If you are like me then you know someone that you find difficult to love. Maybe that person knows just the right buttons to press to really get you going. Sometimes they aren’t even trying to irritate you, but it is just how they act that makes you frustrated. We can even get frustrated at people that we don’t even know. Maybe someone takes longer to do something than we think it should take. Or maybe someone gets angry with us for something we didn’t mean to do. Our memory verse for April is all about how we show love to these people.
35 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 Himself is kind to the ungrateful and evil. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. - Luke 6:35-36 LSB
In the verses following up to this passage, we see that Jesus had brought in a large crowd at this time in his ministry however many of the people that were following him were not following him for the right reasons. Jesus aware of that, started to prune the crowd. He did this by listing all the things someone needed to do if they were going to follow Him. These verses are towards the end of that message to the crowd. Jesus’ words can be a kind of proving process to know what it takes to follow God. As Christians we have stated that we will be followers of God. So, these verses provide instructions for us to follow as Christians. It should be a warning to us if we find that we are not willing to follow these instructions or want to pick and choose which instructions we are going to follow. These instructions are difficult for us because they are contrary to how our human nature wants to behave. We need the help of the Holy Spirit as we seek to follow these instructions.
The Scope of Divine Love
The first thing we are called to is to love in the way that God loves. God loves His enemies! We understand that as Christians. We know God loved us even when we were His enemy. John 3:16 share that He loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us and our sin. Jesus came to die for all the things that we did directly against our Creator. That is the way that we are called to love as well. We are called to love our enemies.
So, what does this love look like? To understand what this love is we need to look at the way that God loved. First, His love was unconditional, and it is compassionate. He loved everyone regardless of what they had done. Romans 5:8 expresses this aspect of God’s love so well. In that verse we see God demonstrated His love toward us and while we were still sinners, He sent His Son to die for us. While we were still His enemies, He loved us unconditionally and with compassion.
Second, He loved with a love of warning. This is loving your enemy enough to not want to see them continue down their path of destruction. We see Christ demonstrating this love of warning at the very beginning of His earthly ministry. Mark 1:14-15 shows us that Christ preached the gospel of God and called people to repent and believe in the gospel.
14 Now after John had been delivered up into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (LSB)
He preached this gospel to God’s enemies. He was warning them of the destruction that they were heading towards.
Third, God’s love is the love of patience. Jesus has every right to judge all sinners on the spot, but He doesn’t do that. Romans 2:4 shares that we often think too lightly of the riches of God’s kindness and patience towards us.
4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (LSB)
It is God’s kindness and patience that lead us to repentance. Though God has the right to judge us for what we have done, He instead shows His love by being patient towards us.
Fourth, God loves with an invitation. He invites His enemies to come and find rest in Him. To turn from their path of destruction and follow Him. Jesus shares this in Matthew 11:28-29.
28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (LSB)
God wants His enemies to turn to Him and find rest. He wants what is best for His enemies and actively invites them to something better.
The Application of Divine Love
To sum it up we see that God loves His enemies compassionately, with a warning, patiently, and with an invitation. This is how we are called to love. This kind of love transcends the love of humanity. It is a direct contradiction to how the world loves. And if we love in this way, we become a light for God’s love in the dark world.
Jesus’ message doesn’t end with how we are to love. He continues with what we should do. The next part of the verse reads ‘Do good and lend, expecting nothing in return’. We are expected to do good to our enemies even when they don’t do good to us. We are not called to do good as long as the other person is doing good to us. We are called to treat them in the same way we want them to treat us, and we should do this expecting nothing in return. We don’t do good because we expect that person to turn around and do something good for us. That is how the world shows love. What grace would that demonstrate? How would that show that we are people of God’s Kingdom? To love how sinners love does nothing to show that the Gospel is true. If we don’t show the world God’s love in our actions, then they will not see the truth of the Gospel. The world does good and lends with the expectation of receiving the same kind in return. If we do the same for the same reasons, then how are we any different? What kind of testimony is that to the power of God in our lives? This way of behaving is key as Christians to setting us apart from the world.
So why should we love in that way or do these things? We should do it simply because God has instructed us to. However, Jesus gives another reason in this passage for doing these things. Jesus says that if you do these things ‘Your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High’. What is the reward Jesus is talking about? Is it our eternal reward? While we will be rewarded in eternity for showing love toward our enemies the reward Jesus is talking about is actually a reward in the world of man. Our reward will be that men call us sons of the Most High. They will recognize that we are children of God! They will recognize that our love is not of this world but of God. As Jesus says in the final part of the verse “for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil”. This is a fantastic reward. This reward is another way that God shows His love towards us. He doesn’t need to give us a reward for doing something that He has instructed us to do, but He does anyway because He loves us. Another incredible part of this reward is that it ultimately brings honor and glory to God which makes it an even greater reward. Our God is so good!
Jesus then follows this up by saying ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful’. Jesus is saying that in being merciful we show the world that we are the sons of God. What does it mean to be merciful? What is the difference between being merciful and being kind? One is positive and one is negative. Being kind is positive. It means giving someone something that they don’t deserve. God showed us kindness by sending His Son. Being merciful is negative. It means to withhold something that you do deserve. God is merciful to His enemies because He withholds His judgement and condemnation from them. God’s gift of salvation is a true representation of His kindness and His mercy. We are called to behave in the same way. We should withhold judgement from our enemies. When we behave that way, it shows that God is our Father.
So, what must we do? How should we behave in light of these words? Jesus gave this message as a pruning process to weed out the followers that were following Him for the wrong reasons. If you have professed your conviction to follow Christ, then these words should cause you to live differently than you did before. As Christians we need to evaluate if we are showing God’s love to the world. Do we love our enemies, do good, and lend without expecting anything in return? Is there someone in our life that we are not demonstrating God’s love to? If there is someone like that in your life, a good way to start showing them God’s love is to spend time praying for them and asking for God to help you love them. May God help us all to show His love in the world.