Luke 6: 20-38
The Bible has several inconvenient truths, some notable in declaration of Jesus Christ Himself. We often talk of potential persecution for proclaiming the Word of God. For example, people are forced out of jobs for insisting on Biblical truths. This is passage of scripture we find difficult. It is challenging and so we tend to skip over it.
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” (Luke 6:27). This short little phrase causes us to baulk. ‘Love you enemies.’ This can cause us to hesitate. The rest of the sentence goes on to say what Jesus means.
Who is my enemy?
I’m a nice person who gets on well with others. “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18). Jesus’ statement is emphatic. We will have enemies, but Jesus expects us to love them. Verses 27-28 gives us some characteristics of those who will be enemies, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28).
Jesus Himself told His disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19). So, if we’re not hated to some degree, we need to ask ourselves, why?
“Bless those who curse you.” To curse, in this context, is ‘to doom someone by dragging them down.’ It is an ancient version of gaslighting, speaking ill of them behind their backs. Such a situation can bring the gospel into disrepute. Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’
No-one interrupts Jesus to ask Him, ‘Who is my enemy?’ We are not to make someone our enemy but behave in a neighbourly fashion towards them (Parable of the Good Samaritan). Jesus doesn’t talk about us being offended, wounded. Jesus tells us to deal with them in love.
Why should I love my enemies?
Jesus says so. Jesus really means this because He lived out this principle in His own life (the injustice of Gethsemane). Ultimately, this was for the sake of the Father. Jesus never compromised justice or truth. We also see Jesus standing up for others (e.g., the adulterous woman).
The apostle Paul writes about our responsibility, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1). There is no arrogance or pride. Paul points to Jesus.
“Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:36). As children of God, we are to show mercy to others. We should want to imitate Him. Jesus says that’s what we ought to do and Jesus Himself lived out this principle.
How do I show love?
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28). When someone hates us we are to do good to them. The ‘Golden Rule’ states, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” (Luke 6:31). Other cultures at the time also stated this in the negative – ‘Don’t do something to someone else you wouldn’t want done to you.’ It’s a worldly view.
Jesus goes much further. He instructs us to actively seek the good in others. We are to be motivated by a desire to please our heavenly Father. When someone harms us or tries to taint our reputation, we are to bless them, to seek their good, to witness God’s love to them. When people spitefully use us, we are to pray for them – that God would work in their hearts, and they would become a true witness of the love of God.
“To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, 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.” (Luke 6:29-30). To strike is to smite. The word is nuanced with striking to offend. The intention is to humiliate.
“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. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:35-36). Jesus did not think in terms of the moment. His primary focus was on the heavenly eternity. The focus is on God Himself, on how He acts. We are joint heirs with Christ, despite us once being His enemies. This fallen life means we will have enemies, those who oppose us in some way. But if we’re firm in standing on God’s truth, doing good to those who hate us, we do all these things by looking to Jesus. The world seeks to remove enemies by destroying them. God seeks to adopt us and treat others in the way He has treated us, in love and mercy.