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 someone 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 children 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
What is Jesus teaching us here about how we are to deal with those who disagree with us? He is telling us that as his disciples we are to be characterized by actions of love (loving enemies, doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, praying for those who mistreat you, and retaliating against violence) and generosity (literal “giving the shirt off your back”, lending and not expecting repayment). Which takes us up to verse 31. Which is probably the most famous verse in the Bible. Verse 31 says this, “Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them”. This verse is famous because it has been labeled the “Golden Rule”. But what it really is is a restatement of the second greatest commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
In verses 32-34 Jesus discusses the logic of selfless love. It is not the kind of love. It is not the kind of love his disciples display if they return the love someone has shown them, or do good to someone as a sort of repayment, or lend when they are certain to be repaid. Because there is not spiritual credit in God’s eyes for such behavior since even many unsaved sinners behave this way. As Christians we are to practice a deeper, selfless love. Which we will discuss shortly.
In verses 35-36 Jesus tells us the reward for obeying his command to love your enemies, do good and lend without expecting repayment will be great, though much of of will not be in this life. But your selfless love will reflect that you are children of the Most High. He is gracious and merciful to all people, and disciples of Jesus are to follow his example.
Now we are going to circle back around to that phrase from verse 27 “Love your enemies”. In the entire section of Luke that we just finished discussing Jesus tells us how we are to conduct ourselves toward others, particularly those who oppose or disagree with us. And as believers, we are to accept the responsibility of the two requirements Jesus outlined here. (1) Loving our enemies does not mean an emotional love, such as showing affection for them; this love speaks of having genuine concern for their good and especially for their eternal salvation. Since we know the terrible consequences awaiting those who are hostile to God and his people, we must pray for them and attempt to introduce them to Christ. One way we can do this is through kind and gracious actions and by repaying good for evil and love for hate.
(2) Loving our enemies does not mean to passively stand by as the wicked continue to defy God. With God’s approval and guidance, we must graciously, humbly, but boldly, take a stand against evil and ungodliness. When it is necessary for God’s honor, for the safety of others or for the highest good of the wicked, extreme action must be taken to stop evil.
We must remember that Jesus modeled this kind of love for us. Jesus prayed for those who were mistreating by saying this while he was being crucified “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). If Jesus can react in that way while being executed in one of the most brutal ways ever imaged, then surely we can to do the same to those who have wronged us in ways that in comparison seem small and insignificant. Jesus only lost his temper and reacted in a manner outside of his normal character once. And that was when he saw the money changers and the sellers in the temple defiling that Holy place by essentially robbing people. In fact Jesus did not even react violently when he was wrongly arrested, falsely convicted and wrongly executed. If Jesus could “love” his enemies through all of this, then surely we can too. Because what this world could use right now is less repaying evil with evil and hate with hate, and more repaying evil with good and hate with love. So let’s all make a decision that we are going to stop looking for ways to get even and start looking for ways to show true and genuine love in this world.