Loving Everyone: Luke 6:27-36

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Of all the times Jesus preached to the crowds, and from all the counter-cultural ideas He shares, the central theme of the passage we are looking at this week is definitely among the most difficult to apply.

While some people may have wished to be excluded from being challenged in this way, Jesus directs this thought at everyone who was listening at that time, and since this teaching is included in two of the four gospels, we can also conclude that it was meant for everyone who would read or hear about it later as well.

Unfortunately, this includes you and me, but before getting upset at me for sharing it with you, tucked within this challenge is a theme that reveals an amazing truth about God the Father, and the extent of His love for humanity.

As I mentioned earlier, this teaching is found in two of the four gospels, but for our time together this week, we’ll focus in on Luke’s version of it, which is found in Luke, chapter 6, and we will be reading from the New Century Version. Starting in verse 27, Jesus challenges those present by saying:

27 “But I say to you who are listening, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who are cruel to you. 29 If anyone slaps you on one cheek, offer him the other cheek, too. If someone takes your coat, do not stop him from taking your shirt. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and when someone takes something that is yours, don’t ask for it back. 31 Do to others what you would want them to do to you. 32 If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get? Even sinners love the people who love them. 33 If you do good only to those who do good to you, what praise should you get? Even sinners do that! 34 If you lend things to people, always hoping to get something back, what praise should you get? Even sinners lend to other sinners so that they can get back the same amount! 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back. Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin. 36 Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy.

This last phrase not only sums up the reason why Jesus challenges those present to love everyone, in this phrase, we are challenged to love everyone like God has loved and shown mercy to us.

Also tucked into this challenge is the well known phrase in verse 31: “Do to others what you would want them to do to you.” While many people take this phrase and use it to justify their reaction to someone who just hurt them, the context of this teaching is being preemptive, and consciously acting in a way that you want to have returned. “Do to others what you would want them to do to you.” This phrase is given with the goal of helping to turn enemies into friends, so before trying to exclude someone from this challenge because they are not your “enemy”, this phrase is meant for everyone who is not yet a friend and everyone who you want to remain friends with.

One big key to this challenge Jesus gives us that we would be wise to pay attention to is that no-where in this passage do we read that by doing all these kind things and loving an enemy will immediately or eventually turn our adversary into a friend. Making friends out of our enemies is not the goal of Jesus’ challenge.

Instead, the goal is reflecting God. God has more enemies than we can count, and even though they have aligned themselves against Him, He has not turned His back on them. God loves both His friends and His enemies, even if His enemies have no hope of ever turning back to Him.

In verse 35, the passage phrases God’s kindness extending to even those who are “ungrateful and full of sin”. This thought challenges me because it both implies that as followers and imitators of God, we should be grateful and as sinless as we possibly can be. This brings to mind the idea that while everyone has sinned in their past, there is nothing keeping us from intentionally not sinning in the future. On several different occasions, Jesus challenged those He healed with the words, “Go and sin no more”, which implies that while it wouldn’t be easy, a sinless future is not impossible.

Also, while reading this challenge, I wonder if the theme Jesus shares here is the big error of the religious leaders, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and all the other Jewish groups present during that time. While most of these groups of Jews followed the laws that were handed down to them as best as they could, it seems as though all of them had missed the central idea of being God-like and God’s representative. These groups had missed seeing God’s love for humanity in the scrolls of their Old Testament scriptures. If they were trying to be God-like, they modeled their actions after a view of God that was a Judge and Someone who would be quick to punish those who broke His Law.

But in Jesus’ words, we see a God who loves before He punishes, a God who is generous to even those who have turned against them. This is the only option God has if He wants to base His rule on love, on caring relationships, and on the freedom of choice. If God quickly punished those who disobeyed, we would be fearful of Him, and a loving relationship could not develop. Not only this, but if God were to quickly punish us for our sin, there would be no hope of us ever turning back to Him and repenting, since the punishment for sin is death.

Here in our passage and in Jesus’ challenge to those who have heard or read His words is that God wants us to love like He loves, care like He cares, and to model generosity like He is generous – and not just to those in our social circle of friends, but to everyone else – enemies included – as well.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

Seek God first in your life, and intentionally choose Him to be your role model. God is the only One worthy of modeling our lives after, because everyone else has mistakes and/or flaws that we must look past.

When hearing, reading, and studying the Bible, pay attention to the many ways God has shown love towards humanity, both in the Old Testament history of Israel, and in the New Testament record of Jesus and the early Christian church.

And above everything else, never stop short or back away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Season 3 – Episode 10: Cam discusses one of Jesus’ most counter-cultural challenges to those present, and what His teaching tells us about God the Father.

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