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.