Today’s scripture portion comes after Jesus earthly ministry was in full swing. At first glance, I was very curious where we were going to find Charis in this one because it is one of the most challenging teachings of Jesus for most people. In most of our scriptures it has been pretty obvious and easy to find. For context, we will start a few verses before our main verse. Let’s take a look.
“But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is 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 to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 HCSB)
Ok, be honest, do you bristle just a little at this one? I love that Jesus takes a time out right in the middle of the thought He is expressing to explain His thinking. He tells us to love our enemies, by the way the Greek word for love here is agapao. If loving your enemy seems hard, imagine when in it’s fullness it means: to welcome; to entertain; to be fond of; to love dearly. Many describe it as the God kind of love; others use the term unconditional as it’s definition. Agapao is a love that costs us something. It is a love that gives, one that sacrifices. It is the same word used for love in the great commandment that Jesus gives us:
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Matt. 22:36-40 (NET)
Jesus challenges us to love everyone, even our enemies. He asks us to love them; pray for them. The word enemies in this passage means exactly what it does to us in our English language, just to clarify, it means: hateful; odious; hating; hostile; opposing another or in our example one who treats us in these ways. Not only are we told to love our enemy, we are supposed to go the extra mile. “If they ask for our coat, do not hold back our shirt”… If they smack us on one side of our face, turn the other… Jesus said in our scripture for today, “if you love those who love you, what credit (Charis) is that?” Likewise, He asked if we lend to those who we know will pay back, “what credit (Charis) is that? His point is what? Anyone can be nice to those who are nice to them; love those who love them; and be generous to those who treat them generously but it takes a special person to be used; abused; or taken advantage of and continue to show love. It takes great strength and character to continue to love someone and be respectful towards them when they have said or done unkind things, have taken advantage or perhaps betrayed you. To respond lovingly, in spitein spite of being mistreated is very counter culture especially in America in 2014! In our humanness we may ask, “why should we continue to care after they ________?” (You fill in the blank)
It takes extraordinary grace, strong character and an even stronger will to put the incident behind you and continue to show love. Jesus modeled exactly that kind of love, character and grace for us on His journey to the cross. He loved when we/they mocked Him, He loved despite the beatings, betrayal, and abuse. He pleaded, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do!” The obvious question, “what credit is that?”. It was credited to Him as righteousness. It accomplished His mission. It made a way for us to have right relationship with our Heavenly Father through the righteousness of Jesus Christ if we will only believe and follow Him. It made it possible to be empowered by the Holy Spirit of God to live a life of love, mercy, compassion and grace that is like a magnet making others wonder why and how we are so different than most. The challenge is: will we?
Preaching to myself! Grace to you my friends!