Scripture: Daniel, chapters 11-12; Luke, chapter 6
Luke 6:27-37 (NIV) – “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 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. 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 children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Observations: Are you listening?
Luke chapter 6 tells us (verse 12) that Jesus went up on a mountainside to pray, and then the next day he called his disciples to him, and he chose 12 of them and designated them apostles (verse 13). After that, he went down the mountain and began to teach, “looking at all his disciples” (verse 20). In other words, the “disciples” to whom Jesus will speak in the rest of chapter 6 are not just “the twelve”; it was “a large crowd of his disciples” (verse 17). After he makes some introductory remarks, he says: “But to you who are listening…”(verse 27).
I don’t think we understand well enough that it is possible to be a “disciple” without really listening to Jesus all the time. Now, don’t get me wrong: he certainly expects us to be listening, and obeying, all the time! But the fact that he prefaces the passage that I’ve quoted with the phrase, “to you who are listening” reminds us that there are times when we may be “tuning out.”
The real question is, why are we tuning out? Are we distracted by the cares and concerns of life? Are we too absorbed in other things? That happens to all of us from time to time, and when we realize that it’s happening, we need to ask God’s forgiveness and re-focus on what God is doing, and what he is saying to us.
But there are times when we hear what Jesus is saying, and just choose not to do it. I fear that the passage I’ve quoted above is a prime example of that. We need to really listen to what Jesus is saying, and ask ourselves, “Am I really doing that?”
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.”
Notice how Jesus finishes this passage: Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” The word then tells us that our status and development as “children of the Most High” depends on our response to the call to love our enemies. If we really want to be like Jesus, if we’re really focused on developing as “children of the Most High,” we must do what God does – because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.
Application: I wonder how often we really examine our words, our attitudes, and our actions in light of this command? Am I really loving my enemies? Am I kind to the ungrateful and wicked the way that God is, the way that he calls me to be? Or do I justify harsh words and unloving actions by judging others and deciding that they aren’t worthy? I’m really struck by Jesus’ comment that God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. I fear there is far too much anger and animosity directed toward those whom we consider to be our “enemies” with the justification that they are “evil.” If God is kind to the ungrateful and wicked, and he calls us to follow his example, shouldn’t that make a difference in the way that we talk, the way that we act, the things that we post online, and our attitudes toward those who disagree with us? Are we listening?
Prayer: Father, forgive us for the times when we have not listened – whether because we’ve been distracted or focused on other things, or because we’ve heard you and just chosen not to obey. Forgive us for the harsh attitudes we have held toward those who disagree with us; Jesus’ words clearly show us that “they started it” is not an excuse. You call us to love our enemies, and to follow your example of being kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Give us the strength to do that. We confess that it is hard, but we trust in you that your Spirit is ready, willing, and able to help us to do it. Show us today how you want us to love our enemies, and to be kind to the ungrateful and wicked, because we want to be your children. Amen.