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Mar 13 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 13, 2011

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to unrighteous and evil men. Be merciful, just as Your Father is merciful. Luke 6:35-36 (Read verses 20-49) 

INTRO: I’ve been thinking about a book I would like to write 

The Psychology of Jerks: How to Spot Them and Avoid Them (or otherwise learn to deal with them)  

Not every jerk tries to be one
– not because he has an inflated ego, or simply doesn’t care, or is not all that bright
– some jerks are just guys who have a flawed set of values and if that is all they know, then for them success comes from practicing those values rigidly
– for example, to some people it is a virtue to never pay full retail price for anything (what they cannot see is how that practice can hurt other people)
– if such a person feels the need to try harder, he simply contiues to do the wrong thing, but more intensely 

The question is (and this will be in the final chapter of my book), is there hope that the jerk can change?
– the answer is, Yes – but it usually takes Shock Therapy
– not electroshock, but the sort of shock we get from Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6 


Verses 20-26, A radical reversal of values 

These opening lines clarify what Jesus is doing
– the Law of Moses was presented to the people as a covenant
– they ratified it by accepting its “conditions” 

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse: the blessing, if you listen to the commandments of the LORD your God, which I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not listen to the commandments . . . (De. 11:26-28) 

When Israel entered the land, half the nation stood on Mt. Ebal and the other half on Mt. Gerazim to agree to the blessings and curses of the covenant (De. chapters 27 & 28)
– Jesus begins with blessings and woe (an equal number of each)
– this is the new covenant and it reveals what belonging totally to God looks like 

Note that the instance of suffering in verse 23 is different from the others (e.g., poverty, hunger, etc.)
– in this case it is suffering specifically for ones relationship to Jesus 

Blessedness is a state of being (soul, mind, relation to God, etc.)
– we think we’re clear on what “the good life” looks like, but it’s nothing like what Jesus describes here!
– given the choice, would you choose poverty over wealth?
Or hunger over being well-fed? Or insults over popularity? 

Yet there is a way of being in these negative conditions that transcends them 

Verses 21-31, A radical reversal of responses to abuse 

I can find a perverse sort of comfort in “woes” (“Now those fatcats will feel our pain”)
– but how am I supposed to act toward those who abuse me? 

We can be sure Jesus knew his instructions would hit his audience like a slap in the face
– his, “But I say to you . . .” runs contrary to popular ideas 

The law they lived by was specific: “an eye for an eye,” wound for wound
– but Jesus is saying, “Do the opposite” – for a curse, return a blessing 

Now Jesus didn’t really mean for us to live this way, did he?
– few Christians think so – even Bible scholars and commentators try to work around it
– it’s impractical if not impossible 

Kierkegaard, “We think that it is impossible for a man to love his enemy . . . for enemies can hardly bear to look at each other. Oh, well, then close your eyes . . .” 

Verse 31, Jesus simplifies his instructions with a proverb 

Verses 32-34, Jesus sets a target for his followers 

The goal is to be extraordinary – not like everyone else
– this is what it means to be like Jesus
– this is the kind of Christianity that gets noticed (favorably) 

To love an enemy, we need to see something in them that does not appear on the surface
– this is the opposite of suspicion, which sees something worse than what it is
– love sees something better than what it is
“Love believes all things” 

Verses 35-36, He repeats central command and adds motive 

The correct reading of “expecting nothing” in verse 35 is “never despairing”
– i.e., never despair that you will get your money back
– an alternative translation is “do not despair over anyone” – never despair over the idea that the other person can change
Kierkegaard, “Woe to him who with respect to another man gave up hope and possibility, woe to him, for thereby he himself lost love!”
“Love hopes all things”
“Love never fails” 

The motivators that Jesus sets before them: 

  • a great reward
  • you will “be” sons of the Most High
  • this is how God is, even to the “ungrateful and evil”
  • we are looking for a family likeness – imitate “your Father”

Here’s something I would like to burn into your brain: How merciful do you want God to be with you?
– a little? Do you want him to forgive small sins but not the big ones?
– look at what comes next 

Verses 37-38, Judging and condemning are the exact opposite of being merciful 

You set the criteria and conditions for God’s judgment of you
– whatever judgment we pass on others, we pass on ourselves
– whatever mercy we show others, we show ourselves 

My lack of mercy imprisons me more than the one I don’t forgive
Dag Hammarskjold,
“Like the bee, we distill poison from honey for our self defense– what happens to the bee if it uses its sting is well known.” 

“Give, and it shall be given . . .”
– this is what we find in Wisdom Literature in OT (e.g., the generous person described in the Psalms and Proverbs)
– “pressed down, shaken together . . .” this is how you get a sack to be as full of grain or rice as possible 

Verses 39-49, Four parables 

39-40, First, a warning about the leaders we follow
– you can’t learn beyond your source of information
– it discourages me sometimes, how narrow the reading list is for many Christians
– if your teacher is blind, narrow minded, rigid, and so on, you learn to be those things 

41-42, Second, instructions for if you want to help others
– there’s nothing I’m more blind to than what drives me
– we have been conditioned to see world in a certain way and we take that to be reality 

You’ve probably noticed this in some of your friends: Those who have worked through their own issues are the most helpful and have the best counsel 

43-45, Third, where does the ability to “do good” come from?
– it seems to me, the “good tree” is the person who has “removed the log” from his eye 

Two thoughts

  1. If goodness is known by its fruits, goodness itself is invisible
    – goodness and love are invisible
    – they seek to be embodied in actions, so to perform an act of love is how we love
    “Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 Jn. 3:18)
  2. If we come to know a tree by its fruit, then that is also how we come to know Jesus
    – we observe him and his works, we listen to his words
    – we do not come to know the person of Jesus through doctrines (e.g., incarnation, virgin birth)

46-49, Fourth, everything depends on what we do with all of this
– to build a stable life, we first have to dig deep
– hearing Jesus and taking his words to heart is the foundation
– doing what he has taught is the house 

CONC: This is an extraordinary person, whose life is profiled in Jesus’ teaching 

She will not get positive reinforcement from others or from our culture
– so will have to be strong enough to stand alone
– she will have to be self-motivated, fully convinced she is on the right road 

In all honesty, I read through this and I tell Jesus, “I can’t do it”
– and this becomes my starting point – the confession that I cannot do it
– I do not say, “Okay, Lord, if this is what you want, I’ll do it” 

If I can’t do it, where do I go from here?
Here’s the key: we cannot separate the teaching of Jesus from Jesus
– what he has laid out in this chapter is the transformation he makes in our lives 

We cannot even begin to travel this road without him
And he never meant for us to try

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