Be merciful as your Father is merciful

Luke 6:27-38 This is going to be tough. It is one of the more difficult teachings of the bible to accept. It’s not controversial but it is something that each one of you (and me) struggle with. Especially if you are not Christian, you have a hard time dealing with this. Jesus addressed his followers. It comes on the heels of what was spoken last week, “Blessed are you who are poor. Blessed are you who are hungry. Blessed are you who weep. Blessed are you when men hate you.” In that blessing from God, we have difficult work to do. 27 “But I tell you who hear me: Jesus was saying, “I don’t know if you want to listen to this, but I am going to say it anyways.” This is the difficult teaching. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. What does it mean to love? We don’t say that love is God, but God is love. God gets to define love. God is going to say what it is. It is not what we feel like doing but Jesus demands it. These are not suggestions, they are commands. These aren’t optional. What does it look like to love your enemy? 29 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. As humans, we really want to downplay this. We would like to make excuses for our behavior such as self-defense (“They hit me first so I should be able to hit back.”), good stewardship (“I need to take care of my own first.”). These commands show that God has such a high expectation in our love for others that we absolutely cannot do and cannot even want to do. This is how broken our sinful nature is. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you. Jesus gave a couple examples of the golden rule. Here are a few more. What does it look like to love your brother-in-law who cheated on your sister? What does it look like to run into the teenager who has bullied your daughter? What does it look like to look like to be near those “friends” who have turned your child away from God and his word? What does it look like to love her when she keeps digging at you? What does it mean to love after he has lost his temper again? What does it mean to love the coworker who keeps taking credit for work he didn’t do? What does it mean to love the neighbor who is a constant annoyance or aggravator? We don’t want to do it because we don’t want to let go of the hurt. If you let this anger and revenge run your life spiritually. It is a terrible way to live, and you know it. It consumes you. Forgiveness is built into this love. You must forgive them. When we forgive other people and want to do good to them, it is an amazing miracle that Jesus does through us. In forgiveness there is an absorption of debt. When you forgive, you absorb the debt. But it is the only way to let the pain go. Some may say, “But I am a nice person.” Jesus anticipates this. 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. Don’t give yourself credit for being a good person if it is all for you, which is loving people who love in return. Of course, you love your friends, family and others who are close to you. Jesus is really saying “You are not a good guy if you do this because even bad people (unbelievers) do that.” He repeats. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, (here’s where he gets real personal) because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. This is a God of cosmic and indiscriminate grace. He is doing good things and showing great blessings on every ungrateful and wicked person, even you. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Dwell on the second half of that verse. Your Father is merciful. This is not your authoritarian judge, but this is your Father. He is your Father, not someone else’s Father. Parents provide for their own kids, not the kids of others. Your Father. He is (present) merciful. The Father doesn’t ever stop being merciful. He is. It is part of his being. Your Father is merciful. Therefore, 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. This is not a condemnation against all judging because later he does say to confront someone in sin. But it is a command not to judge in an arrogant, self-righteous attitude. Jesus doesn’t want us to judge with the intent of shaming. God desires mercy and forgiveness so that is our aim in pointing out sin. Don’t forget who is preaching this sermon. Jesus, the Savior of all. He lived it and he lived it for you. He reconciled those who nailed him to the cross while he was hanging there. He does not condemn you, but he forgives you. Here’s how much? 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Picture a cup overflowing. It overflows so much it gets all over your cloths, you can’t hold it all. You have been given so much. You have been forgiven so much. There are so many good stories that illustrate the power of loving the enemy. Joseph, we heard about in the Genesis reading. There are many today too. Most of the stories come from Christians. A 60-Minutes episode detailed houses of worship that were attacked and the Christian churches were the ones who were attempting to forgive while the others found it more difficult. One story is of Matt Swatzell and Erik Fitzgerald. Matt was on his way home after a late-night shift when he fell asleep at the wheel and killed Erik’s wife with the unborn child she was carrying. Erik, a Christian pastor, pleaded for a lesser sentence and then started a relationship with him years after the crash. They are friends to this day and Erik has helped Matt out of his anxiety and guilt. Erik, who in the eyes of the world had every right to justice said, “It wasn’t an option. If you’ve been forgiven, then you need to extend that forgiveness.” 1 We could go on and on with inspirational stories, but the best is right here in front of us. Jesus has decided to have mercy on you. God has extended forgiveness to you. God, who has the right for justice, holds no sins against you. He passed all justice and wrath to his Son. Everything on your record has been wiped clean. There is not one sin that Jesus leaves unwashed. Who are you going to forgive and love? You may not make a best friend out of an enemy. But you can show mercy. We are Christ’s, with and without the apostrophe. We are Christ’s: we belong to him. We are Christs: we are going to love better than anyone else. Amen

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