Read Luke 6:27-36
It’s like a Geico commercial. Everybody knows that if you are going to preach a few Sundays on love, you don’t start with love your enemies. Everybody knows that you have to work your way up to that one.
Everybody knows that, well, maybe, except Jesus. As you read through Luke’s gospel you get a Christmas story, Jesus presented in the temple, Jesus back in the temple at 12, the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus rejected in his hometown, Jesus driving out demons and healing many, sometimes even on the Sabbath.
You get Jesus calling disciples to follow him. You get Jesus teaching that he is Lord of the Sabbath. He is getting people’s attention for sure, but the first time that he really teaches about love, he starts with love your enemies.
That’s crazy. That’s graduate level Christianity. That’s super-mature Christianity. How can Jesus start with love you enemies?
It seems hard enough to love friends and family sometimes. How can Jesus dive into this topic—this mega topic—of love with love your enemies?
Let’s begin with a very simple but provocative statement. Jesus did not enter this world to blend in with this world. He was on a mission from his Father. He came with purpose.
As it turns out, I’m a big supporter of his Father’s purpose. I love that Jesus came on a mission. He came to save us. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it through him.
There is something about being on a mission. Having a little Marine Corps experience, I will talk first hand for the moment. You have focus. You have intensity. Your whole force of personality is given to the mission. What others not involved in the mission think becomes a blur. It doesn’t even aggravate you.
You don’t sugar coat anything to others who are on the same mission. You think that things might get nasty, then you tell your Marines. This might get nasty.
If you have no good intel then that’s what you share. We are going in here totally in the dark. Intel will develop as we run into people who like or they don’t. You don’t sugar coat anything.
If you are on a mission—have a purpose for your existence—tact and fluffy words and even a spoon full of sugar don’t help the medicine go down. It is truth and truth administered the only way it is truly effective, and that’s full strength is what’s needed.
Jesus gave his disciples and those who would listen the same message about love. Love must be administered full strength. Love is not for one but not for another.
It’s easy to love those who love us back. Even sinners and the ungodly know that. Even the ungodly do that. Tit-for-tat does not distinguish the one who follows Jesus from the one who belongs to the world.
Jesus said, they will know you are my disciple by your love—that you love one another. Most of that love is directed at the covenant community. We take care of each other because we are all brothers and sisters with Christ Jesus.
We do our best to live in one spirit, one hope, one accord and in love. The family of faith that you know should be the most welcoming and accepting and loving place that you know.
We didn’t earn our way into this family. Jesus paid our admission fees in blood. Jesus made us right with his Father so that we could live in this wonderful family of faith, but we know that our response is love. We love one another.
And while we look at the history of the church that we know in scripture, we see most of the love expressed was within the covenant community. That first century church in Jerusalem that you have read about in Acts, didn’t go out doing all sorts of things for the ungodly. They did everything for each other.
The love of God is most fully manifested within the covenant community—within the family of faith. But it doesn’t stop there.
We have a message of good news. We have a mission to take that good news to the world. For most of us that’s western Oklahoma, at least for folks that we see face-to-face.
And some of those people don’t like us. Some might hate us. Some might even get the classification of an enemy. But our command as followers of Jesus is to love them anyway.
You see, the governing force here is not the nature of the recipient but the nature of the messenger. We are messengers of good news and love.
The governing factor for us is love. We carry and embody and deliver love because that is our nature. That is the nature of the new creation that we have become and are becoming. It’s a done deal but we are still working on it. That’s a topic for another day.
The world’s model is if you like somebody and they like you, then you will probably get along. You can do the tit-for-tat things. It’s all about the other person and if you think they might be good enough for you to call friend.
Jesus tells us that it’s all about love not the nature of the people who receive our love. We are the constant. We are about love.
In the family of faith, love blossoms and grows and does things beyond our expectations. The covenant community is a wonderful place to live.
In the ungodly world, love is often rejected. Love is often repelled. Love is not wanted. Money, stuff, and the things of this world are always welcome, but love can just stay home if you don’t want to be treated harshly.
Jesus tells us to love them anyway. The dynamic here is not the condition of others but of ourselves. We are people of love. Love governs.
And often, the reward for loving the ungodly is:
· Being hated
· Being cursed
· Being mistreated
· Condescending actions
Now in these cases, our response is…
Love. It’s always love because that’s who we are now. We were not always that way.
Many of us were very good at the tit-for-tat game. We learned to navigate the one-thing-for-another world. Our relationships were based upon what we saw as the value of others to us.
Let’s use one of Paul’s terms and call that the “old self.”
We are different now. Love governs. Love rules. In the internal struggle that we sometimes face between the old and new person, love wins.
We chose love because we belong to a God who is love.
If you belong to the world and are hated, cursed, mistreated, disrespected, and exploited; then your ticket is punched. The doctors will give you drugs. The government will give you money. Your ticket is punched. You never have to deal with real life again.
That is until you find out that the drugs don’t really fix everything and your cravings for stuff have exceeded your allowance of free money. The world is a cruel master.
But God is a God of love. His deliverance is for now and for eternity. We are his people. We live in his love. We love one another and enjoy being a part of the family of faith.
We take his love to those who don’t love us, sometimes hate us, often disrespect us, and who will exploit us whenever possible; yet, we love them.
We treat them as we would want to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot. If we were lost or blinded by the god of this age, wouldn’t we want those with eyes to see to help us even when we might be hateful towards the messengers of good news.
Wouldn’t we want them to keep coming back to try to rescue us? Wouldn’t we want to be rescued even if we were being hateful towards our rescuers?
But the shoe is not on the other foot. We are blessed. We have eyes to see. We have received the grace of our loving God. Things are good for us.
We still have trouble in this world. Jesus told us that we would. We are not surprised but our hope is in Jesus and he has overcome the world and if we stick close to one another and love those in the family, then things seem to go pretty well.
So why do we have to deal with those who hate us? I will give you the highly theological answer. Take notes. They will serve you well. Why?
Because Jesus said so.
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. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Be like Dad.
While humankind was still loving sin, while we were rebellious towards our loving God, while people were still living an all about me life; Christ died for us.
Dad loved us when we didn’t love him. Our Father in heaven loved us before we could muster a decent attempt to love him. Dad loved us when humankind was not kind towards him.
Be like Dad.
Jesus did not get things backwards by starting with love your enemies. The governing force here is love and that is the shape that the Potter is making our hearts. How’s that for metaphor hopping.
Our hearts are being shaped like our Father’s heart. Our hearts are becoming the heart of Love himself. Love is who we are as this new creature that we are in Christ.
We feel a wonderful warmth when we love each other in the body of Christ. We have a reward in the here and now. But when we love our enemies, even if we don’t see any positive results in the here and now, God has an eternal reward for us.
Even when hate and disrespect and being cursed seem the continual response from those we love, our reward for doing exactly what Jesus told us to do is great.
Why would anyone love their enemies?
# 1 Jesus said so.
# 2 That’s just who we are.