Growing up, the good old-fashioned “Amen!” was common place in our church and others. You can imagine the scene…strong preaching and sturdy words of affirmation working together in harmony. I guess it’s more a part of me than I realize, because I catch myself wanting to “amen” things I like. For example, if I’m not careful, I’ll “amen” a menu suggestion from a server and throw them totally off. I mean, I don’t look anything like a traveling evangelist (don’t have the right hair) and everyone knows only they can pull off a proper “amen” in a public setting. With that being said, I still “amen” a lot…but I keep it to myself.
Recently, I was continuing to work through Luke’s Gospel. As I recalled the encouraging words at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount (The Beatitudes and “Woes” on the self-serving), I could feel the attitude of agreement inside. You know…the “amen” feeling. However, when I got to 6:27, it was like the sound of a record player needle being slid off of vinyl,
“But, I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,”
Then I’m thinking, “Oh yeah…I forgot that was in there.” I stopped for a moment, reread verses 27-36 and thought, “Wow, Jesus really meant those words.” Consider what He said:
27“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. 32“But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. 35But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Suddenly, the “amen” feeling seemed very shallow indeed. Studying it further, reveals three basic questions that help put it in perspective, while offering hope to those of us with a hair-trigger “amen”!
I. What’s He telling us to do?
Clearly, He said what He meant, but how do we sum it up? Well, He told us in verse 36…imitate the Father. Show love and mercy. When He tells us to do kind things to those who TOTALLY don’t deserve it, He’s saying do what He has done to US…to ME…to YOU! We struggle with pride, rebellion and selfishness toward God, even as believers. He not only showed great kindness in offering us redemption, but continues to show kindness daily. Each day, we are to reciprocate that love toward others…period. That leads to the next question:
II. Why does He tell us to?
We are members of His Royal Staff. 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 says we’ve been given the ministry of reconciliation as His ambassadors. Paul says God is pleading through us to those who need Christ. He strongly desires for them to be reconciled and we are the ones placed in the service to communicate it.
In Matthew’s account, Jesus calls us “salt and light”. When we encounter the wounded, the saltiness of Christ in us may burn a little at first as the healing begins and when we encounter darkness, the pure light of Christ in us, may bring some discomfort to eyes accustomed to the shadows. We need to be patient with people as He was in His ministry…which leads to the last question:
III. How do we do it?
Romans 5:5 says “…the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” Only in the love of Christ through the Person of the Holy Spirit can I do it. It’s not natural to love those who hate us. It’s not easy to be kind to those who spitefully use us. Pastor and commentator Warren Wiersbe describes it as an inner disposition. Paul says in Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” In many different ways, Paul repeated the theme of Christ-in-him as his strength. He said in 2 Corinthians 12:10 “…when I am weak, then I am strong”.
If you think it’s tough…it is. Hey, I’m right there with you struggling some days, but we must keep going. The bottom line is this; as followers of Christ we’re in a foreign land representing Him to those who don’t know any other way yet, so let’s pray for His leading and put our best foot forward. Can I get an “Amen?”
Series: “Thoughts on Luke”-Luke 6:27-36