Now I'm a little league coach.
It's Excedrin headache number 24 in case you're interested. But we're having fun. And I was interested in the article, therefore, that I read in the paper this past week. I don't know how many of you saw it, about what happened out at this little league game in California.
Any of you guys see this? Let me tell you about it. It was in Castro Valley, California. And in Castro Valley, California, it's a very tiny little town. They only have one little league team. So they bring in little league teams from other little towns all around to play. And another team had come in from Ashland, California. And as the game began, some of the fans began hurling racial slurs and taunts at the visiting team because there were some black players on the team. Well, after the fans, meaning the parents, began doing it, before long, the kids got involved in it. And the game really got nasty. When the game was over, everybody thought that things had cooled down. And, you know, the teams lined up in typical little league fashion and walked down a line giving high fives to each other.
And everybody thought the game was over. One of the players from the visiting team went and got a bat and went after one of the kids on the home team that had been riding him the whole game. And he swung at this kid with the bat and the kid ducked. But there was a 17-year-old spectator whose back was turned and never saw the bat coming that did not duck. And the bat hit him right across the back of the head and completely knocked him out. When the attacker realized what he had done, he threw the bat down and began running. And three of the players from the home team, the little league team now, chased him. One of them picked up a rock and threw it and hit him in the back of the head, knocked him out unconscious.
And then the stands emptied and a general brawl ensued. A little league game. Say, Lon, that's preposterous. Well, when was the last time you coached little league, folks?
This is not all that preposterous. Well, he said, well, where do things stand today? Well, the 17-year-old fan that wasn't looking that got hit with the bat is dead from massive head injuries. The kid that hit him is still in the hospital from the rock that he took to the head. But when he gets out of the hospital, the police plan to charge him with murder. And the umpire had a brick thrown through his window with a note attached that read, testify and you're dead.
And then the next night somebody tried to set fire to his house. What we see at this little league game is the true human spirit. You see, the world is great at all of its plastic rhetoric, all the rhetoric that says, let's all get along. Let's all love each other. There's a new world order out here. But you know, folks, you just cross somebody and you'll find out what the real color of the human spirit is.
Because the real color of the human spirit is retaliation, revenge, payback. That's what it's all about. Now, in direct contrast to that, Jesus says what he says to us here in Luke chapter six this morning. He says probably the most famous sentence anywhere in the Bible. Verse 31.
Look at it. It says, do unto others. You know the rest, don't you? As you would have them do unto you. What do we call that? The golden rule.
Right? And everybody knows that. They taught you that in elementary school. Your mom and dad taught you that.
You've heard that before. But I want to say that this is more than just a nice platitude. It's more than just a nice statement that we write in very fancy letters and put up on the wall somewhere. But I believe contained in this verse and the teaching that's around it here in Luke chapter six, we find one of the most powerful instruments of human living anywhere in the world.
Powerful for what it can do for your life and powerful for what it can do as Christians in terms of our affecting other people's lives and seeing them come to know Christ in a real and personal way. So I'm not going to approach this as a platitude this morning. I'm going to approach it as a piece of life changing teaching that Jesus Christ has given us that he expects us to take seriously.
And I hope I can convince you of the same thing before I'm done. Let's look here in verse 27. But I tell you, Jesus said, I tell you who listen to me, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.
Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other cheek. If someone takes your cloak, don't stop him from taking your tunic.
Give to everyone who asks you. And if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Before we decide what this passage does mean, it's very important that we understand what this passage does not mean. Because there are many people who have taken Jesus's statements here and have turned them around and twisted them into meaning something that Jesus never intended them to mean. People have taken these verses and have come up with teaching when it comes to punishing criminals based on these verses. That's not what Jesus is talking about. People have taken these verses and said, well, you know, if somebody breaks in your home and you think that they're threatening you or your children or your family, you shouldn't do anything to them because Jesus said turn the other cheek. That's not what Jesus is talking about. Some people have gone so far as to say that they think these verses apply to us exercising our legal rights as Christians and saying in a society like America we should never exercise our legal rights because Jesus says turn the other cheek. Now is that really what he's saying?
Are those the issues he's talking about? When I first came to the Washington area back in 1971, I fell in with a fellow down in Alexandria named Bob Porter. Bob Porter was a man who owned a street front, a little store down on King Street in Alexandria, and from this little storefront he did street witnessing, street evangelism every day.
He was out on King Street with the bums and the winos and the prostitutes and the drug addicts and the homeless people sharing Christ with them and I got involved with him and every day we went out there on King Street and we did this. Now King Street's a pretty rough place now and it was a lot rougher 20 years ago. There were some people down on King Street that you would not want to meet by yourself in the evening.
In fact, you wouldn't want to meet them by yourself in the daytime much less in the evening. But Bob Porter was pretty well equipped to handle it. He was an ex-alcoholic himself. He was a former athlete, a former professional athlete, played baseball. He was a southern boy, a big strong southern boy that in his unsaved days he had a mean streak that ran through him kind of like the beltway, runs through Washington. And yet he was a Christian now and I'll never forget one day he was sitting in the office there on King Street sitting behind a little table working on a Bible study and this fellow came walking in with this big knife in his hand and he said, preacher, that's what they call Bob, preacher, says it says in the Bible that if somebody hits you on one cheek you're supposed to turn the other cheek.
Now I'm going to find out what kind of a Christian you really are. I want you to get up and lie down on the floor and I'm going to cut you up. You say that doesn't happen in real life, does it?
It does on King Street. And Bob Porter stood up and when Bob stood up, Bob stood up and he pointed his finger at this fellow and this is what he said to him. He said if you take one more step towards me with that knife, he said I'm going to break you in half and shove that knife right down your throat. And we all knew he meant business and that guy walked right back out the store. He said well, Lon, in light of what Jesus says here, is that right?
Yes, sir, absolutely right. Jesus is not saying here that we should lie down and let people cut us up with knives. Jesus is not saying if somebody breaks in your house and is going to harm your family that you should not defend yourself.
Jesus is not saying that it's wrong to punish criminals for criminal activity and Jesus is not saying that it's wrong for us to exercise our legal rights in a society. Jesus is talking about one issue and one issue only. He is talking about the issue of our personal response to abuse, our personal response to mistreatment.
He's talking about the issues of personal revenge and personal retaliation and that bitter attitude that says I'm going to get you back for the last thing I ever do for what you did to me. That's what Jesus is talking about and that's all he's talking about. So let's make sure we know what we're really dealing with before we deal with it, okay? So we don't misunderstand this passage, misinterpret it and come up with all kinds of screwy interpretations that Jesus never had in mind here. All right, everybody, we're all together now, right?
Okay, let's look at it. But I tell you, Jesus said, love your enemies. Now the people that Jesus is talking about here to us, he tells us in verse 27 who they are. He says they're your enemies, they're people who hate you, verse 28. They're people who curse you and they're people who mistreat you. Now when I use words like that, curse, mistreat, hate, do evil to you, can you put a face on this? Huh? A lot of us can. A lot of us immediately.
A lot of face, maybe two faces that go with these words. Isn't it amazing how often in life we run into these kind of people? Seems like life is full of people who treat us this way from time to time. And we often feel like Norm on Cheers who said this is a dog-eat-dog world and I'm wearing milk-bone underwear. Can you relate?
I've had days like that, haven't you? Now in light of that, what does Jesus tell us to do? To people that emotionally we don't like, to people whose performance towards us is rotten, and to people who our natural response is to strike them back and hurt them worse than they hurt us. Look what Jesus said. But I tell you, love your enemies. And everything else that Jesus says flows out of this one command.
Everything else is just a fleshing out of this one command, love your enemies. In Greek, there are three words that are commonly translated love in English. The first is the Greek word eros. We get our English word erotic from this word. This obviously refers to the love between a man and a woman, sexual love.
This is not the word Jesus uses here. There's a second word in Greek that's translated love. It's the word philos. We find it in our English word, the name of the city.
You know the city? Philadelphia, meaning the city of brotherly love. This too is not the word Jesus uses here. Philos is a word that applies to the kind of love we have for people who we have a very strong emotional feeling for.
You know, we feel warm about them, we feel fuzzy about them, and therefore we love them. This is the kind of love that we might have for our close friends, or for our children, or our grandchildren, or maybe for our husband or our wife on a good day type thing. But this is not the word Jesus uses here. Jesus uses a third word, and the word he uses is the word agape. And the word agape in the New Testament means God's love. It's a word that's reserved in the New Testament to describe the kind of love that God has for us as human beings, and that we as people should copy. Now, if we're going to understand this passage, and we're going to understand what Jesus is asking us to do, it's important that we understand agape love, because this is what Jesus is asking us to show to other people.
So let me see if I can help us understand what this love is all about. We know it's not erotic love, and we know it's not warm, fuzzy love, so what is it? Well, there are three words I'd like to give you that describe agape, and here they are. Unemotional, unconditional, and unnatural. Unemotional, unconditional, and unnatural.
Let me explain those words. First of all, agape is unemotional, meaning that agape love is not based on our emotions. Agape love is a love that is based on a commitment of our will, a commitment to act in the best interest of another person, regardless of how we feel about them. And friends, in God asking us to show agape love to other people, we have to understand God is not asking us to feel anything about them.
What God is asking us for is to make a decision of our will that we will pursue and do what is in their best interest, doesn't matter how we feel. This is an unemotional love. I always get couples that come in my office who want to be married, and that's nice, and they tell me about how they met, and they tell me about how they fell in love, and they tell me about how he proposed, and they tell me about how, oh, we just love each other so much. And the air is so thick in the air, if you squeezed it, you'd get moisture out. It's squishy is the only word I know, just squishy.
And that's nice. Squishy is good, as long as you can keep it going, it's good. But agape is not squishy love. It's not squishy love.
This has nothing to do with how you feel. People don't fall into agape love. This is something that you make as a commitment of your will. You decide to have agape love.
And you know what? We can agape people we don't even like. Say, no, I can't love anybody I don't like. Yes, you can.
Yes, you can. If it's this kind of love, you may not like a coworker who stabs you in the back, but you can show agape to them. You can still seek what's best for them and do what's best for them. You may not like a boss who lies and manipulates for their own advantage, but you can still show agape to them. You may not like a neighbor who does mean things to your children or a relative who plays cheap family politics or a so-called friend who slanders you and betrays you, but you can still show agape to them, because agape does not depend on how you feel.
It's a decision you make to do something. Second of all, agape is unconditional. Agape love is not based upon performance. When we agree to agape somebody, we agree, we commit ourselves to seek what is best for them regardless of their performance.
If you've ever raised a child, you understand how agape love has to work, because you as a parent are committing yourself to care for them even though they don't perform correctly all the time. If you've ever been married, you understand how this works. We take vows when we get married and we stand up and say what? For better or for richer or for... That's right.
That's exactly right. When Brenda and I stood up and we took our vows 19 years ago, we said for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer. And I have to tell you that in 19 years of being married, I have definitely done some things that have landed us on the poorer and the worser side of this whole thing. Like the time I emptied my bank account and went out and bought silver at $35 an ounce.
I did that. I still have lots of silver. And if you ever want silver, come see me. I will sell it to you. I won't even charge you commission.
No loading fees, no nothing. I'll sell it to you for exactly what I paid for it. And I keep praying the economy goes completely bust and we hit hyperinflation and the whole currency falls apart because if we do, I'm going to be a hero. Because I haven't been up to this point in my house. And I've done a lot of other dumb things. You said you couldn't have done anything dumber than that.
Well, I'm afraid I have that I'm too embarrassed to tell you about. But believe me, if our love had been built on philosophy, love on that warm, squishy type of love, we'd have been divorced 18 and a half years ago. I'm telling you the truth. We would have been divorced 18 and a half years ago. We'd have been divorced before I even bought the silver. But you know, when Brenda and I got married, we made a commitment that we were going to agape one another and that that meant we were going to stick with one another and love one another and do what was best for one another regardless how the other person performed. And that's the only reason we're still together today.
The only reason. This is the kind of love God's asking us to show for other people. And third, it's not only unemotional and unconditional, but it's unnatural to love somebody like this. You want to know what natural love is?
Look at our little league game. You'll see natural human love in action. But this is unnatural love. And in calling us to show this kind of love for people, Jesus understands he's asking us to do something unnatural. That's why he gave us the Spirit of God living inside of us as Christians to give us the power to do something we can't naturally do, to love in a way we can't naturally love. And down in verse 31, do to others as you would have them do unto you, turns out to be in one sentence, can you see it, a summary of what agape love is all about.
If you had to summarize agape love in one sentence, this is it. Do unto others. It doesn't matter how you feel. God's not asking you to feel.
He's asking you to do. And it doesn't say do unto others the way they did unto you. It says do unto others the way you wish they would have done unto you. Regardless of your emotional feelings towards them, do unto them as you wish they'd have done unto you. Regardless of their performance towards you, do unto them the way you wish they'd have done unto you.
Regardless of what in your human side you feel like doing to them in return, you do to them what you wish they'd have done to you. This is what Jesus is asking from each of us, to agape others. As I mentioned to you, this is really what God showed to us. This is the love of God.
In asking us to do this, God is asking us to copy him because this is the way he loves. The Bible says God so loved agape, the world, that he sent his only son that whoever would believe in his son might not die but have eternal life. And in Romans chapter 5, the Bible says that even while we were God's enemies, even while we were sinners, even while we didn't want anything to do with God, even while our performance was stinky and horrible in God's sight, God demonstrated his agape towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ went to the cross and he died for us. See, Jesus did for us what we needed to be done and it didn't have anything to do with emotion.
It didn't have anything to do with our performance. It didn't have anything to do with the way his human side felt about the abuse we gave him. He did it because he agape'd us. And if you're here this morning and you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, may I say to you that the big issue between you and God this morning is not the golden rule. You can't keep the golden rule anyway and even if you could, you can't work your way into heaven by doing it. The big issue between you and God is the love of God, the agape of God that God offers you free. Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay for your sins free just because he loves you unconditionally. And the big issue is are you prepared to throw away everything else you've ever tried to use to earn your way into God's love and just simply accept God's love?
Because he loves you unconditionally. I hope you'll think about that. If you're here and you're a Christian, what God's asking us is to take the same kind of love that he's loved us with and go out there and try to show it to other people. Now you say, La, I appreciate that and I understand what you're saying, but it still leaves me with a big question and that is? So what?
Right. I understand what I'm supposed to do, La, but this is hard. I mean, this is stressful, this is demanding, this is intensive. Why should I do this?
Why should I put myself through all this stress? I have two reasons to give you as I close. Number one, because it's best for you.
Number one, it's best for you. Peter one time met a fellow named Simon. He was a sorcerer and Peter said to him, you know, Simon, he said, I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness and in slavery to sin. Now gall is bitter stuff, it's horrible stuff, it's like vinegar, it's terrible stuff.
And Peter says, this is what your life's like, Simon, because of the bitterness that you have inside of you. And folks, the Bible says and psychologists confirm that bitterness and revenge is like a strep infection for the soul. I once knew a doctor who said to me, La, he said bitterness puts more people in the hospital than bacteria does.
I never forgot that. Bitterness puts more people in the hospital than bacteria does. And I believe that. I don't know if you do, but I believe that. I believe there are more hospital beds being filled a day by people who are physically sick because they are spiritually sick with bitterness than for any other reason.
And what penicillin is to the body, living the golden rule is to the soul. How do you get over bitterness? Say, well, La, you go see a therapist.
Wrong. A therapist may help you identify bitterness, but a therapist will never heal you. You know how you get over bitterness? You know how you have healing into your life? Love is what heals bitterness. When we commit ourselves to love that other person, to do what Jesus said, to do good to them, to bless them, to pray for them, to actively commit ourselves to living the golden rule towards them, God brings healing for the bitterness into our soul. You'll never get healed by going to a therapist, but if you'll commit yourself to live towards them the way Jesus Christ tells you to, God will heal your soul.
And it's a lot cheaper than a therapist, too, believe me. And God asks us to live this way, the golden rule, in our relationships with people. He's doing it because he knows it's best for you and best for me. But there's a second reason, and that is that if we want to make an impact on people outside in our community and in our world for Jesus Christ, this is the way to do it. Folks, if we're going to make an impact on people out there, we're going to have to live an unnatural lifestyle.
We're going to have to live a supernatural lifestyle. Look at verse 32. If you love those who love you, what credit is it to you? Even people that don't know Christ do that. And if you do good to those who do good to you, well, then what credit is that to you? Even people who don't know Christ do good to people who do good to them.
And if you lend to those from whom you expect to get it back with interest, well, what credit is that to you? Even people who don't know Christ lend to people expecting to get money back. But, Jesus said, love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them expecting nothing in return and your reward will be great and you will be sons of the Most High because He is kind to the unkind, the ungrateful, and the wicked.
You know what Jesus is saying? Jesus is saying is, folks, if we want to make an impact on the world, we're going to have to treat people differently than the world does. The world is nice to the people who are nice to them. But the world is mean to the people who are mean to them. And if we go out there and we're nice to the people who are nice to us and mean to the people who are mean to us, what kind of impression are we going to make?
We're no different than the rest of the world is. Jesus said you want to make an impression on the world, you're going to have to live differently when it comes to the people who treat you wrong. That's how you'll prove that what you've been telling them about Jesus Christ is really true. That's how you'll prove that you have a new heart and a new value system and a new Lord living inside of here.
And that's how you'll prove to them there's a different way of living than the way the world tells them to live by the way you respond to people who treat you bad. And I believe that living the golden rule and our interactions with people out there in the world can change the way that even our most hardened critics feel about us and the way they feel about our faith if we're willing to do it. One of my favorite people in all of history is Abraham Lincoln. And I think what made Abraham Lincoln such a great president and such a great leader is that Abraham Lincoln was a great man. He was a great man. I don't know how many of you have ever heard of Salmon P. Chase. You ever heard of him? No, I've never heard of him. Well, Salmon P. Chase was the governor of Ohio. You say, so what? He was a U.S. senator.
Okay. He was also appointed by President Lincoln when he was first elected to be Secretary of the Treasury. In 1864, when Lincoln was up for renomination by the Republican Party, Salmon P. Chase decided he wanted to be president instead of Lincoln. He wanted the Republican nomination instead of Lincoln. So he began to go after it.
He organized his own election committee. He went out and found every enemy that Lincoln had ever made as president. And you know what? As a leader, you make enemies.
That's part of what comes with the turf. He went and found them. And he wrote them letters, many of which we still have today, saying if I were the president, I would fix your situation. I'd do the right thing by you. I wouldn't do what that dirty guy Lincoln did.
You need to support me. And not only that, but he spoke in the newspapers and told them what a poor president Lincoln was, what a bad job he did of leading cabinet meetings, how disorganized he was. And he criticized the man up and down.
And you know what? He did all of that without ever resigning from the cabinet. He was still in Lincoln's cabinet.
Well, as we all know, Lincoln won. But what do you do to an Absalom in the gate like this after you win? What would you do?
I see some of you smiling. What would the Democrats do or the Republicans do? They don't even let the nice guys keep their jobs when they switch. Listen to what Lincoln said. I quote, As to Mr. Chase's talk about me, I don't mind that. People say to me, this is the time to crush him out, Lincoln. Well, Lincoln said, I'm not in favor of crushing anybody out.
If Mr. Chase has said some hard things about me, I in turn have said some hard things about him, which I guess squares the account. He is a very able man. And if there's anything that a man can do and do it well in these times, then I say, let him do it. End of quote. And you know what Lincoln did? He didn't say, yay, let him keep his job on the cabinet. No, he did more than that.
He nominated and appointed Salmon P. Chase as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court several months after his reelection, a post that Mr. Chase was confirmed in and held for many, many years. That's incredible. Well, it's about as incredible as what Lincoln did with Edwin Stanton. Edwin Stanton was an arch rival of Lincoln, hated Lincoln. When Lincoln ran for election the first time, he called him an imbecile. And because Lincoln had long arms and tended to walk a little bit like this, he coined a name for Lincoln. He called him the original gorilla.
And he would call him the gorilla in print. When Lincoln won, he approached Mr. Stanton and made him Secretary of War, added him to the cabinet. You say, man, that must have been some cabinet.
Well, it was. And when one of his advisors came to him and began upbraiding him and berating him for how stupid could he be to put a man on his cabinet who called him a gorilla and ask him why in the world he would ever do that, you know what Lincoln said? And I quote, he said, because he's the best man for the job, end of quote.
Pretty simple. Abraham Lincoln was committed to doing what was best for this country, what was best for these men, regardless of the abuse they gave him. That's what made him the man he was. Did it change the way they felt about him? In 1865, when Abraham Lincoln was shot, two of the very first people to reach his bedside were guess who?
You'll never guess. Salmon P. Chase and Edwin Stanton. And during that night when Lincoln lay dying across the street from Ford's Theater here in Washington, there were many, many people who came and went, came and went, came and went.
But two people who never left his side were Salmon P. Chase and Edwin Stanton. Early in the morning when Lincoln finally died, it was Edwin Stanton, the man who had called him an imbecile, the man who had repeatedly called him a gorilla, who uttered these words, and I quote, standing over the bedside, he said, here lies the greatest ruler of men that this world has ever known, end of quote. That's quite a change of attitude in five years, isn't it? All because there was a man who lived what Jesus told him to live.
Look at the change it made. And dear friends, you know, we're here to touch people's lives with the love of God. One of the greatest weapons we have is a supernatural lifestyle, and one of the greatest places to display it is when you're mistreated. Be a Lincoln. Be a Lincoln. You say, Lon, that's so hard. It's not hard. It's impossible. Except for the power of the Spirit of God in your life. But with the power of the Spirit of God in your life as a Christian, you can do it. May God help us to understand the power that's in these verses, to change people's lives and their opinions of Christianity. We can't undo what Jim Baker did.
We can't undo what Jimmy Swaggart did. But we can change the way people feel about it and our faith by living what Jesus says here in Luke chapter six. May God help you ask the Spirit of God to give you the power every day to do it. And may God help you do it.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, there is nothing harder for us than when we're hurt. Nothing more difficult for us as people than when we're mistreated. Even the best of us. Even those of us who've been Christians a long, long time. The temptation is so great to strike back and hurt back.
To have our own little league game. But, Lord Jesus, I pray that you would remind us today that this is not your way. When we hurt you, you don't hurt us back. When we perform poorly towards you, you don't reject us because you have agape for us. And I pray, Lord Jesus, that you would motivate us this morning that this is the way you want us to live towards other people. Thank you for giving us the Holy Spirit living inside of us who can give us the power to live this way because we can't live this way, Lord, naturally. And I pray for every one of the people here, young people, older people, guys, gals, that you would send us out this week as carriers of a supernatural lifestyle that not only will be a blessing for us, but make a great impact for you on the lives of people that we touch each and every day. Lord Jesus, thank you for loving us the way you do. Help us in some small measure to love others in that same way. We pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-03 11:31:14 / 2023-04-03 11:45:15 / 14