I think if we were all really honest with ourselves, we would all admit that at one time or another, there has been someone we just really loathed. They got under our skin and upset us to no end. Throughout my academic career, I can remember several people who I just could not stand to hardly look at because every time I did, feelings welled up within me that were not good. For one reason or another, they drove me up the wall and I wanted nothing to do with them. You know that feeling don’t you? Sure; we’ve all been there and we rationalize and justify having those feelings. Because of some action or attitude in the past, this person deserves me treating them this way and harboring these feelings. And we go on with life as though nothing is wrong, steering clear of that particular individual.
Jesus knew and still knows we would harbor those kinds of feelings within ourselves. And instead of commanding us to get those actions and attitudes out of our lives, in the Sermon on the Plain he capitalized upon them and used them as an opportunity to teach his disciples about those kinds of people that make us angry. Jesus was one of the greatest opportunists the world has ever seen, utilizing whatever people, places, or things that the situation garnished and taught some of the most impacting lessons God could ever teach man. In Luke 6.27-31, he does this very thing.
Love Who, Jesus?
Having pronounced “woes” upon certain people, he turns his attention back to those who “hear,” namely his disciples. He uses the stongest word for “but” here (Gk. ALLA) to say in essence that one does not want to act this way and receive woe BUT listen to my voice and live this way. Have you ever been punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of you? Or maybe in some other way you have had your wind knocked out? This is what these verses should do to a Christian, a disciple of Jesus. They have impact so great that they spiritually knock the wind out of you.
“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
How much more opposite can Jesus get? This goes totally against the grain of these people’s world. All their life they had heard “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Jesus says this isn’t going to be the way things are anymore. You love your enemy. Remember that person who upset you and made you angry, angry enough for you (me) to make them your (my) enemy. Jesus says love them. More than that, do good to them. More than that, bless them. More than that, pray for them. So you have the four-fold action of a disciple performed on the one person they would never dream of performing this to: love, do good, bless, pray for. Talk about counter-cultural. This goes against everything these first century disciples knew and goes against everything the 21st century Christian sees in life. But it gets stronger…
Do What, Jesus?
If someone came up to you and slapped your face right now, what would you? I can hear the churchy answers now: I wouldn’t hit them; bible says, “turn the other cheek.” Right. And if this person ripped the coat off your back, you’d give him the shirt off your back too right? Or if he took your wallet out of your back pocket and took your Check Card, Credit Card, Gas Card, and every other card you have, you would let him and never ask for it back. This is not what Jesus is calling us to. The reason I can say this is because (1) the style of teaching Jesus is implimenting and (2) he summarizes this teaching in v.31.
When Jesus teaches this divine truth of loving your enemy, what kind of teaching style does he implement? He uses hyperbole (exaggeration), one of the most familiar and impacting teaching styles available. The truth stands out very plainly when Jesus teaches this way: love your enemy though it pains you. Kingdom living does not mean you become a door mat for the world. Rather, kingdom living is about allowing a spirit of love, even for your enemies, to dwell in your being and permeate you life. And though you may suffering injury, you acknowledge that the Lord is the final say for vengence and revenge, not you. The deeper meaning is this: we do not endure bad treatment simply because the Bible says to, but rather we endure it out of a spirit of love. We can do all these things Jesus says, bt if the actions are void of love, we have missed the mark.
All of this is under the “Golden Rule” umbrella:
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
And this is the heart of the matter. What is going on within you? You harbor these feelings of spite and malice and though you would never act upon them in a negative, but your attitude of avoidance, you slowly kill your “enemy” and yourself. What would you have your enemy do you to you: evil or good? No one seeks the harm of their body from their enemy be it a slap in the face, a stolen cloak, or theft. Hence, be active in well-doing, especially to your enemies. Jesus will futher illuminate this truth in the following verses.