Outrageous Love l Luke 6:27-36 l Chapel Hill Church Gig Harbor
I hope your New Year is off to a great start. Mine certainly is. I got to baptize my granddaughter last Sunday, January 1. It’s a bit of a bummer when what is likely to be the high point of your year happens on day one! But…I’ll take it as a sign of God’s promise for all of 2023.
We pick up on our Luke study where we left off before Advent: Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain.” Similar to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount…but different. And as I read our text this morning, I want you to listen carefully. Contained in this passage is what many consider to be the quintessential teaching of Jesus; the summation in one verse of what made Jesus’ unique life and ministry. See if you can spot it. There will be a test.
“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. 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. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 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.
OK…did you spot it? What is the quintessentially Christian teaching we find here? Is it verse 31, “And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” That’s Luke’s version of what we know as “The Golden Rule.” But most of us learned King Jimmy’s version: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
What a powerful teaching! How much different would life be if everyone lived this way! Some consider this to be the quintessence of Jesus’ teaching. Other traditions… Judaism, Buddhism, Stoicism…offer a similar teaching…but it is almost always stated in the negative. “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” This is known as the Silver Rule. Silver is valuable…just not as valuable as gold. It is certainly virtuous not to do the bad things to people you wouldn’t want done to you. And it’s easier, too. I know if I didn’t do a bad thing.
But Jesus asks more. His rule is stated positively…which means, there’s always more you can do. When do you ever reach the end of doing good to someone? Never. I can obey the Silver Rule and avoid saying nasty things about someone. Simple; precise. But if I decide to speak encouraging things to someone…am I ever finished? Is there ever a point where I say, “OK…I’ve been encouraging enough. I don’t need to encourage anymore”? Of course not. That’s why the Golden Rule is golden…it is harder, more valuable, more precious.
And yet…it is not the quintessentially Christian teaching. If that was your answer…. (buzzer sound)…wrong! Why? Because, as Jim Edwards points out, the Golden Rule is ultimately self-serving. I treat others how? The way I want them to treat me. It is good. And wise. Mutually beneficial. But it is not the most Christian teaching.
The quintessence of Christianity comes in verse 27. Ready? “Love your enemies.” This is the first time the word “love” appears in Luke’s gospel, amazingly enough. And the first time Luke mentions “love”…it is “Love your enemy.” Nothing self-serving about that. It’s not, “Love others so that they might love you.” No, the outrageous thing Jesus demands…the ultimately Christian teaching is…“Love your enemy.”
As I said, lots of religions and philosophers offered some version of “Do unto others.” …but no one ever offered a teaching like this before Jesus came along. “Love your enemies”? Some ancient philosophers advocated benevolence toward one’s enemies. Pardon…forgiveness. But not “love”. And love for one’s enemies was never found in any Jewish teaching. Ever. It would have been considered…outrageous.
But…we cannot comprehend the outrageousness. We may have been hated by others. We all have painful relationships. If Jesus told us to love those enemies it would be outrageous enough. But how about this: you live in occupied territory. That occupying force can enter your house at will, take your property without recourse, and compel you to serve him. And you have no choice in the matter.
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies,” you could have plugged in another word: “Romans.” “Love these pagan brutes who have occupied your country for 100 years. Who have pilfered your treasury, desecrated your holy places, stolen your property, raped your women. Love these career soldiers…