One of the greatest Jewish scholars to write about Jesus in the modern age was David Flusser, who taught for many years at the Hebrew university in Jerusalem. But not everyone approved of his scholarship; and one of his most brilliant students visiting a university elsewhere, was once given a very low mark by the professor simply because of being associated with Flusser himself. Then, some time later a student of that professor came to study with Flusser. His work was not very good but Flusser insisted on grading it with an A. His teaching assistant protested: how could he do that? particularly after what the other professor had done? ‘Give him an A,’ insisted Flusser, ‘this i have learned from Jesus.’
The kingdom that Jesus preached and lived was all about a glorious, uproarious, absurd generosity. Think of the best thing you can do for the worst person and go ahead and do it. Think of what you’d really like someone to do for you, and do it for them. Think of the people to whom you are tempted to be nasty and lavish generosity on them instead. These instructions have a fresh spring like quality. They are all about new life bursting out energetically startling everyone with their colour and vigour.
Are they possible? Well yes and no. Jesus’ point was not to provide his folowers with a new rule book, a list of dos and don’ts that you could tick off one by one and sit back satisfied at the the end of a morally successful day. The point was to illustrate and inculcate an attitude of heart, a lightness of spirit in the face of all that the world can throw at you. And at the centre of it is the thing that motivates and gives colour to the whole: You are to be like this because that’s what God is like. You are to love like this because this is how God loves us!
Our culture - Big on love. Romantic love, sexual love; Family love - everyone likes the guy who loves his mum; Friendship love; Calvin Harris: Tell me how deep is your love? is it like the ocean?
christian love - is to be extraordinary in comparison to the way people usually love
- love those who hate you
- love those who can’t pay you back
- love as God has loved you
- love those who hate you vv27-30
4 exhortations followed by 4 illustrations
Look at the 4 exhortations in vv27 and 28
Love your enemies -
but don’t just have that attitude put it into action
Do good to those who hate you
and your actions include your words
Bless those who curse you - father forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing
Pray for those who ill treat you
Jesus is speaking into a context of imminent perscution for those who would follow him. And clearly this is deeply relevant to the millions of our christian brothers and sisters in places around the world where to be part of a christian minority is a harsh environment of physical violence, destruction of property, intimidation, prejudice, blackmail, accusations, imprisonment, restrcitive laws and hatred. there are many enemies.. What about us? Do we as christians really have enemies in our liberal, open society? Anyone who lives a godly life will be persecuted. If we are open about our faith and its implications we will be criticised, perhaps derided, avoided, we’ll lose friends, maybe be ostracised in our families, sidelined and overlooked in our work or even bullied. If they hated me says Jesus they will hate you. There will be enemies. But Jesus says of all people love, do good to, bless, pray for those who hate you.
Very difficult to respond like this nonetheless the early Christian community clearly adopted this approach. Stephen the first Christian martyred for his faith in Acts 7 openly forgave his murderers.
Paul writes in 1 Cor 4v12When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. …And Peter in 1 Peter 5v9 urges Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing..
Then come 4 illustrations in vv29-30
here they are -
when someone slaps you on the cheek offer your other cheek for them to do it again!
when someone nicks your coat let them take your shirt too!
give…. to everyone who asks
and don’t demand back something that has been taken from you
Jesus never shies away from hyperbole. The illustrations are expressed like commands in absolute terms in order to shock the listener by giving a vivid contrast to our usual modes of thinking. Our normal way is to be self protective, quick to give up on people and move away from then, quick to stand on our rights, quick to move to vengeance. We are not to be like that..
The love that Jesus is talking about involves not defending one’s rights and accepting wrongs committed against you by being willing to forgive. here is the theme of Perseverance in love. Where you’re willing to turn around a second time and still offer yourself even if it means being abused a second time.
of course of course there are times to walk away from an abusive relationship. this is not talking about an absence of justice or law that can just be abused by persecutors. Governments, police and armies are affirmed in Scripture in their God given capacity to protect people and nations. This ethic is personal not governmental. There is recourse to the powers that be when we are mistreated and yet - we are to persevere deeply with those who mistreat us.
“Love is available, vulnerable and subject to repeated abuse. Offering the other cheek is not so much an active pursuit as it is a natural exposure when one reaches out to those who have contempt. In the context of persecution offering the cheek means continuing to minister at the risk of further perscution”
ill India, 2001 still reeling from the death of Graham Staines, an australian missionary who alongside his wife Gladys had been working among the tribal poor and lepers in the western state of Orissa for 35 years. He had met continued opposition and eventually he was murdred. Burned to death with his two young sons by a gang while sleeping in their car.
Gladys his wife and their mother remarkably remained in India ministering to those communities who had killed her family.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who insult, pray for those who mistreat you.
Living in Hackney, when someone has snatched your phone off you at the bus-stop and cycled off. When someone has laughed at you because of your faith. When no one shows the remotest interest. It can be easy to say - ‘I’m just fed up with the people round here - that’s it.. i’m going to the suburbs!’ No persevere. Don’t just stay here for the coffee, don’t just stay here for your friends.. Stay here for your enemies
Love those that hate you.
2. Love those who can’t pay you back vv31-34
Many moralists through the ages have uttered the so called “golden rule” of v31
“Do to others as you would have them do to you” Philo, Herodotus, Seneca .. Confucious
But no one is as radical as Jesus as to what that looks like in practice. Jesus says imagine you were in a situation where you had nothing to give in return - how would you want people to treat you? Do that for others.
Love those who cannot pay you back
Again - 3 illustrations follow
It’s not enough to only love those who love you. Where’s the credit in that? Big Deal. Nothing special. Everyone does that. Sinners do that.
[New series - Peaky Blinders - criminal family in post first world war Birmingham led by the notorious Thomas Shelby. And the Shelbys are really going up in the world. Involved in the dangerous game of international espionage. Doing Winston Churchill’s dirty work for him. “The Russians see family as a weakness. But my family are my strength”]
Even sinners love those who love them
your tight family, your circle of friends on london fields, your church community
But the Lord wants more of his people. A bursting generosity. the world’s standard of love is just not enough. That doesn’t begin to BE love
It’s not enough to only do good to those who do good to you
again jesus moves from the attitude of love to the visible expression of it. doing good to those who do good to you is no different to the love displayed by people in general. But that kind of limited love doesn’t get God out of his seat!
the third illustration involves the lending of money and the getting paid back bit could be the guarantee of getting your money back but it could also be the idea that I loan to a certain person because it’s a good investment. in the future i might need a loan or a favour from them.
But Jesus is saying that this “ill scratch your back if you scratch mine” approach to meeting needs is not an example of a disciples love. if i meet the needs only for people who can meet my future needs, how do the real needs of the needy, who cannot repay, get met?
No - lend with no strings attached. In other words give. A bursting generosity.
Love those who cannot pay you back
why? and how?
3. Love as God has loved you vv35-36
Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting 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.
The reward for loving your enemies and those who can’t pay you back is NOT relationship with God. As if our actions earn us salvation. NO! we are sinners - ungrateful and wicked and God’s kindness, his grace - the gift of his Son dying in our place, the flames of hell engulfing him instead of us. That gives us relationship with God as a gift. But the reward for loving our enemies is that it evidences to us and to God - our kinship with God our Father. You will be children of the most high.
You’ll make your Father smile and there’s no greater reward than that.
That’s why you love like this - to be a child of your father
And it’s also how you love like this. The basis
Because don’t we that we struggled to love those that loves us let alone those that hate us! We struggle to do good to those who do good to us, let alone those who mistreat us! We struggle to give to those who will give back, let alone those who cannot. So we need a supernatural energy tp inhabit out hearts to move us to love like this.
And that energy is the abounding love and mercy and kindness of God towards us. Love as God has loved you. Be merciful, just as your father is merciful.
Jesus himself is the embodiment of this astonishing, different love of God
We saw in the passage we read last week that reason the crowds gathered was that powerwas flowing out of jesus and people were being healed. His whole life was one of exuberant generosity giving all he’d got to everyone who needed it. he was speaking of what he knew; the extravagant love of his father and the call to live a lavish human life in response and finally when they struck him on the cheek and ripped the coat and shirt off his back he went on loving and forgiving because he was there for us .. not his friends .. his enemies..
How wonderful to know that he is the God who perseveres with us when we mistreat him. Who dies for us, who will never let us go.
Such love wins us over and changes us
Love as God has loved you