In the wilderness, Jesus proves knowledge of the Scripture when Satan tempts Him in the wilderness. When the scribes and Pharisees question Jesus, He readily proves His teaching to be true and theirs to be in error.
Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man who is given authority over all things by God. Jesus heals lepers, casts out demons, commands sickness to leave the body, and proves to have the authority to forgive sin.
Jesus is recognized as an authoritative teacher. He teaches about the kingdom of God; the kingdom where God rules and reigns. He is knowledgeable of His subject and relies on no outside resources. Statements begin with, “You have heard it said, but I say to you …”.
The teaching and miracles of Jesus attract large crowds. Jesus selects from the crowd twelve men to be His apostles. He will personally disciple them.
We are in the middle section of Jesus’ first teaching that He gives to His disciples. In the first section, Jesus describes blessings and woes (Luke 6:20-26). The blessings are for those who put their faith in God’s kingdom. Woe is for the people who put their faith in the kingdom of this world.
The middle section instructs Jesus’ disciples on how to love others as those who belong to the kingdom of God (Luke 6:27-36). Those who choose to be the disciples of Jesus will prove to be His disciples in the way they love other people.
The main idea of this section is this: “Prove to be a child of the Most High by loving others with a godly love.”
Godly love is a Radical Love
Godly love is radical love. He says, “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 mistreat you” (Luke 6:27-28).
These are familiar phrases to Christians. Let’s imagine hearing them for the first time as a disciple in the first century.
Jesus commands radical love. His teaching is extreme. Loving an enemy is not normal for any human. Nobody loves their enemies.
Jesus is commanding we going beyond the emotional and intellectual aspects of love. We can say we love our enemies. We think we love our enemies. We can intellectually assent to the idea of loving our enemies. But, godly radical love is demonstrated with action.
Do good to those who hate you. When is the last time we did good to those who hate us? Bless those who curse you. To bless someone who curses us is to show them favor. We are to bestow blessing on those who hate us. We are to improve their life.
To bless our enemy is to bring the name of those who curse and mistreat us to the throne of God and pray God will show them favor.
Sound impossible? It’s not.
In South Africa, we befriended Pastor Latha. He was preaching the gospel during Apartheid. The law stated that blacks could not assemble. He was arrested and put in jail as he was conducting a funeral.
In the winter the nights get down to around freezing and there is no heat. The jailors would hose down the inmates with a firehose with the pretext of getting them clean. Pastor Latha spent the night in his cell wet and cold. He described the reality of radical love.
He did not speak badly to the men who cursed him and treated him cruelly. Instead, he prayed for God to bless these men. He prayed for their salvation. He told them to their face he forgave them.
In the verses previous to these, Jesus tells His disciples that they are blessed when men insult them and persecute them for His sake (Luke 6:22). Pastor Latha is blessed. In the context of persecution, Pastor Latha demonstrates to us godly radical love.
Four Illustrations of Radical Love
Jesus gives four illustrations of how to apply His command. He leaves no wiggle room for us to imagine He is speaking in hyperbole. He truly expects us to love others with godly, radical love.
Don’t strike back
The first example is that when someone hits us on the cheek, we are to offer them the other cheek as well. In other words, godly love will make us vulnerable to repeated abuse. A hit on the cheek is a slap in the face. Not only is it physical abuse, but it is emotional. A slap on the cheek is an insult that hurts.
The normal response of our flesh is to strike back. Jesus says do not strike back. Instead, be vulnerable to repeated insulting and more slaps.
It takes a work of God’s Spirit for us not to respond in kind or to be bitter and hold a grudge toward those that mistreat us.
Don’t hold back
The second example is again something that happens in the context of persecution. Those who hate us will wrongfully take away our coat. Rather than be upset and fight, Jesus says to not withhold from them our shirt.
Jesus commands that we not seek revenge. Don’t seek retribution for wrongful actions. Instead, be vulnerable for a repeated offense. Nothing should stop us from loving our neighbor. Not even when they take away our possessions.
Radical godly love is a generous love. We are not worldly goods with a tight hand. Instead, Jesus says we are to give to everyone who asks of us. We belong to God and everything belongs to Him. If God wants our possessions to be given away for the sake of the gospel, we are to give them away. Our priority is to win souls rather than gather worldly treasure.
If a lazy person asks, we are to give. If an atheist asks, we are to give. If someone who insults our Christianity asks, we are to give. Radical godly love is ready to meet the needs of others without prejudice. Be willing to part with the treasures of this world.
In the same way, if someone takes away what is ours, we are not to demand it back. We are to deny ourselves. We are to be like Jesus, who puts aside His rights and privileges. He demonstrates the ultimate example of generosity in His life. He lays aside everything for the sake of the kingdom, including His life.
Disciples of Jesus demonstrate a love that is supernatural. We are to have a radical, godly love.
Perhaps you are asking, “How literally we are to take these commands? Perhaps Jesus is using hyperbole. These commands are shocking in their extreme. They are unworkable.”
They are extreme. We are saved with an extreme love. We are saved by unfathomable grace. We are not chosen by God to live as others live. We are commanded to live as those who have an indwelling of God’s Spirit.
What Jesus is asking us to do is not expected of sinners. Sinners have a common love. He is demanding His disciples to be uncommon. Jesus is teaching us His standard of love in the kingdom of God. It is a stark contrast to love in the kingdom of this world. Godly love dramatically surpasses worldly love.
Godly love is an Understanding Love
The description of godly love may cause us to think that such love is incomprehensible. We may believe that godly love is beyond our understanding. How could we possibly love others with godly love?
Jesus’ solution is elegant. We love with a godly love by treating others the same way we want them to treat us (Luke 6:31).
We know this command as the Golden Rule. Jesus is not teaching a new command. He is teaching a command in the Mosaic Law. Leviticus 19:18 says, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Loving others as the way we want to be loved is not a conditional command. We are not to treat others well so that they will treat us well. We are to love others regardless of how they love us.
We don’t have to look far to find the measuring stick of what our standard of love ought to be. We supply the standard. We don’t need to read a book or ask another person for advice. We know how we desire to be treated. We can consult our conscience for advice.
The standard is convicting. We know how we want to be treated. So, in looking for an excuse, we will attempt to define the word neighbor in acceptable terms. We are sometimes like the lawyer in Luke 10 who will ask, “Who is my neighbor?”
Jesus teaches that our neighbor is any person within our vicinity. In this passage, Jesus doesn’t use the word neighbor; He uses the word others. All people fit in the definition of others.
Who are others in the sentence, “treat others”? Others are anybody but me. An “other” is a democrat, socialist, conservative, libertarian, and republican. An “other” is an Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, Jehovah's Witness. An “other” is a Chinese, Russian, Cuban, Vietnamese, Nigerian. An “other” is anyone who is a friend or enemy.
We are to treat all people as we would all people to treat us.
Do I want others to post negative comments about me on Facebook? No. Then don’t post negative comments about others.
Do I want others to talk behind my back? No. Then don’t behind the backs of others.
Do I enjoy it when others criticize the way I do things? No. Then stop criticizing others.
Do I enjoy being ignored or avoided? No. Be nice and don’t avoid or ignore other people. Do I enjoy people greeting me? Greet others.
Would we rather others will say kind words or curse us? Would we be happy to know that our others pray for God to bless us?
We need to repent. We have a difficult time demonstrating a godly love for people we love. Yet, Jesus is commanding us to demonstrate a godly love to people we hate.
Godly Love is heaven minded
Godly love is heavenly minded, exceeding the world’s love
Jesus helps us to see that Godly love is heavenly minded. Godly love exceeds the world’s love. Jesus spells it out. If we love, do good, or lend to those who love, do good, or lend to us, what credit is that to us? Sinners do the same.
“What credit is that to you” is a good question for Jesus to ask. Think of it on accounting terms. If we give someone $10 and they give us back $10, the balance is zero. There is no credit. Nothing special has taken place.
Sinners love those who love them. Sinners are reciprocal in doing good. Sinners make safe loans. The love shown by sinners is common love.
Our love is not to be a common love. We need to display am uncommon love. We need to display God’s kingdom love. Our is to be a heavenly minded love. We are to love others with a love that is unique and stands out from this world. Our love is to be exceptional, not common.
Unfortunately, some who call themselves Christian, are put to shame by the love sinners show. Some sinners love their wives better than Christian men love their wives. Some sinners are more generous than Christians. Some sinners serve their community better.
We are to love others in a way that is unexpected. A love on par with the love of common people is not a love God recognizes as His own. When our love is not exceptional, it is common and no better than the love of a sinner.
Christians are to be the gentlest, kindest, and most generous of all people.
Jesus calls us to pick up our cross and follow Him. Let’s follow Him with a radical love that is worthy of His name.
Godly love is heavenly minded; rewarded by God
The trademarks of people who love with a heavenly minded, godly love are that they love their enemies, do good, and give to others expecting nothing in return (Luke 6:35).
Those who have the trademarks of godly love will be rewarded with great reward.
Part of the reward is the honor and privilege of imitating our Savior. We are blessed to have the name Christian upon our heads.
In God’s kingdom, the love we receive as a reward far exceeds the love we give. We cannot out love or out give God. The good we do results in a greater good bestowed upon us. Our giving to those who hate us for the sake of the gospel is minuscule compared to the reward we receive.
In addition to the great reward, we are called the sons and daughters of the Most High.
It’s interesting that Jesus refers to God as the Most High. Most High is a repetition of one Greek word, “hupsistos” (hupsistos hupsistos). God is High High. Referring to God as the Most High occurs far more frequently in the Old Testament than the New. In the gospels, Most High only occurs once in Mark and the other times are in Luke (1:32, 35, 76; and 8:28)
It means that God is superior in every way. There is none higher. There is no one and nothing of equal supremacy. God is the Most High. Do you want to be part of the superior family? Jesus is promising adoption by the very best.
There is a reason for the adoption, and that is, we prove ourselves to be God’s children.
Godly love is heavenly minded; imitating our Father
Godly love is a feature proving our identity as a child in a specific family. A child may have the mother’s trademark nose, the father’s walk, or the grandfather’s double-chin.
Godly love is a trait proving we are a child of God. God continually demonstrates godly love toward ungrateful and evil people. God allows the sun to rise and the rain to fall on the evil and the good.
God is remarkably loving and caring for people who curse His name and ignore that He exists. God allows the rain to fall upon people who worship false gods. He gives long-life to ungrateful and blaspheming ungodly people.
We prove to be led and indwelled by God’s Holy Spirit when we are merciful, just as our Father in heaven is merciful. We imitate our Father by demonstrating godly love. His love is not of this world, but a supernatural heavenly love.
The New Testament encourages us to live as children of God. An example is found in Paul’s exhortation to love in his letter to the Ephesians. He writes:
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. (Ephesians 5:1-2)
Imitate God by loving as Jesus loves, offering our lives as a fragrant aroma to God. We best reflect being God’s image-bearer when we love as God loves, for God is love.
Be Heavenly Minded
What is the benefit of loving our enemies?
Can we possibly expect good to come out of turning the other cheek?
What do we gain in giving away to others and never expecting it to be given back?
In this world, we may expect no gain, but only hardship. But, we do not belong to the kingdom of this world. We belong to a heavenly kingdom.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:19-21)
We are the children of the Most High God. Our hearts reveal where we place our treasure. If our treasure is our pride, we will not turn the other cheek, but we will seek revenge on those who curse us.
If our treasure is in worldly goods, we will not give to those who ask, but we will store up treasures on earth.
Storing up treasures in heaven requires faith!
When our faith is in the resurrection we believe our place in heaven is secure. We believe we are blessed when we obey God.
If we have faith, and we believe God’s word, and we trust what Jesus says is true, we let go of this world.
Jesus’ teaching to His followers is very challenging and convicting. It requires great faith and trust to display a godly love. But, we need to be obedient.
As a preacher, I find people love to hear the sermons about Jesus sacrifice on the cross. People love to listen to messages about God’s love and grace. We all love to hear about the blessings of the kingdom.
But when a preacher speaks about commands which we must obey, or the need to repent, some cry out, “Legalism. Preach a gospel of grace. Telling us to obey commands is not a gospel sermon. You are heaping unnecessary burdens on our shoulders. We come to be encouraged, not to hear exhortation or commands.”
When we only want to hear about Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and not His commands to obey, then Christ becomes our servant and not our Lord. We gladly receive His sacrifice on the cross for our behalf, but we do not bend our knee in obedience to His command.
Jesus is Savior and Lord. Don’t be like the people who come to be touched by His miracles, but walk away when He teaches how to live. We might as well say, “No thank you, Jesus. I only came for the blessing of grace.”
Jesus calls us to demonstrate godly love, for the glory of His name. We need to move beyond having a common love of sinners.
We are to love with an uncommon love. It is for His fame, not ours. We are to preach Christ, love like Christ, and give Him the glory.
Christ is not glorified when we preach His name, but love no differently than a sinner who has not the indwelling Spirit of God.
Godly love is testimony to a faith that is not in this world but in the resurrection of Jesus. Godly uncommon love will win souls to the kingdom of God. Common love will not. They will know we are Christians by our godly love that is different and exceptional.
Prove to be a child of the Most High by loving others with a godly love.
The only way we can love this way is by faith and with the strength of God’s Holy Spirit.