Today we are going to hear more up-side down teaching by Jesus. In the Old Testament Exodus 21:23-24, God tells Moses to write these words, “If there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” In Luke, Jesus turns His Father’s words upside down. We hear the opposite from Jesus.
In today’s teaching in Luke 6:27-31, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 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. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you,”
In other words, do not respond to violence with violence, respond with love and kindness.
When Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…” He was introducing them to a whole new way of looking at life. This is how things work in the Kingdom of God, Jesus was saying to them. Jesus’ entire philosophy of life was rooted in love!
Then he asks a couple of powerful questions: “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even the 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. 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. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (vss. 32-36)
Jesus goes on to teach in Luke 6:37-28, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give and it will be given to you…”
What an amazing passage of scripture! In this passage Jesus give us a beautiful picture of what a life based on love looks like.
A life based on love is what happens when we give our heart to Jesus, when we invite Jesus to come and live within us. I believe it is vital that we spend time with our Savior each and every day, because I believe that is the only we can live a life based on love.
You may be thinking, that’s impossible! We can’t live like that. It demands too much of us. That’s not the way of the world! Who can love their enemies, do good to those who hate them, pray for those who mistreat them? I mean, besides Jesus. He certainly did each of those things. But can we? Can we love like Jesus loved?
I believe we can. Maybe not perfectly—after all, we’re not Jesus. But we can do better than we’re doing. Let me give you and example of what love can do.
In 1991 Michael and Julie Weisser, a Jewish couple, received their first telephone call from Larry Trapp, the Grand Dragon of the Nebraska Ku Klux Klan. Trapp took great joy in harassing Jewish people, immigrants, and people of color. He made threatening phone calls, sent out hate mail, and encouraged his followers to commit vandalism and acts of violence against non-white or Jewish people. But Trapp made a big mistake when he picked on the Weissers. They decided to fight his hatred with love.
Michael Weisser began leaving caring, friendly messages on Larry Trapp’s answering machine. When the Weissers learned that Trapp was a blind, wheelchair-bound diabetic, they offered to run errands for him. Finally, the Weissers continuous campaign of love paid off.
Larry Trapp left the Ku Klux Klan and converted to Judaism. He gave the police and FBI valuable insider information on local and national hate organizations. He also called every single person he’d ever harassed and apologized. But the Weissers went one step further. As Larry’s diabetes worsened, the Weissers took him in and cared for him until his death.*
I believe the Weissers were listening to Jesus’ message even though they are not Christians. Loving those who love you? As Jesus said, anybody can do that. That’s for unbelievers. Amateurs! Loving somebody like Larry Trapp takes grace. Grace is the awesome, undeserved gift of love and mercy that God has given us. If a Jewish couple can love like that, cannot we who say we are followers of Christ love like that?
Pastor Lloyd John Ogilvie once told of a man who was working a crossword puzzle. He asked his friends, “What’s a four-letter word for a strong emotional reaction to a difficulty?” One man responded “Fear.” The other man answered, “Love.” **
How would you respond?
If you think about it for a moment, those are the two words that generally define how we respond to life situations. We respond either with fear or love. Jesus’ philosophy is based on love.
Joseph, one of the twelve brothers, responded out of love when all his brothers appeared before him. He chose love instead of retaliation. He had every right to retaliate. They had beat him, threw him down a dry well, and then sold him into slavery. Joseph had every right to take revenge on his brothers, but instead he chose love.
Genesis 45:1-2, “Then Joseph could not longer control himself before all his attendants, and he cried out, “Have everyone leave my presence!” So, there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard him, and Pharaoh’s household heard about it.”’ Joseph chose love.
In verses 4-6 Joseph continues to respond with love, “‘Then Joseph said to his brothers, “come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”’
I think God puts people into our life who do us harm with words or actions; and we have a choice to respond with love, yet sometimes it is difficult to respond that way.
I have found that people who hurt others are hurting themselves. They have been abused as children, either emotionally or physically, or both and know no other way to relate to other people. Spouses may have been abused emotionally or physically by the other spouse and they know no other way to respond.
Many of us know Corrie Ten Boom’s story. She became an example of how to love our enemies. She survived the Holocaust, but her family did not. They were Dutch Christians caught by the Nazis for hiding Jews in their home. She watched the horrors of the genocide for Ravensbruck, a concentration camp, and she barely survived.
Following the war, she became famous for her book, “The Hiding Place,” which shared the story of her family. The popularity of the book gave her the opportunity to share her faith with thousands of people on speaking tours.
One such evening, after she had spoken about the forgiveness of Christ, a man approached her whom she recognized as one of the guards from Ravensbruck. She immediately felt all the horror, pan and hatred from those years of persecution.
He told her that he had listened to her that he had been a guard at the death camp. She told him that she recognized him. Crying, he asked if he might receive the forgiveness of Christ of which she had spoken. At first, she thought to herself that she could not, but she remembered the command of Christ to love your enemy and to forgive seventy times seven the person who has wronged you.
She prayed that Jesus might give her the strength to forgive the man, and as she prayed, she felt a sensation begin in her heart and flow through her hand as it touched his.
Then she heard herself saying, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I forgive you.”
The man collapsed at her feet and wept a prayer of thanks. She later discovered that he became a minister of the Gospel, and that many people had come to Christ through his ministry.
We never know how far God will go to spread the love that we give. Maybe we have received love from someone we have harmed and had to ask forgiveness. Or maybe they received love from someone who forgave them and they are passing the love on by forgiving us. We love our enemies because we recognize that Christ died for them too. We love our enemies because we know that the power of love is stronger than depth to which we humans can fall.
Pastor Rosemary DeHut
References: *Halberstam, Yitta and Judith Leventhal, Small Miracles II, (Holbrook, MA., Adams Media Corporations, 1998) pp. 244-255.
**John Mason, Conquering an Enemy Called Average (Insight International Inc., 1996.)