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BE MERCIFUL, JUST AS YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL

Luke 6:27-6:36
Key Verse: 6:36

Thank God for granting us an opportunity to study the Sermon on the Plain. After calling the Twelve, Jesus had a kind of inaugural ceremony for them in the background of a large number of disciples and a great number of people. As we studied, first, Jesus told them what their hearts attitude should be in his teaching of blessings and woes. The blessed are those who are poor and humble, in need of God’s mercy, hunger for God, weep before God and are rejected because of Jesus. For theirs is the kingdom of God; they will have true satisfaction and true joy; they will be greatly rewarded in heaven. They are truly happy people in God’s blessing. On the contrary those who are rich and proud with no need for God, are well-fed and satisfied with the materials and pleasures of the world and praises of men are miserable people in the sight of God. The truly happy and blessed life is the very life of Jesus, and he wants us to follow him and be like him.

In today’s passage Jesus teaches us the key of Christian ethics, that is, love. Particularly, he says, “Love your enemies.” Needless to say, it is the highest standard of human ethics. This teaching of Jesus shows us who God is and what he expects from his people.

Frist, “love your enemies” (27-31). Look at verses 27. “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies…” According to Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus gave his disciples many other teachings prior to this command, such as the teachings concerning murder and adultery, divorce, oaths, and an eye for eye (Mt 5:21-42). He especially delved into the deep meaning of murder and adultery in the Ten Commandments, saying, “anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment”, meaning anger is a sort of murder, and “anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” But Luke omitted all those teachings and seemed to come to the heart of all the commands of Jesus, “love your enemies,” which is relevant to all people, both the Jews and the Gentiles. When he said, “Love your enemies,” he must have startled his audience, for he was saying something that probably never before had been said so succinct, positive, and forceful. In order to disclose the newness of his command Jesus said in Matthew’s gospel, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies…” (5:43-44). Actually, the Old Testament did not say, “love your enemy,” although it does say, “Love your neighbour” (Lev 19:18). Later on the Jewish scribes added it and extended God’s command like this, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy” in order to justify their hatred of the Gentiles and even bad Israelites. In fact, the implication of loving the enemies is in the Old Testament: “Do not hate your brother in your heart…” (Lev 19:17), “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:19). And it is written in Exodus 23:4, “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him.”

Yet, although the idea is in the Old Testament, Jesus’ command, “Love your enemies” has been sensational in human history, even now. When we think of Jesus, he was the one who practiced what he taught, “love your enemies.” At that time he was surrounded by many gospel enemies. As we studied, the Pharisees and the teachers of the law opposed him and wanted to kill Jesus (Mk 3:6; Lk 6:11), when Jesus did the work of love, saving lives. Finally, he was crucified and killed by his enemies. Yet, on the cross he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34). Apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:21-23, “…Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate…” According to Luke, Jesus even prayed on the cross for them. We remember Stephen in Acts, one of the Seven chosen to serve the table in the early Christian church. When he spoke the truth of God to the Jewish authorities, he was stoned to death. At that very moment of death, his prayer was just like the Lord Jesus, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Ac 7:60).

In our times acceptance and tolerance are very important. All human beings should tolerate and accept one another regardless of gender, race, and religion. Last week, when L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling spoke racist terms, which were secretly recorded, he was banned for life from basketball and from his own team and fined $2.5 million. That sanction against him was made by Adam Silver, the commissioner of the National Basketball Association. All people have the right to be accepted. All people are equal and it is actually the truth of God. Jesus said, “Love your enemies”, and it is much stronger expression than “accept your enemies.” Yet, we should understand this command of Jesus correctly. To accept or to love never means to compromise. Nowadays in the name of tolerance and acceptance even the concept of sin, or the concept of right and wrong seems to have evaporated. In other words there seem to be no standard and no truth of God. However, we cannot sacrifice God’s truth and our faith in the Lord Jesus. In April 27, there was the canonization of two popes as saint, Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. This was for the first time in the history of Catholic Church that two former popes were canonized. One clear reason was that they embraced modernity, which was seen as the great turning point of the Roman Catholic Church. Prior to that, the Roman Catholic Church had been seen as steadfastly opposed to almost all the major intellectual currents of the modern age, in particular of modernity, in the wake of the Enlightenment. In that canonization ceremony even a vial of John Paul II’s blood and a piece of skin of John XXIII taken from the dead body were brought forth for public exhibition. And in Catholic Church the saints are regarded as intercessors and the believers practice to pray in the name of saints or to the saints, while we believe that Jesus is the only mediator between God and men and he intercedes for us before the Father and in his name only we pray to the Father. It seems to be the trend of the world that religions become more and more secular and people attempt to make all religions into one in secularization, though there are fundamental or critical differences in doctrines.

In this current of the world what does it mean to love your enemies? First of all, we should remembers Jesus’ words to disciples, “If you belong to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. Thas is why the world hates you.” (Jn 15:19) Yet, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14). Jesus wanted his disciples to influence the world with his love. Jesus’ love always had a clear point. He loved sinners so that they might repent and turn to God. Jesus commanded his disciples to love their enemies so that they might realize the love of God through the disciples and turn to God and be saved.

Jesus elaborated the command “Love your enemies.” He said continually, “…do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Jesus wanted his disciples to truly love their enemies in good deeds and words of prayer and prayer. Jesus even told them some examples: “If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic.” It is characteristic of Hebrew style that a startling statement is made in order to shake people, to arouse them from their lethargy. And then Jesus said, “Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.” God’s people should learn to concede and to give and be generous. Yet, we should not take this literally. For at the time of Jesus’ trial when someone struck Jesus in the face, Jesus did not say, “Strike me on the other side” but said, “…if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?’” (Jn 18:22-23) Surely, Jesus said this not because he wanted to avoid the suffering but so that the man might find what’s wrong with him and take a step toward God. And also, for Apostle Paul, after being imprisoned and beaten, he revealed his identity as a Roman citizen. Then the officers who mistreated him were so alarmed that their attitude toward Paul was suddenly changed. We also should learn to use God’s given right not to just suffer helplessly but to win the spiritual battle. Apostle Paul expressed it this way, “Do not revenge, my friends…‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Ro 12:19-21). In light of this another wonderful example was the life of Joseph in the Old Testament. He said in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Then Jesus said in verse 31. “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Here we learn that to love our enemies is not an external battle, but internal battle against our self-love, our selfish sinful nature. In essence the command “love your enemies” is the same as the command “love our neighbour as yourself.” In a broad sense, our enemies are the more difficult neighbours to love. When Jesus said, “Love your enemies”, it can mean to us that he wants us to enlarge our love capacity overcoming our selfish and self-centred sinful nature. Our human love easily reaches its limitation; it is true between a husband and a wife and between parents and children and between friends. There is also a spirit of revenge residing in our deep hearts. The very words, “Love your enemies” are written three times in the Bible, one in Matthew’s gospel (5:44) and two in Luke’s (6:27, 35), although the idea is in the whole Bible. These words of Jesus’ command are so precious and necessary though hard to obey. For we know that without this command of Jesus, our Christians life cannot be victorious. We pray that God may help us to keep this command of Jesus in our hearts and be able to obey it following our Lord Jesus’ example.

Second, be merciful (32-36). Look at verses 32-34. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 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.” Here Jesus wanted his disciples to get credit from God. ‘Sinners’ represent the worst kind of people. They all have their own love. Yet, their love is selfish, conditional and self-seeking and their own benefit-seeking. But Jesus wanted his disciples to have different kind of love. He said, “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” This love is sacrificial, unconditional and genuine, that is, God’s love, Agape in Greek.

And Jesus promised, “Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High…” When God was going to send his Son into this world, the angel said to Mary, “You will be with child and give birth to a so, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Lk 1:32). His life proved that indeed he is the Son of the Most High in his love and humbleness. God is love; so is his Son. As we obey Jesus’ command, “Love your enemies” we will be proved as the sons and daughters of God, although we have the right to become the children of God by believing in Jesus’ name as John 1:12 says. What a blessing; what a reward!

Then Jesus said, “…because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.” It is interesting that in Luke’s gospel the words “ungrateful” and “wicked” are written together to indicate one certain kind of people, while in Matthew, “wicked” and “lazy” are written together in Jesus’ saying, “You wicked, lazy servant!” (Mt 25:26). According to Luke, the ungrateful are wicked people. Luke’s gospel well teaches the significance of thankfulness. For example, in Luke 17, Jesus healed ten lepers on his way to Jerusalem, but only one came back and said, “Thank you.” Jesus expressed his pained heart, saying, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?” (17:17). Sinners are ungrateful. Ungratefulness is the root of sin. Paul said in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him…” Then they became degraded. This is what happened in Genesis 3. When Eve was not thankful for God and for what God had provided, she became the target of Satan and fell. But God’s love is that he is kind to the ungrateful. Showing kind love to the ungrateful can be like putting water into the bottomless jar. Yet, God is kind and loving to the ungrateful. As we thought of, Jesus healed all the ten lepers. And Psalm 145:9 says, “The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made.” Also as we studied in John 3:16, in his love for all people of the world, he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Paul described God’s love in Romans 5:8, “God demonstrated his own love for us in his: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” When we were his enemies (Ro 5:10), God loved us to the point of sacrificing his one and only Son. God wants us to know that we were enemies of God because of our sins but he sacrificed his own son and let him shed his precious blood on the cross so that our sins might be forgiven and we be saved and redeemed to be his dearly loved children.

Finally Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” “Mercy” or “merciful” is an important word in Luke’s gospel. In Zechariah’s Song it is written, “because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death…” (1:78,79) And Mary said in her praise to the Lord, “His mercy extends to those who fear him from generation to generation” (1:50). Our God is a merciful God. Because of his love and mercy we are what we are. Here we see that Jesus commanded his disciples, “Love your enemies” so that they might know God’s mercy and love and become his merciful and loving children as our Father in heaven is merciful and loving. It is imperative for God’s children to see others with the mercy and love of God.

Thank God for his mercy and love for us. In this grace may we strive to obey Jesus’ command, “Love your enemies” so that we may grow as his loving disciples and become merciful as our heavenly Father is merciful.

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