Love Your Enemies-Pray for them & Lead them to the Truth
Luke 6:27-36. Love Your Enemies-Pray for them & Lead them to the Truth
Everton Community Church. Sunday February 17th 2008.
The Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has triggered a storm of controversy this week by suggesting that Britain should adopt some aspects of Islam's tough Shariah law into its legal system. He called the establishment of some kind of Islamic Sharia law in Britain inevitable. He sees the arrival of Sharia law as something that cannot and should not be prevented. In a BBC radio interview Thursday (Feb. 7), Williams said the 1.6 million Muslims now living in Britain make that prospect all but "unavoidable" and that "as a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia are already recognized in our society." He said that Britain has to "face up to the fact" that thousands of its citizens do not relate to its legal system, and what is needed is a "constructive accommodation" with some Muslim practices. For instance, he proposed a "plural jurisdiction" under which Muslims would be allowed to choose whether some legal disputes could be dealt with secular or Sharia courts.
For the past two or three decades, Britain has been engaged in a radical experiment in abandoning its own national identity. It has encouraged a huge number of Islamic immigrants to enter the country. As a result, some of the most extreme sects of Islam have taken root on British soil. Just a few weeks ago, another senior cleric warned that some areas of Britain's cities has become "no go" zones for non-Muslims.
The archbishop's remarks brought furious protests across the country. Prime Minister Gordon Brown's office said in a statement that Sharia law "cannot be used as justification for committing breaches of English law." His culture secretary, Andy Burnham, described the archbishop's proposals as "a recipe for chaos."
(Source: Religion News Service: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=blog_view&var1=ViewInd&var2=1&var3=256&var4=main)
It wasn’t too long ago (2 years) that Ontario’s Liberal government did the same until controversy erupted.
Would Sharia law be leading people to the truth? What should be our reaction to those who differ from us? Should we forget our differences and adopt what some call reasonable accommodation? Is this accommodation love?
Jesus dramatized his new law of love—the call to love one’s enemies. There had never been anything like it. This was exactly what Jesus did in the next few hours when he hung on the cross with his arms stretched wide as if to embrace the world, as he died for the “ungodly,” for “sinners,” for his “enemies,” as we see in:
Romans 5:6-10 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person--though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die-- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (ESV)
This right now who is most frustrating to you? Who most interferes with your life and work? Who gets under your skin the most and if you look deep down, do you wish could just go away? In any real consideration, this individual is your enemy. Jesus calls us to pray for them and lead them to the truth through Christian love.
Our study in 1 Peter prepared us for persecution and life and death matters. But how do we deal with situations where it is not our life that is threatened but our calm, ego’s or comfort.
As we see in Luke 6:27–36, at the beginning of his ministry, with the newly called twelve standing before him, Jesus announced a new law, calling his followers to love as he loves. This is an impossible call apart from Christ. Jesus shows the Christian’s High calling in 1) The New Love Ethic Declared and 2) The New Love Ethic Explained
1) THE NEW LOVE ETHIC DECLARED Luke 6:27-31
There were several words for love in the Greek language. Jesus did not here command storge, natural affection. He did not command eros, romantic love. He did not command philia, the love of friendship. He demanded agape love. Such a love is not motivated by the merit of the one who is loved. The other loves come quite naturally. (Leon Morris, Luke (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1974), p. 142.)
This past Thursday, when people celebrated Valentines Day is was a celebration of romantic love. You can fall into eros. But agape love supersedes natural inclinations and often exists in spite of them. It is a deliberate love, rooted not in the emotions, but in the will—a love by choice.
Quote: One author said: “Love [agape] is a deep, continuous, growing and ever-renewing activity of the will superintended by the Holy Spirit” Agape love says, “I will love this person because, by God’s grace, I choose to love this person.”
(Mike Mason, The Mystery of Marriage (Portland: Multnomah, 1978), p. 99.)
This High calling is to ascend to the unnatural heights of agape in loving our enemies. Defined by Jesus’ the passage commands:
Luke 6:27 "But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, (ESV)
- Certain Jewish communities like the one at Qumran, (where we get the dead sea scrolls), commanded to “hate all the sons of darkness” (IQS I:10; 9:21f).
- Love is the center of Grace that we are to manifest to others as God has manifested it to us.
- The World has a tit-for-tat recripical action, God calls us to be gracious to those who don’t deserve it.
- Imagine someone who hates you—then think of doing something nice to him or her.
- Jesus in not calling for us to like everyone emotionally, but to be proactive in showing gracious love even for those who we don’t like and would be considered our enemies.
Luke 6:28a bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. (ESV)
Romans 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (ESV)
1 Corinthians 4:12 and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; (ESV)
1 Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. (ESV)
This is as radical today as it was to Jesus’ audience: The Jewish sect of the Essenes, in fact, were encouraged to curse those who did not join them (1 QS 2:2–17) (Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981), p. 638).
Jesus hear also commands:
Luke 6:28b  pray for those who abuse you. (ESV)
- Praise God—it is impossible to truly pray for someone and hate them at the same time.
The command to love our enemies is a call to unnatural deeds, unnatural words, and unnatural prayer. It is a command for supernatural love. Does this mean that only God can do it? Yes and now. It can only be done through God.
Quote: To do evil for good is human corruption; to do good for good is civil retribution, but to do good for evil is Christian perfection.—Rev. William Secker (William Secker, The Nonsuch Professor in His Meridian Splendor (Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1899), 153.)
This unnatural love calls for Jesus’ followers to exercise an unconventional love: Luke 6:29a To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also,
Before we can understand what is mandated, we must understand what it is not.
Conventional responses to such indignities took two basic patterns:
- The raw pagan response is to pay such actions back tenfold—“You slap me, I’ll break your neck”—“You take my shirt, I’ll chop off your hand.”
- This is Islamic law practiced today in Islamic states.
o The ancient Hebrew response was a vast improvement. It was lex talionis, the law of retaliation, limiting retaliation to an equitable penalty—
Exodus 21:23-25 But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (ESV)(; cf. Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21).
- This is a civilized principle that, if followed, would help restore fairness to our litigious society.
Please turn to Romans 12
Bear in mind that that the commands in Luke 6 are personal and not governmental.
- Therefore this deals only with matters of personal retaliation, not criminal offenses or acts of military aggression. Jesus applied this principle of non-retaliation to affronts in Mt. 5 against one’s dignity (Mt. 5:39), lawsuits to gain one’s personal assets (Mt. 5:40), infringements on one’s liberty (Mt. 5:41), and violations of property rights (Mt. 5:42). (MacArthur, J. J. (1997, c1997). The MacArthur Study Bible (electronic ed.) (Mt 5:39). Nashville: Word Pub.).
- We must have wisdom to know when to turn the other cheek and when to claim our rights (John 18:22–23; Acts 16:35–40). Even Christian love must exercise discernment (Phil. 1:9–11).
The State still has the God mandated responsibility to enforce justice. Should the state, fail to perform its role:
Romans 12:19-21 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." To the contrary, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (ESV)
- Luke 6 does also not forbid self-defense. Remember when authorities tried to seize Jesus in Luke 22, that His followers were armed.
- Luke 6 does not advocate passivity to assault, but graciousness in the face of insult.
- Jesus is not calling that we should approve of sinful action.
But Jesus went far beyond these conventions in his call to turn the other cheek and give to all who ask! Is Jesus thus abrogating all exercise of personal defense and the right to private property? No. Rather, he is demanding a loving attitude that is not vengeful but is generous and giving. The slap to one’s face probably refers to an insulting blow by someone who takes exception to the disciples’ allegiance to Christ.
(Joseph Fitzmyer, The Gospel According to Luke I-IX (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1981), p. 638).
Please turn to John 18
In such a situation the disciple is not to retaliate. Similarly, in reference to one’s possessions, it is one’s spirit or attitude that is important.
Quote: As Leon Morris explains: “If Christians took this one absolutely literally there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves. It is not this that Jesus is seeking, but a readiness among his followers to give and give and give.” (Leon Morris, Luke, p. 143; cf. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, p. 261).
Jesus is trying to communicate a spirit of Justice and not vengeance:
John 18:19-23 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said." When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest?" Jesus answered him, "If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?" (ESV)
- Jesus did not retaliate with force, but appealed for Justice to Annas.
Luke 6:29b-30 and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. (ESV)
This carries the concept of giving to those in need even if they are not thankful or gracious. This does not demand that we give indiscriminately.
Quote: Augustine quaintly suggests that in the words themselves will be found the limitation required. “‘Give to (everyone),’ but not everything,” suggesting that in many cases a medicine for the hurt of the soul would better carry out the words of the Lord than the gift of material help for the needs of the body (‘Serm.’ ccclix.).
But Love for possessions should never keep a Christian from giving. Love must be ready to give everything or have it taken away if need be. Love must decide when to give and when to withhold our possessions. Its ultimate expression is the so-called Golden Rule:
Luke 6:31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. (ESV)
One again, let’s consider what this doesn’t mean:
Illustration: There’s a story of the Shapra Indian tribe of Peru. In this South American tribe, who once were headhunters, Christ has made a difference in those who became believers. One man used to kill his enemies when he captured them. After his conversion, he would hold them captive and teach them Scripture for three weeks! (Cited by Herbert Fuqua, missionary to Peruin Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House).
- As much as we love Bible study, treating others as we would want to be treated means something else.
It’s not the creed of common greed: There’s a new golden rule in effect today: “He who has the gold, makes up the rules.” (Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)
Significantly, almost all pre-Christian formulations of this rule are negative—“Do not do to others what you would not want done to you”—though there are a few obscure positive formulations (cf. T. Naph. 1; 2 En. 61:1) ((Leon Morris, Luke, p. 143; cf. Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, p. 262).
Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (ESV)
The starting block for this command is the misunderstanding of “neighbor”. Luke has previously explained in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37 that neighbors are all those who are around us.
Quote: Someone once said: The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people (Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.)
- God sealed this command to be gracious to our neighbors with the statement “I am the Lord. In other words, God was saying to the Jews: Do as I command you, if you regard me as your Lord
- Rabbi Hillel (c.10BC) said: “What is hateful to you do not to your neighbor: that is the whole Torah”(Shab. 31a; SBT, p. 140)
- In the case of insult, this would be the lower standard of not responding in kind.
- But the standard of the Kingdom of God, more than avoiding the negative, but a positive gracious gesture:
This was the intent of the Old covenant:
Exodus 23:4-5 "If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him. (ESV)
Please turn to Matthew 22
What distinguishes Jesus command to love our neighbor from modern humanistic sentimtality is that the non-Christian prophets see this rule as a requirement which people are able to fulfill in their own strength. Luke repeatedly emphasizes that human beings by nature do not have this ability. We need the Holy Spirit and the Father’s drawing power (1:15; 11:13: 12:12; Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22–23).
Quote: F. B. Meyer explains: “In its deepest sense love is the perquisite of Christianity. To feel toward enemies what others feel toward friends; to descend as rain and sunbeams on the unjust as well as the just; to minister to those who are unprepossessing and repellent as others minister to the attractive and winsome; to be always the same, not subject to moods or fancies or whims; to suffer long; to take no account of evil; to rejoice with the truth; to bear, believe, hope, and endure all things, never to fail—this is love, and such love is the achievement of the Holy Spirit. We cannot achieve it ourselves”. (F. B. Meyer, The Heavenlies, p. 26.)
Secondly, the religious liberal has a tendency to separate the rule of love for man from the commandment of love for God. Jesus repeatedly emphasized that the love for others is linked with the love of God.
Matthew 22:36-40 "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?" And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets." (ESV)
- You may say that you don’t know my boss, my neighbor, or my mother-in-law.
- Think of the audience that Jesus was addressing. They were under the yoke of a repressive foreign oppressor in the Romans and a Jewish leadership that even segregated responsibilities to Jews and Gentiles, as well as good Israelites, such as the scribes and Pharisees, and bad Israelites, such as the publicans (Jn. 7:49).
Illustration: After the collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989, no person in all of East Germany was more despised than the former Communist dictator Erich Honecher. He had been stripped of all his offices. Even the Communist Party rejected him. Kicked out of his villa, the new government refused him and his wife new housing. The Honechers were homeless and destitute.
Enter pastor Uwe Holmer, director of a Christian help center north of Berlin. Made aware of the Honechers’ straits, Pastor Holmer felt it would be wrong to give them a room meant for even needier people. So the pastor and his family decided to take the former dictator into their own home!
Erich Honecher’s wife, Margot, had ruled the East German educational system for twenty-six years. Eight of Pastor Holmer’s ten children had been turned down for higher education due to Mrs. Honecher’s policies, which discriminated against Christians. Now the Holmers were caring for their personal enemy—the most hated man in Germany. This was so unnatural, so unconventional, so Christlike.
By the grace of God, the Holmers loved their enemies, did them good, blessed them, and prayed for them. They turned the other cheek. They gave their enemies their coat (their own home).
They did to the Honechers what they would have wished the Honechers would do to them. (Reported by George Cowan to Campus Crusade at the U.S. Division Meeting Devotions, Thursday, March 22, 1990.)
We have seen: 1) THE NEW LOVE ETHIC DECLARED Luke 6:27-31 and now:
2) THE NEW LOVE ETHIC EXPLAINED Luke 6:32-36
Jesus went on to explain his new ethic by contrasting it with the reciprocal ethic of sinners.
First of all, there is no credit for natural love. (vv. 32–34)
Luke 6:32-34 "If you love those who love you, what benefit 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 benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.
Jesus discourages any self-congratulation for reciprocal morality. We love people who love us. Big deal! So did Hitler and Stalin. There is simply no credit for natural love.
There is eternal credit for the new love. (v. 35).
Luke 6:35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
Jesus gives two emphases to the “reward” he promises.
First, it will be “great”—literally, “much”—and Jesus meant what he said. Are we mercenary or selfish if we love our enemies with an eye to great reward? No.
- In this present life, it consists of such things as the inner satisfaction of having been able to help others (Rom. 12:15); the peace of God (Phi;. 4:7-9).
- At Jesus’ return there is His public acknowledgement of our deeds (Mt. 25:34ff).
- After this life there is the sum total of all the blessings of salvation throughout eternity (Mt. 16:27; 25:46).
- This is the greatest reward anyone can receive, far greater than riches, food, laughter, or popularity (Luke 6:24–26). Those things will one day vanish, but character will last for eternity. We must believe Matthew 6:33 and practice it in the power of the Spirit.
Quote: As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, “We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connection with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love;
that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation”. (C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1965), p. 2 )
Similarly, love for God and others has a proper reward, which is God himself (cf. Romans 2:7; 2 Corinthians 6:16b–18; Revelation 21:7).
Second, as a fitting corollary Jesus adds, “and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil/wicked.”
To become “sons of the Most High” is the Hebrew way of saying we will be like the Most High, like God himself. Therefore, to love one’s enemies is to be like Christ and like the Father.
- Not that unselfish love makes people sons, but it proves that they are sons (2 Cor. 3:18; 1 Jn. 3:2).
(Illustration before point two)
When the Holmer family took in Eric and Margot Honecher, they were like Christ. When we do good to our enemies, we are like Christ.
When we bless those who curse us, we are like Christ. When we pray for those who abuse us, we are like Christ. And that likeness is our reward.
The great question is, how can any of us ever live up to this ethic—how can we in fact love our enemies? In ourselves, this is impossible. No one can love his enemy by an unaided act of the will.
But praise God, through new birth in Christ we become partakers of his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). This does not mean that we become God, but that his divine nature is at work within us. Christ’s love that reached out to poor Judas has come to us. His love for sinners is ours. The key to Christ’s moral teaching is Christ in us!
Illustration: There was once a missionary on furlough with her husband and family after an unusually tiring stint of service. She had been looking forward to this time with great anticipation. For the first time she was going to have a place of her own, a new, large townhouse-styled apartment with a patio. She is very creative and made the patio the focus of her decoration.
After a few months some new neighbors moved in. The best word to describe them would be coarse. There was loud music day and night along with a constant flow of obscenities. They urinated in the front yard in broad daylight. They totally disrupted her peace. She could see nothing good in them.
She asked the Lord to help her be more loving. All she got back from the neighbors was disgust and rejection. The crisis came when she returned home to discover that her neighbors’ children had sprayed orange paint all over her beautiful patio—the walls, the floors—everything! She was distraught and furious. She tried to pray but found herself crying out, “I cannot love them. I hate them!”
Knowing she had to deal with the sin in her heart, she began to converse with the Lord in her inner being, and a Scripture came to mind:
Colossians 3:14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (ESV)
In her heart she questioned, “Lord, how do I put on love?” The only way she could picture it was like putting on a coat. So that is what she determined to do—she chose to wrap herself in the love of God! As a result she began to experience a deeper life of Christ within her.
She made a list of what she would do if she really loved her exasperating neighbors, then did what she had listed. She baked cookies, she offered to baby-sit for free, she invited the mother over for coffee—and the most beautiful thing happened! She began to know and understand them. She began to see that they were living under tremendous pressures. She began to love her “enemies.” She did good to them. She lent to them without expecting anything back.
The day came when they moved—and she wept! An unnatural, unconventional love had captured her heart—a supernatural love—the love of Jesus. (Hughes, R. K. (1998). Luke : That you may know the truth. Preaching the Word (223). Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books.)
If we consider ourselves to be true followers of Christ, this love is our call. We are to love our enemies—to truly love them.
· Are there some whom you hate, and do you, through some perverse twist, imagine that your hate is justified? If so, you are in trouble, for Christ is not ruling your life.
· Are you doing good to those who hate you, or evil? If Christ is ruling your heart, it will be good.
· Are you blessing those who curse you? If not, Christ is not on the throne of your heart.
· Are you praying for those who mistreat you? If so, you are like Jesus.
This is an impossible life. It is unnatural. It is unconventional. It is—supernatural!