PRAYER AND FORGIVENESS

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PRAYER AND FORGIVENESS

Matthew 6:11-15 NET

11 Give us today our daily bread, 12 and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors. 13 And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. 14 “For if you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins.

When our Lord taught his disciples to pray, he packed his instructions with information about forgiveness. He knows that for us, the two ideas are inseparable. Maybe that is why people nowadays have such a hard time maintaining a consistent prayer life. Maybe it is not that we don’t know how to pray. Maybe our problem is that lack of forgiveness is keeping us from praying.

Today I want to look at this text to see if we can get a better grip on the relationship between prayer and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is something every Christian regularly needs (11-12a)

The Lord told his apostles to ask for two things on a regular daily basis: food to sustain them physically and forgiveness to revive them spiritually. Now, this is odd, because most of us are used to thinking about forgiveness as something that we got when we first came to Christ. In fact, our testimony is that we were sinners, and we repented, and God forgave us of all our sins. All our sins were nailed on the cross with Jesus. God has separated us from those sins as far as the east is from the west.

So, why does Jesus tell his apostles to come to their heavenly Father and ask for forgiveness every day? That is not a mistake. Jesus knows that each of us is going to fail in our attempt to walk the straight and narrow. We are going to need forgiveness therapy on a regular basis.

The cross has made it possible for us to enter the narrow way and guarantees us an inheritance of eternal life when Jesus returns. But God does not want to leave us to figure out the Christian walk all by ourselves. He wants to stand by us as we take our baby steps. He wants to be there for us every time we fall. He’s not going to make us fall, but he’s going to be there to pick us up every time we do fall. That is why he commands us to pray for forgiveness regularly.

N.T. Wright says that this verse “assumes that we will need to ask for forgiveness not on one or two rare occasions but very regularly. This is a sobering thought, but it is matched by the comforting news that forgiveness is freely available as often as we need it” (60).

David Turner says that the word ἐπιούσιος in 6:11 refers to “immediate day-to-day necessities rather than long-term luxuries” (188).

Jesus also knows that we will be tempted to try to live the Christian life without the Father’s help. We think that Jesus went to the cross for our salvation, but that he has left Christian living up to us. That is wrong thinking and trying to live the Christian life without regular forgiveness therapy leads to disaster.

Part of our problem is that we do not like to be reminded of our failures. It is much easier to ignore the things that we have done that need forgiveness. We don’t want to dwell on our mistakes. So, we tell ourselves that it is all covered in the blood and just try to forget it. But if we fail to deal with today’s mistakes, we are going to repeat those mistakes tomorrow. Jesus does not want us to get caught up in a cycle of failure. He has opened a window in heaven for us, so that we have access to the Father’s forgiveness, as often as we need it.

We need that regular forgiveness because every time we stumble, we are not just hurting ourselves, or other people. The most important relationship we all have is with our creator. He is our heavenly Father. The relationship we have with him is the most important relationship we will ever have. Reconciliation with him is not something we can do just once.

When I go to the grocery store and buy bread, I usually buy enough for the whole week. But I cannot wait a whole week to reconcile with God. I can survive a week between meetings of congregational worship. But I cannot put off my time at the throne room. That has to be regular.

Prayer can also keep us from failing others (13).

Prayer therapy is not only necessary to heal our damaged relationship with God. It is also necessary to prevent us from falling as we go about the day’s walk. Prayer can strengthen us. Some of that strength will be given to us so that we can have a more appropriate relationship with others.

I think this is what Jesus had in mind when he instructed his apostles to pray for God to protect them from temptation. We have been studying the book of James in our Sunday evening Bible study times. Last Sunday we read that “each one is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires. Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15). James taught that temptation happens when desires inside us are allowed to lure us away from healthy actions and produce unhealthy actions. We need guidance from God so that we can stay away from temptation.

Warren Wiersbe says that “In this petition, we are asking God to guide us so that we will not get out of His will and get involved in a situation of temptation”(44).

If we don’t regularly go to God in prayer for that guidance, we will not only make mistakes that hurt others, we will keep making those same mistakes over and over again. A prayer is a tool for us to repair the damage that we have done, and to prevent us from making things worse and worse.

Turner says that “When disciples pray for protection from temptation to sin, they pray for God to break the cycle that so often plagues them (cf. Josh. 7:20-21; James 1:13-15). Temptation leads to sin, and sin leads to the necessity of praying for forgiveness. Prayer for protection from temptation and deliverance from the evil one’s strategies breaks the cycle (cf. Matt. 4:1-11)” (189).

There is also a third relationship that we have to keep in mind. Jesus instructed his apostles to pray for deliverance from the evil one. The devil wants to ruin our lives. He wants us to keep failing God and each other. He is going to bring trials and temptations and stumbling blocks into our lives because he wants to prevent us from having victory.

Folks, we need to take the devil seriously. He takes us seriously. He spends a lot of time trying to discourage us and thwart our efforts. He is stronger than we are. But he is not stronger than our heavenly Father is. We need to pray for protection from and deliverance from the devil every day.

Senior says that “Both words, “test” (πειρασμός) and “evil” or “evil one” (πονηρός), have a strong eschatological flavor referring to the ultimate test of the final days and the assault of the demonic, but can also be attached to those incursions of threat and evil in the present age, which are, in a sense, anticipations of the final test” (86).

Forgiving others keeps the prayer channel open (12b, 14-15).

Jesus also commanded his apostles to specifically use their prayer time to declare forgiveness for everyone who has wronged them. In fact, he told them that this kind of forgiveness therapy is absolutely essential if the other kind of forgiveness therapy is going to work.

Remember, our problem is that we fail God and other people all the time. We have to regularly come to God for forgiveness. But Jesus said that there is something that can stop the flow of that healing. If we refuse to forgive others for the wrongs they have committed against us, then when we come to the throne room, we will get a busy signal.

The reason this happens is that one of our primary responsibilities as Christians is to represent God and his kingdom. The minute we stop forgiving those who have wronged us, we stop representing God. It is a sin to fail to forgive. It is a major sin.

It is like a person who was arrested for speeding and who argued that he should be let go because he was not speeding in this county because he was in the neighboring county robbing a bank at the time. They’re not going to let him go. They’re going to send him to that other county to stand trial.

But the good news is, it works the other way, too. When we come to the throne room of God and he forgives us, it makes it easier for us to forgive those who fail us. That is how forgiveness therapy is supposed to work. The purity and healthiness that we feel when we know we have been forgiven by God can empower us to extend that same forgiveness.

But what happens when we refuse to forgive? Jesus told a parable about a slave that had been forgiven a huge debt – ten thousand talents, but then he found someone who owed him a much smaller sum – a hundred silver coins, and he threw him into prison. When the master found out about it, he sent that slave to prison to be tortured. Jesus told his listeners “So also my heavenly Father will do to you if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Leigh Ann Powers writes, “Sometimes people have a false understanding of forgiveness. Forgiveness does not mean being a doormat for others’ mistreatment. Forgiveness means relinquishing the right to our own vengeance and leaving justice with God. Forgiveness is a refusal to hold others’ sins against them and coming to that place where we desire God’s will for them — whatever that may be. When we, as God’s people, experience God’s forgiveness, God empowers us through his Spirit to extend forgiveness to others” (Younger,79).

As Turner puts it, “a forgiven person is a forgiving person” (189).

Jesus is telling us something very important here. Forgiveness therapy is available for us. We can come regularly to the throne room of heaven and confess our failures to God, and he will forgive us – clean slate forgiveness. There are some things that we can do that will stop forgiveness therapy from working. We can stop living like our heavenly Father. We can keep a grudge against those who wrong us. We can plot to get even. We can choose to ignore or ostracize those who offend us.

Living a life like that is its own prison. Forget about bringing others to Christ. Forget about having a victorious walk. When you are stuck in a lack of forgiveness, you become a liability to the kingdom. Don’t stay there. Go back to the throne room and confess the sin of failing to forgive. Forgive completely, not because they ask for it, not even because they deserve it, but because you cannot function without it. You have to forgive. Give it over to God. Set yourself free to live a Christian life.

Notice the sequence of Jesus’ commands here. He first tells us to pray for forgiveness of our debts. Within that prayer is a promise that we will reciprocate by forgiving others for what they owe us. If we first come to God praying about our problems with others, we are failing to obey Jesus.

For example, suppose I go to the Lord in prayer tomorrow morning, and say ‘Lord, Joe is a problem for me, I want you to fix him.’ But the Lord responds to my prayer and says, ‘I was just talking to Joe last night. He said ‘Lord, Jeff is a problem for me, I want you to fix him.’ Who should I fix first?

According to today’s text, I should not go to the Lord with my problems until I have already received forgiveness for being someone else’s problem. Then I am free to forgive those who are a problem for me. Every time I go to the throne room, I should leave reconciled with God and my neighbor. Prayer is the place to get free from debt, and it is also the place to set other people free.

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Senior, Donald. Abingdon New Testament Commentaries: Matthew. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.

Turner, David L. Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008.

Wiersbe, Warren W. Meet Your King. Wheaton, Ill: Victor Books, 1980.

Wright, N T. Matthew for Everyone: Chapters 1-15. London: SPCK, 2004.

Younger, Carol D. The Gospel of Matthew: Hope in the Resurrected Christ: Adult Bible Study Guide. Dallas, Tex: BaptistWay Press, 2008.

20220925 PRAYER AND FORGIVENESS – jeffersonvann.mp3

GIVING — NOT TO BE NOTICED

GIVING — NOT TO BE NOTICED

Matthew 6:1-4 NET

1 “Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 3 But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

We are beginning a study of Matthew’s sixth chapter today, which is the second of three chapters he reserves for Jesus’ sermon on the mount. Just before Jesus had begun to expound upon the principles of the kingdom, he told his apostles that “…unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

The experts in the law and the Pharisees were considered to be the super-spiritual class. When someone thought of a saint, they thought of someone from these groups. When a person decided to devote themselves to the things of the Spirit, it was one of these people that he decided to mimic. But Jesus set the bar higher. He told his apostles that they had to be more spiritual that these with the reputation of being super-spiritual. In fact, if they decided to commit themselves to just doing what the experts in the law and the Pharisees were doing, then they would not even enter the kingdom.

Lange said that these super-spiritual in Jesus’ day ” imagined that they had reached the highest eminence in these three phases of spiritual life, which mark a right relationship toward our neighbor (alms-giving), toward God (prayer), and toward ourselves (fasting)” (122).

These super-spiritual saints of Jesus’ day wanted to cover all the bases of their obedience. They wanted to do their duty to everyone, and that was commendable. As MacLaren puts it, they wanted to practice “the beneficence which is (their) duty to (their) neighbour, the devotion which is (their) duty to God, and the abstinence which is (their) duty to (themselves)” (87).

But Jesus had already warned his apostles that that commitment was not enough. In today’s text, he explains why. These four verses specifically talk about charitable giving. Jesus explains why the charitable giving of these hypocrites was not a display of God’s kind of righteousness.

The hypocrites were not giving out of love (2).

They were giving, and giving is good — except when it is not. The hypocrites gave “so that people will praise them.” Parker says “The spring of all true service in Christ’s kingdom is love; whatever is less than this, though collateral and subsidiary, will be burnt up by the final fire” (63).

Jesus had specifically told his apostles to let their light shine before people, so that the people can see their good deeds and give honor to their Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). So the hypocrites’ problem was not that they were giving in public. Nast says their problem was “ostentatious display before men, which is very forcibly expressed by the Greek πρὸς τὸ θεαθῆναι, for the purpose of being gazed at as a show” (261). There is a difference between giving in public and giving to be praised by the public.

Maas says “our alms-deeds must be done with as little ostentation as possible” (78). MacLaren says “Christ condemned ostentation. His followers too often try to make use of it” (89). I Googled ostentation. It is “pretentious and vulgar display, especially of wealth and luxury, intended to impress or attract notice.” When we give to our neighbor in order to impress our other neighbors, we are not giving out of love.

On the word hypocrites, Williams says it “was derived from one which meant to act upon the stage. A hypocrite was an actor. As stage-playing implied that the actor did not feel but only pretended to feel, so the Pharisees only pretended to feel for the poor, and were therefore called hypocrites” (82).

The hypocrites thought that giving itself would be rewarded by God (1).

Rice said “”The scribes, like the Moslems and Roman Catholics of now, held that alms-giving was meritorious before God. The rabbins said, ‘For one farthing given to the poor, a man will gain heaven.’ The names of large givers to the poor were announced in the synagogue. The religion of that day was ostentatious, for display. Jesus unmasks this pharisaical ‘acting’ in religion by setting over against it the spirit of true worship” (76).

If you give to the poor so that your name shows up on the plaque honoring the contributors, that’s great. Just don’t expect to be rewarded by God for the gift.

The hypocrites would get their reward from the ones they were trying to impress (2).

Jesus said that when these hypocrites give in order to be seen by people, they have their reward. The reputation that they were seeking would be all the reward they get.

Chamblin says “In the Judaism of Jesus’ day, trumpets were blown to announce times for prayer and fasting …, for worship and sacrifice, for feasting and celebrating.” There is no evidence, beyond that of verse 2, that almsgivers used real trumpets to summon the poor; and while there were horn-shaped chests in the temple and elsewhere for depositing offerings, the language of 6:2 does not suggest such an act.” The words, ‘Do not sound a trumpet before you,’ are in all probability a metaphor — one readily suggested by trumpets’ actual usage… and well suited (once captured by the imagination) for showing how ludicrous such a performance is” (392).

Livermore said “Our Lord had been speaking (in chapter 5) of the wrong construction put upon many of the Mosaic precepts by the Scribes and Pharisees; and he sets up a much higher and purer standard of virtue than theirs. He now proceeds to show that in their religious acts, as well as opinions, there was a corrupt motive; and that his disciples should act from far better principles” (87).

But for these hypocrites, Maclaren says “Their charity was no charity, for what they did was not to give, but to buy. Their gift was a speculation. They invested in charity, and looked for a profit of praise” (89).

The Bible does teach us to give to the needy.

“If a fellow Israelite from one of your villages in the land that the LORD your God is giving you should be poor, you must not harden your heart or be insensitive to his impoverished condition” (Deuteronomy 15:7).

“A generous person will be enriched, and the one who provides water for others will himself be satisfied” (Proverbs 11:25).

“I want you to share your food with the hungry and to provide shelter for homeless, oppressed people. When you see someone naked, clothe him! Don’t turn your back on your own flesh and blood! Then your light will shine like the sunrise; your restoration will quickly arrive; your godly behavior will go before you, and the LORD’s splendor will be your rear guard” (Isaiah 58:7-8).

We also have an example from Israelite history. David announced that he was going to contribute towards building a temple in Jerusalem — a project that his son Solomon would oversee. Then the Chronicler said this happened:

“The leaders of the families, the leaders of the Israelite tribes, the commanders of units of a thousand and a hundred, and the supervisors of the king’s work contributed willingly. They donated for the service of God’s temple 5,000 talents and ten thousand darics of gold, 10,000 talents of silver, 18,000 talents of bronze, and 100,000 talents of iron. All who possessed precious stones donated them to the treasury of the LORD’s temple, which was under the supervision of Jehiel the Gershonite. The people were delighted with their donations, for they contributed to the LORD with a willing attitude; King David was also very happy” (1 Chronicles 29:6-9). The people who had, gave, and gave willingly.

The apostle Paul tells us that New Testament churches should give like that:

“Each one of you should give just as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, because God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7).

Jesus himself had taught this principle:

“Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).

Jesus also commended a poor widow who gave out of her poverty:

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box. He also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all offered their gifts out of their wealth. But she, out of her poverty, put in everything she had to live on” (Luke 21:1-4).

So, Jesus is not discouraging giving, any more than he is discouraging the other visible displays of righteousness: praying (vss. 5-15) and fasting (vss. 16-18). But Harrington says “these acts of piety are really intended as worship of God, then they should be practiced without excessive display intended to impress other people. In each case—almsgiving, prayer, and fasting—Jesus contrasts how the hypocrites do it and what their reward is (a reputation for piety), and how ‘you’ should do it and what your reward will be (from God)” (29).

Jesus commands us to be careful about how we give (1, 3-4).

The command from our Lord with reference to giving is “Be careful.” The Greek word is προσέχω, which means to be on the alert. He uses the same word when he tells us to “watch out for false prophets, who come to (us) in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves” (Matthew 7:15). The idea is that there is a danger here, but it might be like those wolves. They come in sheep’s clothing, so they don’t look dangerous. That is why we need to be careful.

A packet of cigarettes does not look dangerous. But that is why the government requires that the manufacturer puts warning labels on them. There is a danger there. Everyone who ever smokes a cigarette does not immediately die of lung cancer. But that is why they are dangerous.

Jesus is telling us that our charitable giving should also have a warning label. It can be a sign of our love for God and our fellow humans. But it can also be an ostentatious display of our own pride, or seeking praise from others. So, Jesus says that when we do our giving, we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing, so that our gift may be in secret. And our Father, who sees in secret, will reward us.

Before we drop that offering in the collection plate, we should ask if we are doing this as part of our worship. We should ask if we would still give the gift if there was no one around to see it. We should ask if there is a way to give that does not draw attention to ourselves. Our church has a benevolent fund that we use to help the needy in our community. No one knows who gives to this fund. It is a way helping us remove the wrong motives from our charitable giving. Those gifts help others, but our giving is between the Father and ourselves, which is the way it should be.

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Chamblin, J K. Matthew: A Mentor Commentary. Fearn, Tain: Christian Focus Pub, 2010.

Harrington, Daniel J. Meeting St. Matthew Today: Understanding the Man, His Mission, and His Message. Chicago: Loyola Press, 2010.

Lange, Johann Peter, and Philip Schaff. The Gospel According to Matthew. New York: C. Scribner, 1865.

Maas, A J. The Gospel According to Saint Matthew: With an Explanatory and Critical Commentary. St. Louis, Mo: Herder, 1898

Maclaren, Alexander. The Gospel of St. Matthew. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1892

Nast, Wilhelm. A Commentary on the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. Cincinnati: Poe & Hitchcock, 1864.

Parker, Joseph. A Homiletic Analysis of the Gospel by Matthew. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1870.

Rice, Edwin W. Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew. Philadelphia: The American Sunday-school union, 1909.

GIVING — NOT TO BGE NOTICED.mp3

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

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LOVE YOUR ENEMIES

Luke 6:27-36 NET

27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
29 To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well, and from the person who takes away your coat, do not withhold your tunic either.
30 Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your possessions back from the person who takes them away.
31 Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit 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 credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same.
34 And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to ungrateful and evil people.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Before we get to examining today’s text I want to remind you of the picture we need to see in our minds in order to understand why Jesus preached the sermon from which this text is extracted. He had just been praying on a mountain, and then he gathered his disciples to himself and appointed twelve who were going to be his apostles. The sermon was directed to the twelve as representatives of his mission to reach all the people with the message of his coming kingdom. The sermon was not a new law for the world to follow. It was missionary training for the apostles. The purpose of the message was not to get the apostles saved. The purpose was to equip them to get other people saved.

Jesus commands his apostles to GO BEYOND their enemies’ expectations (27-28).

The NET Study Bible notes for these verses say “Love your enemies is the first of four short exhortations that call for an unusual response to those who are persecuting disciples.” That means that instead of one command, there are actually four — or at least four different ways of obeying this command. Those exhortations are:

LOVE your enemies,

Barclay says of this command, “We cannot love our enemies as we love our nearest and dearest. To do so would be unnatural, impossible, and even wrong. But we can see to it that, no matter what a man does to us, even if he insults, ill-treats, and injures us, we will seek nothing but his highest good. One thing emerges from this. The love we bear for our dear ones is something we cannot help. We speak of falling in love; it is something that happens to us. But this love towards our enemies is not only something of the heart; it is something of the will. It is something which by the grace of Christ we will ourselves to do” (76).

McDonald says that this choice to love is our secret weapon. He says “This will be one of (the apostles’) most effective weapons in evangelizing the world. When Jesus speaks of love, He is not referring to human emotion. This is supernatural love. Only those who are born again can know it or display it. It is utterly impossible for anyone who does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit. A murderer may love his own children, but that is not love as Jesus intended. One is human affection; the other is divine love. The first requires only physical life; the second requires divine life. The first is largely a matter of emotions; the second is largely a matter of the will. Anyone can love his friends, but it takes supernatural power to love his enemies. And that is the love (Greek—agape) of the New Testament. It means to do good to those who hate you, to bless those who curse you, to pray for those who are nasty to you, and ever and always to turn the other cheek. … This love is unbeatable. The world can usually conquer the man who fights back. It is used to jungle warfare and to the principle of retaliation. But it does not know how to deal with someone who repays every wrong with kindness. It is utterly confused and disorganized by such other-worldly behavior” (43).

DO GOOD to those who hate you,

Jesus later told his followers “You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will have some of you put to death. You will be hated by everyone because of my name” (Luke 21:16-17). So this amounts to a command to love everyone.

BLESS those who curse you,

Gooding suggests that sonship is “the key to Christ’s moral teaching” (121). Jesus is suggesting that the apostles will be cursed by many who they will try to reach. Instead of cursing back in retaliation, they should bless the people who curse them.

PRAY FOR those who mistreat you.

Our Lord Jesus himself prayed for those who nailed him to the cross.

Our enemies expect us to hate them, but we should love them instead.
Our enemies expect us to do harm to them, but we should do good to them instead.
Our enemies expect us to curse them, but we should bless them instead.
Our enemies expect us to mistreat them, but we should pray for them instead.

Craddock says that “Following the statement of principle are numerous examples of forms of mistreatment: hating, cursing, abusing, striking, stealing, begging (pressuring one’s sense of compassion). Two observations are in order. First, the teachings assume that the listeners are victims, not victimizers. Jesus offered no instruction on what to do after striking, stealing, hating, cursing, and abusing others” (89). There are some things that are going to happen when these apostles set off on their evangelistic campaigns. They should expect mistreatment and abuse.

Jesus warns his apostles that obeying him will make them vulnerable to VIOLENT REJECTION (29a).

Someone who strikes me on the side of my face is saying “No, and I mean no.” They are sick to death of me trying to witness to them. They have had enough of my preaching. My temptation will be to say, Okay, I’ll just go on to the next person. But what would happen if I resisted that temptation? What would happen in the heart of that person if I said, “Okay, beat on the other side of my face if you want to, but I have good news to tell, and I’m going to tell it”?

That is persistence. But if someone is drowning, it takes a brave person to jump into the deep water to try to save him. He might pull me down with him. But it’s life or death for that drowning victim. Love jumps in.

Jesus warns his apostles that obeying him will make them vulnerable to UNFAIR LOSS (29b).

You might lose your overcoat. Are you prepared to risk your suitcoat as well? There will be some unfair things that will happen to you if you dare to bear witness to others. Safety is for those who will never enjoy the harvest.

Jesus warns his apostles that obeying him will test their GENEROSITY (30).

We all like to manage our debts — to always know we will have enough. So, we choose carefully those to whom we will lend. But Jesus is calling on us to risk loss for the sake of his name. He’s not asking us to risk for our own benefit. He doesn’t want us to throw our money away. He isn’t telling us to invest in the lottery in the hopes of striking it rich. He’s telling us to invest in lost people as a witness to the generosity that is in us because of who our heavenly Father is.

Jesus commands his apostles to treat their enemies according to their POTENTIAL (31).

He says to “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.” The apostles were once have-nots, now they have life in Christ. All their enemies are potential brothers and sisters because they have the potential to come to Christ as well. It is impossible to truly love an enemy, but it is possible to love someone into becoming your friend. That is what love does. “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God chose to love us — his enemies — and then we became his friends.

Jesus warns his apostles not to NARROW THE SCOPE of their love (32-34).

He said “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to be repaid, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, so that they may be repaid in full.” Sinners choose to narrow the scope of their love. They decide they will love those who are related to them, those who treat them right, those who are of the same race as them, or those who root for the same team as them.

But Jesus warned his apostles that if they wanted to reach people for the kingdom, they could not afford to narrow the scope of their love. They had to stretch out their love so that it reached people outside of their comfort zones.

Jesus explains two benefits of obeying this command: HARVEST and GODLINESS (35-36).

One of these benefits is HARVEST. Jesus calls it a great reward. I used to think Jesus was talking about our reward at his coming. But the context (remember) is that Jesus is coaching the apostles to bring people to him. In that context, the great reward will be lots of people won to Christ.

Harvest takes hard work. Penny and have been enjoying a good harvest in our garden this year. But we have paid for that harvest by investing time and effort in pulling weeds, working the soil, fertilizing, watering, and processing what grows. Loving our enemies is the hard work of kingdom living. The reward of that hard work is a great harvest of new believers. Some of those enemies are going to become friends and brothers and sisters.

The second benefit that Jesus mentioned is that Loving our enemies makes us more like our heavenly Father. Godliness does not come from saying that we love them. It comes from showing that we love them. It is a supernatural act. It is Christ demonstrating his love through us.

So, the challenge today — if we choose to accept it — is to do something we cannot do for people we cannot stand so that God can accomplish the impossible. In Matthew’s version of this text, Jesus puts it this way: “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). That is not just hard, it is impossible. But Jesus never gave us a challenge that he did not equip us with the power to accomplish. Let’s go love our enemies, y’all.


Barclay, William. The Gospel of Luke. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew, 1997.

Craddock, Fred B. Luke, 2009.

Gooding, David W. According to Luke: A New Exposition of the Third Gospel, 1988.

MacDonald, William. The Gospel of Luke. Dubuque, IA: Emmaus Correspondence School, 2011.

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.mp3