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The Absurdity of Selfless Living

Foundations to Build Upon  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  0:20
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An encounter with Christ not only alters eternity, but also our temporal relationships.

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A little over a week ago, one of our moms posted on social media that “trick-or-treat” is little more than an opportunity for mom’s to ask, “Did you say ‘thank you’?” at every house.

Sometimes moral instruction gives a new set of values, other times it is a reminder of things we already know that may have slipped out of our awareness.

Today’s sermon will be one of those where you are very unlikely to get any new information, but it is a needed review of what Jesus expects of his followers as we live in a fallen world where things often do not go the way we expect.

This part of the Sermon on the Plain involves calls to Love, Mercy & Obedience.

The Call to Love Abundantly (vv.27-35)

Seven dimensions of Absurd Love

Certain grouping of words have rhetorical power. 2 items seems to be a choice (this or that), 3 items seems more thorough (peace, love & joy), but 7 communicates the idea of completeness. God’s love permeates every dimension of our relationships.

John Martin identifies these seven:

1. Love your enemies. (v.27a)

· The old testament virtue was to love one’s neighbors, but Jesus ratchets that up a level.

2. Do good to those who hate you. (v.27b)

· Perhaps best embodied when Jesus cried out from the cross, “Father forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.”

3. Bless those who curse you. (v.28a)

· There seems to be some disagreement as to if words can hurt more than “sticks and stones” that may break bones; But Jesus says the response of a Christ-one is to honor those who shame you.

Proverbs 15:1 ESV:2016

1 A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

4. Pray for those who abuse you. (v.29b)

· I think the tone of this section negates the idea that we pray for them to experience pain.

· We should never take glee in the suffering of another. It was wrong when some on social media took pleasure in our president’s covid diagnosis, and it is ugly when we do it too, even if we feel like “they deserve it.”

5. Do not retaliate (v. 29a).

· Grant Osborne writes, “In the first century, this would refer to a backhanded blow meant as a studied insult. The refusal to retaliate entails a willingness to accept a degrading and vulnerable situation.” [i]

· It is the idea of “walking away” as the bigger man.

Those who watched the first presidential debate just over a month ago, witnessed examples of two men who were so bent on making their point, that they traded jab for jab on every comment.

By the 3rd debate both had learned that an ironic smile or raise of the eyebrow was just as effective at debunking the insult that had just been levied.

6. Give freely (vv. 29b–30).

· In these verses the insult escalates from public shame to enduring personal loss. Rarely in the first century would a common Jew have a closet or chest of drawers full of shirts. Many of the poor would only own 1 cloak (jacket) and 1 Tunic (shirt worn next to the skin).

· While Matthew’s telling seems to infer a legal judgment, this text conveys more of a street injustice as something is removed by force or by guilt.

7. Treat others the way you want to be treated (v. 31).[ii]

· Here Jesus turns a common negative virtue into a positive.

· Many documents in ancient history extolled the virtue of not doing what you don’t like, but Jesus states it positively. It is not enough to not do bad, but we should do good.

Application

· It is hard enough to love people who are different from us, but Jesus calls us to love people who are mean to us.

Perhaps you have heard the song by Josh Wilson that is getting airplay on Christian radio titled Revolutionary:

Why does kindness seem revolutionary

When did we let hate get so ordinary

Let's turn it around, flip the script

Judge slow, love quick

God help us get revolutionary

The Absurdity of Christian Love (vv.32-35)

· Our extreme love toward others reflects God’s extreme love toward us.

Romans 5:7–8 ESV:2016

7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

The Call to Merciful Decisions (vv.36-38)

In order to/Because of

1. Many live with an idea rooted in Eastern mysticism of karma. The idea of good and bad as equal forces in the universe and some cosmic sense of justice.

2. In Judeo-Christian thought, Good always triumphs over evil; and because good triumphs in our situation, that should impact our dealing with others.

a. Mercy prompts mercy (v.36).

b. Judgment flows from clemency (v. 37a).

c. Lack of Condemnation is prompted by lack of condemnation (v.37b).

d. forgiveness will lead to forgiveness (v.37c).

e. Generosity generates abundance (v.38).

The Call to Integrity (vv.39-45)

A piercing parable

1. if a person is blind he will lead another into a pit (v. 39). He will not be able to hide the fact that he is not righteous for he will lead others astray

2. Jesus also noted that a person becomes like the one whom he emulates (v. 40).

3. often one’s own sin is greater than the one he criticizes in someone else. (vv. 41–42)

4. Jesus also pointed out that a man’s words will eventually tell what kind of man he is (vv. 43–45).[iii]

5. The point is that one cannot help someone else become righteous if he is not righteous himself. To seek to do so is to be a hypocrite.[iv] Time to stop pretending!

You do You, God will do Me

Too often those who throw around the “quit judging” accusation (v.37) are in fact judging the fact that they believe others are judging. So “stop judging” is not the point, but adjust the basis for your decision-making.

1. I have frequently heard the phrase, “you do you and I’ll do me”, meaning that each person is free to make his or her own decisions about morality and ethics.

2. This whole Sermon on the Plain is in the shadow of Luke 6:18 where Jesus was healing and casting out spirits.

3. The grace-filled kindness of Jesus is a manifestation of the Father’s mercy as told in v.36

4. I don’t need to obsess over your short-comings and your specks when I recall the way God is kindly exposing and healing my own flaws.

5. We all need to submit to His standards as transmitted through His kind mercy.

The Call to Obedience (vv.46-49)

Stability comes from below not outside

1. Verse 46 begins with people making a claim, but v.49 reveals the failure to live it out.

2. A home’s longevity is the foundation undergrade.

3. A well’s productivity is the deep aquifers

4. A tree’s stability is the root system

a. Abide logo (vine and branches) – we draw our strength from that to which we are connected.

b. Psalm 1 describes the person without depth

Psalm 1:3 ESV:2016

3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

The stability of the Tallgrass Prairie is the deep root systems that develop.

Strength from obedience (v.49)

1. The weak foundation is disobedience to the words of Jesus.

2. We tend to think that some lives are built upon the truth of Scripture and other lives are built upon speculations of man. Jesus here seems to say, “the issue is not the truthfulness of His words, but our faithfulness to them.”

Conclusion:

Darrel Bock, regarded by many to be the evangelical world’s leading scholar on the book of Luke, writes in the New International Version Application Commentary,

To exemplify love in a hostile world is difficult. It takes a supernatural perspective and a change of thinking. The world is used to dealing with people either on the basis of power, utility, or equal exchange. The idea of simple service and unconditional love are not in vogue.

Love, doing good, blessing, and praying for those who are our enemies also assumes another reality, that we are in relational contact with the outside world. The ability to be struck on the cheek means we are in striking distance and have risked making the effort to have contact. The fortress mentality that sometimes invades the church is a form of retreat, as well as a denial of what Jesus calls for from disciples in this sermon.

The connection between God’s blessing and our ability to love should not be missed. Because of his blessing to us and our appreciation for him, we are able to love others. Because he gave, we can give. Because we know the joy of receiving from him, we are motivated to give to others. The actions Jesus calls for in his sermon apply to others what he has already applied to us.

In the end, the issue of our loyalty as disciples comes down to responding to Jesus in terms of what we do. His rebuke to those who call him “Lord, Lord,” but ignore what he says, indicates just how seriously he takes concrete response.[iv]

[i] Grant R. Osborne, Luke: Verse by Verse, ed. Jeffrey Reimer, Elliot Ritzema, and Danielle Thevenaz, Awa Sarah, Osborne New Testament Commentaries (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2018), 174.

[ii] John A. Martin, “Luke,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 220–221.

[iii] Ibid., 221.

[iv] Darrell L. Bock, Luke, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1996), 199.

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