Luke 6:27-31–27 “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.
How does Jesus want you to handle your enemies? Are you someone who seeks revenge on your enemies? Is that your first instinct? To get back, to get even, to have the last word, to hurt someone like they hurt you? Do you choose to take things to the next level and escalate the situation?
That may be human instinct and the natural response, but as Christ-followers, we are called to demonstrate a supernatural response when people wrong us.
Would you agree that it takes supernatural strength to love your enemies? To do good to those who what you, to bless those who curse you, to pray for those who mistreat you? Those aren’t the natural responses for any of us. Jesus doesn’t even suggest the option of just staying away from those people and of trying to avoid them. Wouldn’t that be a plausible solution? Just cut ties. It’s not even always possible, right? You might work with someone you perceive as an enemy. You probably can’t just quit your job. What about the enemy on the school bus or down the street? If you faithfully follow Jesus, I guarantee you will have enemies just because of your affiliation with Him! Here Jesus is commanding us to find a way to lovingly engage with our enemies.
Luke 6:32ff goes on to say: 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.
What Luke is telling us is that loving those who love us doesn’t demand supernatural strength. When we love people who love us, when we are in a reciprocal relationship with someone, which means we are receiving from them what we are also giving to them, that doesn’t require a different way of thinking or being. It comes naturally to reciprocate or to give back what we are receiving. Even non-Christians do that. That isn’t anything special or Jesus-like.
But treating our enemies as friends? Doing good to people who have hurt us, who have made life difficult for us, who have been mean to us, who have trashed us, who have gone out of their way to make life miserable for us? That isn’t something we can do without God’s help. How do we even receive a desire or capacity to do what is being asked of us?
We’re told in the passage to pray for our enemies. Listen, prayer invites the power of God into your life, to transform you, not to necessarily to change the enemy, to change the circumstance, but to supernaturally transform you into the kind of person who can engage like Jesus with people who act like Satan.
Before you pray FOR your enemies, first pray that God will give you the heart of Jesus for people you consider to be your enemies. None of what Jesus is asking of us is possible without a Jesus-heart.
Luke 6:31 says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
You want to be treated respectfully, kindly, compassionately, right? That is the way God is telling us to treat even those we could rightfully call our enemy.
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.
We may not understand our position as an enemy of God when we are born, but that’s the way God sees us. Sin makes us enemies with God, but God didn’t distance Himself from us. He came close in the person of Jesus Christ to reveal the deep love of God. What if God had decided He would cut ties with every sinner? We would be without hope for eternal life forever. His heart for us, while we were yet sinners, while we were His enemies, compelled Him to reach for us. We are supposed to cultivate that same God-like, Jesus-like heart.
The next time you read through the Gospels, notice how Jesus interacted with Judas. He never slighted Judas. He never had an unkind word for Him. It even seemed at times, that Judas got better treatments and more special love from Jesus than some of the other disciples. Jesus KNEW what Judas would do to betray Him, and it didn’t impact the way He loved him. He washed Judas’s feet, just like He washed the rest of the disciples’ feet on the night before Judas’s betrayal.
Jesus also called Saul, the murderer and imprisoner of Christians, an enemy of Christ and His Church, Jesus called Saul to Himself. He called Saul into a special relationship with Him. An elevated position in His Church! He redeemed Saul even though Saul had violently attacked God’s people. He gave Saul a huge Kingdom promotion even though Saul hadn’t shown any promise of being able to do the job. His track record would suggest that he would wreck the efforts of the apostles to established and expand the Church. In spite of that, Jesus transformed Saul’s life and mission. Saul became Paul and went on to lead the many evangelistic efforts that are recorded in the New Testament. Someone who was an enemy of Jesus became His friend, His follower, and a founder of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus blessed those who crucified Him. He prayed for their forgiveness in Luke 23:34. That had to be a new experience for Jesus’ torturers. This wasn’t their first rodeo. They had done many a crucifixion. None of the victims had been willing. Certainly, none prayed for them. Jesus should have cursed them, but He blessed them instead. God’s love is truly extravagant.
If asked to summarize Jesus’ words in our text for today, I think I would say that as disciples of Christ, we are called to radically love our enemies, to be radical in our responses to them, and to be radical in the way we reach to them with God’s love.
It’s radical to love your enemy. It is radical to refrain from responding when someone does you harm. It is radical to go out of your way for someone who has been mean and antagonistic toward you. This is the way Jesus has loved us, and because He did, we are no longer God’s enemies. He now calls all who have received Him, His friends!
Who is it that has pushed your buttons, hurt your feelings, been mean-spirited toward you, threatened you, belittled you, or talked negatively about you to others? Pray for them, bless them, assist them, and do the good you would do to them if they were your friend. In the end, they just might turn out to be.
If you only love those who love you, you haven’t distinguished yourself as a Christ-follower. You look like every other human on the planet. God’s people are supposed to be peculiar. They are to stand out. They do so as they reflect the character of Jesus, and that is the character of love. Oh God, give us a Jesus-heart to love even the most difficult of people in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.