Friday, October 3, 2014

Healthy Christians love their enemies

Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you."

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned."

Luke 6:47 "Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like"

Today's post is all about identifying the marks of a healthy Christian. Jesus' teaching in Luke 6 is a parallel account of His first ever public sermon in Matthew 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount. In that inaugural sermon Jesus lays out what will be the necessary foundations for the Apostle's New Testament teaching. We could in effect say that what we gather from the Sermon on the Mount constitutes the foundations for the Christian life. Every child of God should desire a healthy Christian walk. Thus in the opening above three verses (Luke 6:27,37,and 47), we see depicted those three marks, which are listed below:

1. Healthy Christians love their enemies. Luke 6:27

2. Healthy Christians exercise sound judgment.  Luke 6:37

3. Healthy Christian exercise instant obedience. Luke 6:47

For now we will look at the first mark of a healthy Christian: Loving one's enemies.

 Healthy Christians love their enemies. Luke 6:27
As Jesus continues teaching in this section, He makes this curious statement in Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." Jesus is restating a principle that was first revealed in the Old Testament. Exodus 23:4 for instance states: “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him." We read later on in Proverbs 25:21 "If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink." The Old Testament concept of Biblical, Jewish spirituality included this essential mark of a healthy relationship with God. To love one's friends is quite natural. To love one's enemies is supernatural. 

In other places in the Four Gospels (Matthew 5:44; 7:12) we find this same principle. When Jesus taught what he taught in the Sermon on the Mount and the parallel verses here in Luke, He not only demonstrated agreement with the Law of God, He also went a step beyond it. The whole point of Luke 6:27-36 is to expound and amplify this first healthy mark of healthy Christianity, loving one's enemies. What is involved in loving one's enemies?

a). Praying for your enemies. Luke 6:27-28
Whenever you and I pray for those who mistreat us, it becomes increasingly difficult to stay angry at them the next time you see them. 

b. Pursue reconciliation, if possible. Luke 6:29-36
The striking phrase: "turn the other cheek" has been a subject of debate and misunderstanding throughout the history of interpretation on the passage. In William Neil's "The Difficult Sayings of Jesus", Eerdmans, page 11, we read the following explanation: "Jesus is contrasting the Old Testament principle of "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" (Exodus 21:23-25), the law of retaliation (Matthew 5:38), with the new principle by which his followers must be guided, the desire for reconciliation." The IVP New Testament commentary notes: "Jesus decries our culture's version of love. What is required to possess true love is an understanding of what it is to be loved by God and how God wishes one to love. At the center of Jesus' sermon is a unique concept of love. This love cannot be reduced merely to the "golden rule"; it is love that is golden even when everything around is not."

In loving one's enemies, reconciliation and the desire thereof lies at the heart. Afterall, God's supreme demonstration of love in the cross included the desire to be reconciled to His enemies. (Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21) When Jesus hung the cross, He prophetically turned His cheek, as written in Isaiah 50:6 "I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting." We as Christians today are told in Romans 12:18 "If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men." 

Contrary to what many think this statement of "turning the other cheek" means, this is anything but easy, or pacifistic. Jesus is describing what it truly means to love one's enemies. Luke 6:30-36 functions to describe this concept in several ways. Anyone an love their friends (6:32-33) or do something good knowing full well that they will get compensated (6:34-35). However whenever the prospect of nothing in return is a true reality, and yet whenever someone still chooses to love that person regardless, then according to Jesus we are seeing nothing short than God's love in action. 

A Healthy Christianity then aims to love one's enemies.

More tomorrow.........

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