Luke 6:27-38 — Good Measurements
As a pastor, and looking across the landscape of our American Christian culture, I get very fearful that we are simply mimicking the world. If you follow Jesus, you will be hated. Don’t seek it out. But don’t be distressed or surprised. The world will not like it when you don’t go along with the gossip. They’ll call you a goody-goody.
If you follow Jesus, should it be any different? IF you have chosen to follow a humble, gracious, loving, merciful, justice-seeking and humiliated, disowned, suffering, crucified Messiah…how can it be any different? Look at v.40: “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.”
Set in the context of last week’s passage and the entirety of chapter 6, these commands by Jesus are NOT so that you will be a Christian. They are diagnostic. They are indicative of what has already happened in your heart. You see this in vv.43-45. A good tree bears good fruit.
And so, these words of Jesus should land heavily upon our ears this morning. v.46: “Why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I tell you? And as we walk through vv.27-38, we ought to diagnose where our souls are.
(1) An Invitation
“But I say to you who hear”. Before we go any further. I need to stop here and urge you to consider this caveat that Jesus is laying before us. Great crowds are around him. And throughout my Christian life I have been astounded by how much that happens during Sunday morning hinges upon the hearer. I have been to a lot of churches in my Christian life and I remember hearing many sermons and thinking to myself: “That sermon was amazing.” And then interacting with someone after the service and they say, “That sermon was so boring!” So much in our Christian experience hinges upon what is going on inside us more than what’s happening up here.
Jesus, aware of this, knows that he is getting ready to say some strong words. And it’s not just a matter of believing it with our minds. He’s not asking you and me to agree with him. He’s telling us to build our houses upon what he’s getting ready to say. He doesn’t want you to agree with him this morning and then never apply it. If you don’t apply it, the ruin of your house will be very great. Indeed, you must do the work of digging deep and laying the foundation on the rock.
Don’t make the assumption that because you are here, you are alright. Yes, it is good that you are here! It was good that people were following Jesus. But remember there were great crowds following Jesus. Even today, great crowds go to church to make themselves feel better or to get something from God. I’m going to do this, you need to give me that. We all come underneath this Word this morning and must consider: “Am I calling him Lord, Lord but not doing what he says.”
In this crowd of people this morning, the Lord is asking you if you have ears to hear? He’s inviting you to see the world as he sees it. To live in it as he lived in it. To move and breathe and feel the wonder of this, his world. In scripture, there is a listening. And then there is a hearing. An attitude of humility and submission to God’s gracious condescension to let us in on how to thrive in this, his world.
Now. The rest of this paragraph. Vv.27-31.
In this short paragraph, Jesus gives 9 commands. But as the Apostle John says, The commands of the Lord ought not to be burdensome. These commands are an invitation because you are not being told to do them to be made right with God. The assumption. The beginning place is that you if you take an attitude of humble submission to God’s command, you are his child. // Too often we hear these commands and the tension in our shoulders rises. Why does John say they’re not burdensome? Because all God’s commands flow from an attitude of love. Love for God and a Love for People. He has made ALL flesh and loves ALL people. //
In the Berenstein Bears books, there’s a story of Sister Bear getting bullied by Tuffy. At the end of the book, when Tuffy gets in trouble she tells Sister Bear that she won’t be able to sit down for a long time because her parents will beat her when she gets home. Friends, everyone has a story. The person that annoys you. The person that hurt you. That’s not to excuse the action. It is to punish the sin and have compassion on the one sinning.
Since Jesus is commanding us to love, it cannot be defined as a feeling. Love, biblically speaking, is not how our world typically understands it. It is doing good to your enemy. This isn’t something new in the Bible. This was the way God had expected his redeemed people to live. Exod 23.4: “If you come across your enemy’s donkey wandering off, be sure to return it to him.” Proverbs 25.21: If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if she is thirsty, give her water to drink. Literally, this verse says, “If the one who hates you is hungry…” Do good.
In fact, the picture throughout this paragraph is an active engagement with the one who hates you. There is an active engagement. Look at the words used in this paragraph: Love//Do good//Bless (literally, “speak a good word”)//Pray//Offer your cheek//Give.
The world will typically gossip or slander or distance itself from the one it finds annoying. Do you find yourself doing that? Someone that gets on your nerves, you just avoid? Well, that’s a problem. It’s not like you have to be best friends with the person. But you ought not do the evil of excluding.
// But annoying people is NOT what Jesus is dealing with here, is it? It’s a step further. The one who hates you. This is why I went into a lengthy introduction to this passage. If you are following Jesus. If your following of Jesus is a biblical following of Jesus. Where you wave your flag of allegiance and open your mouth of devotion, you will be hated. And this is not just a matter of bakers who are persecuted. This is a very real, interpersonal interaction with people who think you are ridiculous and do not want to have anything to do with you. Not because you are a self-righteous jerk who knows everything! Because you are a humble servant.
Nelson Mandela said, “Forgiveness liberates the soul, it removes fear. That's why it's such a powerful weapon.”
Now, there has been a lot of damage done by the church when they try to force people to forgive. This is not a transaction. This is a disposition. What do I mean by that? I have heard stories of church leadership having an abuser and an abused person sit in a room and the abused person is told to forgive the abuser. That’s not what Jesus is saying here. Too many times we want to tie things up with a bow and say we’re doing our duty to love and forgive.
Let me be as clear as I can be here. The most loving thing is to call the police if someone is abused. If you abuse someone in this church, the police will be called. That’s the most loving thing we can do for you and others.
We will never coerce or force someone to forgive. That’s not our call. This is a disposition that Jesus is getting at. And it’s in reference to being hated because you are a Christian.
// But our passage is more than forgiveness and self-liberation, isn’t it? The culmination is v.31. It’s not just not hurting someone. It’s not just not speaking ill of someone or to someone. It is pursuing their good. Doing them good. This is about seeing even your enemies as made in the image of God and pursuing their good. That they would flourish.
Remember not too long ago, I said if light presses into darkness there will be shrieks.
I long for us to be a church that sounds a lot different than most churches in the United States. A church that takes these commands from Jesus seriously. Who don’t just take the comfort, but we feel the abrasiveness of his call to us. To do the uncomfortable.
There’s a powerful scene in a movie Ashley and I just watched about someone’s struggle with alcoholism and going through the AA 12-Step program. At a key moment, the main character breaks down and starts crying. And the guide says, “You're right on time, John. You're approaching the ninth step, which is where you get to go face-to-face with these people and forgive them in person.
—That’s it? I mean, uh... I kind of thought that my group story would end with an epiphany. Like, you know, I’d break down and cry, and-and, uh be cured forever.
—No, I don't feel that different now. I don't...I don't feel like I had the big moment.
—This is the big moment. There's no lightning bolt that shoots you and cures all your problems. There are discoveries and epiphanies and moments of clarity. But this doesn't just go away. You have to wrestle every day. Some of that pain will remain there forever. Some of that shame will remain there forever. But you have to fight with it, or you'll die.” Doing good.
(2) Where does this Power come from?
Vv. 32-35. Jesus is challenging the world’s way of treating people. As I already mentioned, this goes beyond mere transaction. This is what it means to treat people with grace. To seek their good. Jesus is reminding us that we need to operate with a different set of lenses. We don’t invite someone over to our house expecting them to return the favor.
He asks the question: What good is that to you? Literally, he’s asking, “What grace is that for you?” You see, what Jesus is calling us to is to live from an abundance mindset. That we have received grace upon grace upon grace. We have messed up time and time again. We have acted as God’s enemy every day. And yet, he is merciful to us.
In fact, Jesus ends by saying that if God is your Father, be merciful as he is. Act in God’s world as God acts. Abundantly gracious and merciful. If you are a son or a daughter, you will act like his child. //
(3) How long will this Power last?
//This is how our passage ends as well. Vv. 37-38. To get at this, like we did with the first paragraph, let me tell you what this does NOT mean. First, it doesn’t mean that we are to never judge. The very nature of Jesus is telling us to do is judge. We are to love our enemies. Someone who has set themselves against your message of grace. Second, this does NOT mean we are to not have any parsing out of what is love and hate in our world.
What it does mean, quite simply is to treat others the way you want to be treated. If you want people to be nice and caring and loving to you, then be that way toward them! It’s that simple. Too many times people go to church and say, “They weren’t nice to me.” Or “No one is inviting me over to their house.” Have you invited them over? Have you stretched out your hand to shake someone’s hand? God wants you to experience grace and abundance.
But this is more than simply experiencing the kind of community we want to see. To love our neighbor has to come from deep wells. Indeed, rivers of living water that can wash away the grime of the world. A stream that will drown out the evil. A perpetual dripping of grace that will wear away the stone. But it must come from somewhere deep within us. Out of the overflow, the mouth speaks.
The Lord has to do such a work in our hearts that we don’t have to stew and think about being gracious. It will be a natural reaction to the world. To friends. To enemies.
// This image we see here is how women would carry heaps of grain. They would take their skirt and extend it out and have the granary pour into their lap. This is what God wants for you! But it takes courage. It takes true humility. It takes a willingness to be laughed at. It takes a strength that is not mustered up, but that is a result of being loved and accepted and rejoiced in. Be the love you want to experience in the world. Don’t wait for people to extend their hand out. Stop expecting people to come to you. Go to them. Initiate the embrace. This takes courage. But what is more, it takes having experienced it ourselves first.