husband. His wife, though, left him for another man. After a few months with him, she found out she was pregnant. But the new man wanted no part of that and left her. As the time drew near for the baby's birth, she needed someone to go through the classes with her and be there when in the delivery room. The only one she could think of was her husband. She called him and he answered the call. He helped his own wife have another man's baby. I wish I could say she went back to him and lived happily ever after. But she didn't. She's an ingrate. But if you talk to that man-even now-you won't hear a bad word about the woman who broke his heart. Without pretending she is what she is not, he still loves her and prays for her.
That is what it means to love your enemies. It's not about loving Osama bin-Laden, who's an enemy in the abstract. But it means loving the people who have personally and deeply hurt you-over and over again.
Maybe that's someone at home. Or at work. Or in church. Or in your family. Or in the neighborhood. Real love for real people. That's what our Lord commands. And by His grace, it's what He gives as we yield to His will.
A LAST WORD TO BOYS AND GIRLS
One last word now. It's for you boys and girls. Some kids get along very well with everyone-except for their brothers and sisters. You need to love them too. If your little brother is a brat, love him. If your big sister is mean, love her. Maybe they are your worst enemies in the world, but the Lord says,
"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who spitefully use you".
The list pretty well covers anything your brother or sister ever did to you. Now, you need to obey the Lord. It won't be easy, but you need to do it. And you can do it if you repent of your sins and believe in Christ.
Now do that. And the love of God be with you. Amen.
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