27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do 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. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And 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. 35 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. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
I remember very vividly 4 or 5 years ago an older man coming up to me in the church basement, saying, “Pastor, that devotion you wrote for the newsletter is crazy. That has to be impossible!”
If you thought last week’s message was shocking, what are you thinking now as we take a look at how Jesus continued this sermon in Luke 6?
If you remember, last week Jesus said that everything in your life is at peace and going well, that you are blessed when you are poor, hungry, sad, and persecuted. His purpose for saying that was to show us that the proper priorities for life are not earthly possessions and worldly desires but a spiritual relationship with Jesus, a heart of faith, and the eternal home of heaven. I don’t need to rehash the whole thing, you can go online and check out the video on our website/ Facebook.
This week, however, Jesus takes it up a notch, don’t you think? Maybe you are thinking that the older gentleman I spoke to before church that day was right, what Jesus says here is impossible. I mean, there are plenty of places in the Bible where God says something that causes people to scratch their heads. If God has put faith into your hearts that doesn’t mean all the questions just disappear, does it? If you trust and rely on Jesus then there is still room to grow in his Word. And today, that’s what we need to do, because what Jesus says seems to be impossible.
Let’s just summarize it: Love your enemies. Love the way Jesus uses it is not even close to love the way our world uses it. Our world says ‘love’ when it talks about pets, food, sports teams, and famous people. That’s not love to Jesus. Because love is not selfish. Love is not a fuzzy feeling. Love is not lust. Love is not following someone on Instagram or Facebook. Love is not wanting more of something for yourself. Love is making a sacrifice. Love is caring enough to forgo something that would benefit you so that someone else can benefit. Love is serving selflessly the needs of others. Love is compassion. And the only way we could ever know love is because God is love.
And when Jesus says ‘enemies,’ he’s not talking about the people who aren’t friends, like relatives you don’t know very well, neighbors you haven’t met, coworkers that you don’t really talk to except the casual “hello.” Jesus is talking about the relatives who bad mouth you to the whole family and try to turn them against you. Jesus is talking about the neighbors who are actively and maliciously trying to make your time in the neighborhood worse. Jesus is talking about the bullies at school. He’s talking about the coworkers who want you gone for good. Jesus is talking about the people you know who are out to get you. He says, “You need to love them, sacrifice what’s good for you for their sake, do good things for them, pray for them, and let it go if they hurt you or steal from you.”
As Jesus says later, it is really easy to love people who love you. Even sinners, the real lowlifes, the castoffs of society, the ones who are looked down on, even they know how to love and care about the ones who are loving and caring towards them. Jesus says, “What credit is that to you” three times. You aren’t impressing him or unbelievers when you only care about the people who show they care for you first. Jesus wants all who are listening to him to understand that the goal is to show love, do good, and be generous to people who do not deserve it.
Let’s just be clear here. Jesus doesn’t say that evil is good. He doesn’t say that we just have to suck it up when terrible things happen. Jesus is not saying that if you are being abused, raped, or your life is in danger that you should do nothing. But he is saying that it is not your job to get even, ever. It is not your responsibility to retaliate or avenge any wrongs that you have to endure. If that seems weak and humble and lowly, good. Those are defining characteristics that Jesus wants you to have. Just last week, if you remember the Apostle Paul reminded us that when we are weak, then we are strong because we are relying on God’s grace and Christ’s power to work in us and through us.
Jesus goes on later in verse 37 to warn against being judgmental. This is not at all talking about sin. So, you better know the difference. Sin is what God says is wrong. Look at his commandments; disobeying them is sin. Period. But living with the hypocritical attitude that puts all your personal preferences, opinions, and ideas on par with God’s moral code cannot be condoned. That’s what Pharisees did, and Jesus bluntly says here, you cannot judge people that way. Your default setting must be compassion, forgiveness, and love. If you aren’t willing to live that way every day, then why should God treat you any different. He should judge you, condemn you, and destroy you.
And finally, in verse 38 Jesus says to be generous. Think of measuring out wheat here. Jesus is saying use a good honest scale, press it down a couple times and shake it together so that you aren’t skimping at all, and even let it run over a little bit. Having a generous heart will not only be good for others, because as Jesus says, “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” In essence, if you are generous, then others and God will be generous to you.
This all sounds fine and good, until you realize that Jesus is not saying this is what you should expect from others. He is not saying that you should wait for other people to treat you this way. Then, and only then, you can go ahead and treat them well. No, that’s not the golden rule. Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” “Treat others the way I want them to treat me? I think that is putting the wrong person first. I just don’t think others are going to treat me the way I want them to, so I’ll just change that a little bit so that I make sure I am not being neglected.” But that’s not the way Jesus wants it. God never puts himself first, so do you really think it’s excusable to put yourself first?
What that man said to me years ago in a church basement kind of sounds right on the money. Jesus is describing and teaching a way of life that seems impossible for us. And if it seems downright wrong to you, then how could you ever be a child of God? Because God’s children want to be like their perfect Father. They want to listen to their Lord and Savior. They serve willingly because the Spirit lives in their hearts.
Brothers and sisters, it is impossible for us to find our way into God’s family by following what Jesus says here. But what is impossible for us is not only possible for God, but it is exactly what he does for you. Right there in the middle of verse 35 Jesus says it so well, “the Most High…is kind to the ungrateful and wicked… your heavenly Father is merciful.” Mercy is another one of those beautiful Bible words that explores a concept so foreign to us that only God can show us what it is.
Think of a gunman who shoots up a school full of kids, think of the sexual predator, think of the worst bully, think of your fiercest enemies. You kind of want to see them suffer. They have ruined so many lives, they need to know what it is like.
That’s not the way God sees it. He sees someone who is ungrateful and wicked but who needs kindness and love. He sees someone who deserves punishment for all the wrongs they have done, but he doesn’t do it. He sees a sinner who needs a Savior. God sees everything that happens, and he has the love to forgo any punishment. He does not thirst for blood. The psalmist tells us, “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”  That’s mercy. It sounds utterly impossible for us, but not for God. Instead of giving us the very well-deserved punishment for sin, which is called hell, his grace sent Jesus.
And what exactly did Jesus do. Well, it’s not like we were on his side. Sin makes us hostile enemies of God. By nature we are born on the wrong side of that relationship. Jesus did come here to find all the people who were on God’s side so that he could save the ones who earned it. No, Jesus came to a world full of enemies. And he came here to love us, not wanting his own personal gain but caring and sacrificing himself for us. He came here not to judge us and condemn us, but to forgive us. He didn’t come to see how much he could get out of us, but he came here to give us everything he had. He didn’t love the loveable, because the loveable do not exist. Instead, he loved us so much, that he died to make us loveable to God and heirs of his kingdom. God’s mercy didn’t punish us. His grace sent Jesus to take the punishment for us. God’s mercy doesn’t send us to hell. His grace gives us the gifts of forgiveness, life, salvation through Jesus, and the faith to hold on to him. God’s mercy and grace is the only way we have eternal life with God in heaven.
God’s mercy and grace is also the only way we can have his kind of life here on earth. What Jesus says today sounds impossible. “Love your enemies…Do to others as you would have them do to you.” But it’s not impossible for him. That is exactly what he did for us. And when he put the Spirit in your heart, when he took up residence in your life, don’t you think he gave you the abilities to carry out this God-pleasing life? Don’t you think that faith in Jesus makes you different now? Don’t you think that God’s love has worn off on you a little bit so that you can look at others in a new way?
Of course it has. Love, good, prayer, humility, forgiveness, generosity… where else do you think this world should find those attributes than the children of the God who shows us exactly what those things are? And that is exactly what makes our ministry here so powerful. We have the God of unmatched mercy. We have the God of generous grace. We have the Savior of selfless service. So, that is what our lives and our ministry will look like.
That man said I was crazy and it must be impossible. It’s not at all a surprising statement. Do you know what I told him? I said, “It sure is impossible for us, but not for Jesus. And guess where he is right now?” Do you know that answer to that? Through faith, Jesus is right here (heart) and here (in the Word) and here (among us). So, that means with God’s unmatched mercy in us, we can love our enemies. God grant it. Amen.
 Psalm 103:10