Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
June 4, 2017
27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
— Luke 6:27-36, ESV
My father named me after himself, Charles, but my mother insisted I be called Chuck. Ever since, I pay attention to people with the same name, especially famous ones. I dream of playing the guitar like a ring in a bell, as did the late great Chuck Berry. I wish I could have been a professional baseball and basketball player and actor like Chuck Connors. I hear there is a famous rapper today named Chuck D, and brothers and sisters, that ain’t me.
My favorite fellow Chuck of all time is the late Chuck Colson, of Watergate imprisonment and Prison Fellowship fame. I like to boast that we two Chucks actually graduated together, for when I received my degree from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Colson was on hand to give the commencement address and get an honorary doctorate.
From Colson’s many speeches and books, it is plain to see that this Chuck is a consummate Christian convert. He was a notorious sinner, the infamous hatchet man and curator of the enemies list in the disgraced administration of President Nixon. In prison, however, Chuck Colson found grace in the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He did not see anyone as an enemy any more, only a friend.
This is what love looks like, according to Jesus Christ. It is a world, or at least a kingdom, where everyone is treated as a beloved friend, never an enemy. It is a world view quite the opposite of the philosophy of the Pharisees of the first century. And in His “Sermon on the Plain,” Christ makes this contrast crystal clear.
The Lack of Love in the World of the Pharisees
While Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount” reads as a positive, comprehensive ethic for the kingdom of God, Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” takes on a somewhat defensive, warning tone against the world of the Pharisees. Luke’s quoted language is more terse, the “Golden Rule” is couched in a completely different context, and the “sinners” referred to in verses 32-34 fit the Pharisees to a tee.
The Pharisees, like the unborn again Colson, kept an enemies list, and Jesus of Nazareth was persona numeral uno. As a matter of fact, they treated virtually everyone who did not agree with their self-righteous standards as enemies. They loved mostly themselves, foreclosed on every loan, and avenged every supposed slight. They were evil, ungrateful, unmerciful men, just the opposite of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Pharisees would hound Jesus and see to it that He was hated, abused, struck on both cheeks, stripped of His cloak, treated like the worst sinner imaginable, and robbed of His life (or perhaps we could call it a loan, for He took it back again!). The Messiah endured it all as part of His master plan of salvation. But before the horror of the cross, Jesus took to the mountains and the plains to preach against the hate that led to His crucifixion, and show people what love looks like in the kingdom of God.
What Love Looks Like in the Kingdom of God
You live in the kingdom of God when God is your king. God becomes king by grace alone through faith alone in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. In the kingdom of God there is one roadmap, the word of God, and one highway, which follows Jesus. It is a kingdom of love and light, and Jesus shines a light here to show us what love looks like. You might be surprised.
Christian love looks universal. As a committed Calvinist and Christ follower, I believe in both limited atonement and unlimited love. God knows who the elect are, but He has not divulged the list to me. Instead, He commands me to share His saving grace with the whole world. He also commands me, quite specifically in this text, to share His common grace with everyone. This means to give love, kindness, and mercy to all, even so-called enemies. To the follower of Christ, black lives matter, blue lives matter, all lives matter. LBGT people bear the image of God and require our love. All immigrants should be welcomed into our country and into our churches. Even Pharisees deserve a little love, whether or not they receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and whether or not they do us any favors. Chances are, they won’t.
Christian love looks painful. Perhaps the worst pain a person can experience is unrequited love. Ask anyone who has been abandoned by their spouse, rebelled against by their children, or in any way been bitten on the hand that reached out. I first fell in love with Emmylou Harris when I heard her sing with Graham Parsons, “Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, love mars.” To this day she has not loved me back. But the song is true in describing love, especially Christian love. People, even those who name the name of Christ and certainly those who curse the name of Christ, can and will do all the mean things describes in this passage. Still, we must reach out our bitten hands, turn our stricken cheeks, and extend to them our unconditional love.
Christian love looks expensive. It requires you to give without being paid back. You will never get back the time and energy spent praying and witnessing to a lost person whose heart only gets harder, but you give yourself and your love anyway. You will never be paid back by that panhandler who took your money or food, but you give it away anyway (although I must admit that the older I get, the more discerning I’ve become about panhandlers). All things gold are costly, especially the golden rule. We want the best in life, don’t we (not that there is anything wrong with that)? We don’t always get it, do we? Yet Christ compels us to give it, to others, all the time. I am an average Christian who has lived an average life with an average income, just your average Chuck. But if I had kept all the money and other things I have given away for the cause of Christ, my life would be radically materially different, I assure you. But Christ has not called me to live a radically material life, just the radical part. And it was Christ Himself who paid the highest cost for Christianity to be birthed and spread. His love cost Him everything. But in giving there is a great reward.
Christian love looks rewarding. This last look at Christian love makes the other pictures more than bearable. The Bible says that when you “agape,” when you sacrificially love, when you give and otherwise submit to the lordship of Christ, “Your reward will be great.” He offers no concrete description, only the general adjective, prefaced by a future tense verb. This is not to say that the Christian life cannot be rewarding in the present, for it offers much in the way of peace and sometimes possessions. Remember, God gives the elect common grace, too. But God tells us here that the best for the believer is yet to come. Thieves get their rewards up front only to forfeit them, while heroes get great rewards at the end which last.
The greatest reward in life is love, especially to be loved by God and to know that you love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength. We know what this love looks like, at least in part, every time we worship, pray, or otherwise praise the Lord. But this upward love must also look outward to one another, family, friend, and, yes, even enemies. Perhaps if we loved our enemies as Christ compels us, we wouldn't have very many.
But, we do. So let us love them all. Let us pay with love instead of trying to make them pay us back. Let us love them so that they might find their greatest reward in Jesus Christ, as did a few Pharisees between the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. Love looks like Jesus, on the mount, on the plain, on the cross, at the right hand of God, and when He comes again. When you truly believe in Him, love will look like you, too.
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