In Alaska, and you might have heard this elsewhere, we have a saying when someone tells us to do something that we have no desire to do. We tell them; “Go kiss a moose!” What we mean by this is, “Man, you are out of your mind!” Now, what is a well-known colloquium in Alaska is something that probably sounds insane to us here in California! No one would ever, in their right mind go up and kiss a moose. They are so huge compared to us humans that it would be crazy to do so; however did you know that while moose are not usually aggressive towards humans, they can be provoked or frightened to behave with aggression. In terms of raw numbers, they attack more people than bears and wolves combined, statistics show that they attack an average, five to ten people in the state of Alaska a year alone. In the Americas, moose injure more people than any other wild mammal, and worldwide, only hippopotamuses injures more people.
Why this example and this title? Well, because today were are going to be looking at a passage that, when read and understood is equally as crazy and we have to be equally out of our minds to follow it! Let’s take a look at it; turn with me to Luke 6:27-36
27“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do 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. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34And 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. 35But 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. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
These are some of the most radical and controversial words that Jesus ever called men to, and to be honest, some of the hardest that I have ever tried to put into practice!
When we read something like this, if we are honest with ourselves, we usually just make a mental note to do it, then quickly move on to the next topic, on to the next letters in red, but do we really sit and consider the implications of these passages on our lives. Are we taking these commands seriously, or are they just good coffee cup scriptures that we go to when we need a little pick-me-up? Jesus is serious about how we relate to others, and our enemies are no different than anyone else to him.
Today, I want look at this command of Jesus in three layers.
My first point is the mandate; where we will look at the command itself and break it down. My second point is the misgivings. In this point we will look at the seeming contradictions of putting a passage like this into practice. How does Jesus really expect us to do this? And finally, we will look at the motivation, which will be my third point. Why should we do this? Like good children, many times, especially when a passage is hard to digest, “Because I said so!” Is not a good enough answer, even though with Jesus it should be!
First, we must look at the command. To sum it up, do good to your enemies. But back up a second; at face value Jesus is telling us that we will have enemies. How can this be? Some of us might believe this that we will have enemies, but for many, when they think about being a Christian, they think of people who practice a religion of love should not have any enemies. Why would anyone have enemies when we love everyone, when we are supposed to be nice to people and listen to people and be meek and mild like Christmas Jesus!
Well, a problem with pop-culture Christianity is that it is based on a few scriptures and not the Bible. What does the Bible say about how we will be accepted and treated in this world? Turn to Matthew 10:25:
25It is enough for students to be like their teachers, and servants like their masters. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebul, how much more the members of his household!
If we are followers of Jesus, if we call Jesus master and are members of Household (Ephesians 2:19), he tells us that people will call us Satan, that we are on the other team also! That will make some enemies don’t you think?
The Apostle Paul said in 2 Timothy 3:12:
12In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
If we want to live a godly life, we will be persecuted. People do not persecute those that they love, they do not malign those that they care for; now they might disagree, but we will be hated for the life that we live because it is so countercultural!
Jesus said just a few verses above in Luke 6:26:
26Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.
According to Paul, and I dare-say Jesus, if you do not have enemies, then you are not living a Godly life. I really do not like it when people bring sentimentality into the Bible. You either are or you are not, there is no middle ground. Do you have enemies, or does everyone in your life speak well of you? You should be controversial, countercultural, and as we learned in the Church study, the good kind of divisive! As Disciples in an increasingly divisive culture we will all the more be persecuted as we take stands for what is right!
The biggest questions is how we will respond to those adversaries when we are confronted by those people who hate us, who persecute us, who attack us? Jesus gives us some practical examples of what it looks like to love our enemies; but as he explains it, we are met with some questions as to the “practicality” of how to put this into practice.
Let’s look at Luke 6:29-30
29If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
How do we reconcile these seeming contradictions between these verses?
Jesus says that when someone SLAPS us, when someone TAKES our coat, when, not just anyone, but an enemy, asks us to give to them; that we are not to refuse them. Do these two things always jive? In the real world, they do not.
Does Jesus really mean that we should just allow someone to slap us on the other side of the face if they slap us on one side? When someone steals our belongings that we give them more? That if anyone asks for something we are just to give it willingly? These passages are much easier in discussion than in practice, but I think that wisdom and the rest of the scriptures can guide us.
Let me give you an example from my own life, one that I am currently working through.
As I was writing my paper on which city I’d like to plant a church in, I was confronted with the thought of planting a church in my home state of Alaska. My wife and I were part of the ICOC church in Anchorage and over our time there were dealt with very wrongly by those in leadership due to our convictions on discipling and Biblical leadership. The wrong that was done to Arielle and I, was so scaring that it shapes my character to this day. Many of the fears that I deal with around what God has called me to, many of the conversations that I have with the men in my life who God has put in it to train me is shaped by my experiences with those in leadership in Alaska who sinned against me, against my family.
The question that keeps me up at night as I dream of the Kingdom restored to my home in the North is, how will I respond to those who have wronged me. How will I respond to them as many of them come back to the Kingdom? Will I make them jump through hoops like Joseph to test their hearts, or will I open wide my heart and accept them back to the Kingdom with open arms?
21Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Peter asks how many times he must forgive someone when they sin against you and Jesus responds with 77 times. In other words, every time and forever! Then he goes on to tell a parable of a servant whose debt of millions of dollars was forgiven by his master but was unwilling to forgive the debt of someone who owed him a few dollars. What was the outcome of that? Lets look at verse 34.
34In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. 35“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
The reality of the examples that Jesus gives is that we must be willing to forgive others when they sin against us. We must be willing, no, not just willing but actually practice forgiveness when others sin against us. Not just any kid of forgiveness, but a deep and true forgiveness from the heart.
Now, as a red blooded human, I love to get off the hook. But this is not what Jesus is talking about here. It does not mean that there will not be tough conversations about the hurt, about the wrongs that have been done, and I’m sure there were wrongs on both sides, but Paul gives us the direction in Ephesians 4:15 to speak the truth in love. That by showing love to others, we must tell them the truth, no matter how hard it might be for them to hear. The Bible goes on to tell us in Proverbs 27:6, that if we do not tell the truth, that if we tell someone that everything is fine when it’s not that we are actually their enemies.
What’s the point that Jesus is making? I do not need my jacket, I do not need my money, I do not need revenge, I do not need security! The pain of being hit on my cheek is not that big of a deal. I can display the worth of Jesus in my life through my giving to the one who asks! By putting myself out there, thinning my bank account, my own resources, forgiving those who hurt me and those who hurt my family, all for the sake of the one who asks; and the one who does not ask for it. This should be my default response to others! I should always have a yes on the tip of my tongue when people ask for something! Whether it be forgiveness, my jacket, or my other cheek. Jesus is not giving us some whimsical words here, he really expects us to live this out! Is this your default response when you are attacked, when people mistreat you?
Now, if you are like me, at this point you are feeling super convicted and even a bit discouraged. Why, because this is a hard teaching! I can resonate with the disciples in John 6:60, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” How can I really get to the point where I really want to love my enemies like this? I mean my heart really wants to bless someone, not just do nice things for, but truly bless, in the Lord, those who curse me and abuse me? Turn with me to Romans 5:6-11.
6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! 11Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Why do we show this kind of love? By experiencing love while being an enemy? Why should we become the men and women who can turn the other cheek, give someone all our clothes, to bless those who curse us? Because this is exactly what God did and does for us, and for everyone who becomes a disciple! The way that we can actually put this into practice is by looking to the example of Jesus! We, who are disciples, who are saved, have experienced being loved as an enemy! We were enemies of God long before we even decided to come to him! 1 John 4:19 says 19We love because he first loved us. If this is how God has treated us, how much more should we treat others this same way, how dare we even treat others any differently since we are called to, as Luke 6:36 says: “36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Luke 6:35 tells us that when we love in this way we will be “Children of the Most High.” We show ourselves to be children of God when we love like this. Jesus echo’s this later in his ministry in John 13:34-35 when he says: 34“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus shows us the most excellent way when we love this way we are showing the world that we are his followers.
Now, I wish that I could just end this sermon there, but there is a bit of a post script that I need to add here. The major reason why it’s hard for us to love our enemies, to forgive others is that it feels that they are getting away with it! That they are “getting away with murder.”
Let me tell you something, the Scriptures are clear. Nobody gets away with anything!
Hebrews 4:13 tells us that:
13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
Paul quotes Deuteronomy 32:35 when he writes in Romans 12:17-19;
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
Do you see what he is saying here? Hand over vengeance to God, do not think that justice won’t be done! Justice will be done! All sins will be punished! Either they were dealt with on the cross when Jesus took them on himself. When someone repents and becomes a disciple and is baptized, or in hell for those who do not!
First, it’s not our place to apply vengeance, God says it’s his job to avenge. How dare we take something that is God’s job and make it ours! Whatever kind of vengeance we would want to enact is nothing compared to what Jesus went through on the cross or what they will experience when they go to hell! Now, when you look at it that way, your love for them just might be the very thing that will save them from the worst kind of vengeance ever created! Saving them from hell!
God has lavished his love on us, not just in the breath that is in our lungs, but by forgiving us our sins. The ultimate motivation for us to love our enemies is that we will receive a reward, Matthew says that our reward is in heaven.