St Luke 6: 27 – 36
‘But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’
Oh dear! When I read this teaching of Jesus I so relate to what the Apostle Paul wrote, “I do not understand my own actions…. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.” (Romans 7. 15a & 19) – how about you?
The teaching of Jesus is challenging, setting a very high standard for his followers, a standard that too many of us fail to reach. Yes, there are those who do set an example in the way they live which attracts others to Jesus, but are you among them? I know that I can make no such claim.
Two quotations from Mahatma Gandhi also come to mind, “If I had to face only the Sermon on the Mount and my own interpretation of it, I should not hesitate to say, ‘O yes, I am a Christian.’” (quoted by Homer A Jack) and, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” (quoted by William Rees-Mogg).
Our passage today is about “love” and it is helpful to remember that “the Greek language has three words for love, which enable us to distinguish Christian love (agapé) from passionate love (eros) and warm affection (philia). Jesus did not tell his disciples to fall in love with their enemies or to feel for them as they felt for their families and friends.” (G B Caird, Commentary on Luke). Christian love is a positive concern for the true welfare of others, “We love because (God) first loved us.” (1 John 4. 19)
Even as we are honest about our failure to be the people we should be, we must still remember that God loves us and that our sins are forgiven as we forgive those who sin against us.
Gracious God: you know us as we truly are, and still love us! Help us, we pray, to be honest with you and with ourselves so that we may be released from past failures and enabled to be more and more the people you want us to be; in our Saviour’s name and power – Amen.