If you think that living the Christian life just comes naturally, think again. Today on Truth for Life weekend, we'll discover that following Jesus requires a love that defies logic, and that kind of love is precisely what the world needs. We're continuing in Luke chapter 6 beginning with verse 27.
Here's Alistair Begg. In Matthew, he records the fact that Jesus actually establishes the antithesis by saying to the people, you have heard that it was said you should love your neighbor and hate your enemy. That's the standard approach. Everybody understands that. You like people you're supposed to like, and you hate people you're allowed to hate. You get the enemies, you can hate them. You get the neighbors, you can love them. Jesus says, you've heard that that's what's been said, but I want to tell you something. You've got to love your enemies. Let me, he says, turn this completely the other way up. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.
I am the Lord. So where does it say anything about hating your enemies? Nowhere.
Right? The love of which Jesus speaks here redefines the boundaries, makes them porous, if you like. Does not allow the follower of Jesus to determine who he's going to love. Does not allow us to do the us-for-no-more-shut-the-door trick. We can't do that. Not if we are the followers of Christ. We cannot simply isolate the little group of people that fits within our comfort zone and say, now, we're going to love these people, but anybody who fits without the circle, frankly, we don't have to really worry about them at all. No, Jesus says, you can't do that.
Let me tell you what you need to do. You need to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who ill-treat you. So the distinctions of race, nationality, political affiliation, age, sex, background, etc., are blown away in the words of Jesus here. Well then, what is it? Well, it's a call to display, as I've said, the family likeness. We miss the point—and I almost missed this point in my study this week. I almost missed the point. If we view what Jesus is saying here simply in terms of a prescription for moral behavior, we miss the point. If we view it simply as a prescription for moral behavior, you say, but isn't it a prescription for moral behavior? Yes, it is. Well, what do you mean? I mean this, that it is relatively understandable for people who name the name of Christ to go out and, in a kind of painstaking, formal, legalistic sense, give it a go. I heard you're supposed to love your enemies.
Well, I'll go out and give it a go this week. Prescription number one, love your enemies. Number two, if someone curses you, if they make a very ugly sign to you, when you're trying to get on 480, you don't make an ugly sign back. You go, oh God, bless that lovely sinner over there in the blue Ford pickup truck. If he goes as far as shouting out the window and tells us that we are a very bad place from somewhere, then we do not reply in kind, and we'll grit our teeth, and we'll do it.
No. I think the reason that we're making the hash of it that we are is because that is exactly what we're trying to do. In other words, here's a moral prescription.
We're going to have a go at it. What am I getting at? Simply this. The teaching of Jesus here is a call to his followers, first of all, to accept this inversion of the accepted view of things. To believe, if you like, that he who is the doctor has prescribed the directly correct medicine for the ailment, and that what Jesus is saying is absolutely true, and it's absolutely right. And once we have bowed beneath the truthfulness and the rightness of it, then we are to act accordingly. I don't know if I'm making the distinction clear.
Here's the rub. Let me put it in this way. The reason why many of us, if we're brutally honest, balk at the very clarity of this command—its unequivocal injunction—is on account of our unbelief. And our unbelief is sin.
So that in our minds, first of all, we remain unbelieving in relationship to this matter of loving our enemies. We are not believers. Oh, we may sort of pay lip service to it, but we are not believers. We don't believe it. We don't bow underneath the weight of it. And without believing it, then we go out and try and do it.
And it's hollow, you see. Because the Bible is very clear. Paul takes the same principle and drives it home with great effect when in Romans 12.2 he says, Do not be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. So until my mind is renewed, my actions may simply be an indication of slavish legalism, and that I may not actually be loving my enemies. I may simply be going through a routine in order, as it were, to be able to check off Luke 6, 27 and following.
Had a go at that, had a go at that, and had a go at that. Yes, but I never bowed beneath it. That's why I say to you, don't you sometimes look at this and say, I wonder if I'm a Christian at all? Because if you love those who love you, what reward is that? People do that in the pub. If you give to those who can pay you back with interest, what reward is that?
Banks do it all the time. If you're abused and you respond in love, people say, What's going on here? Now, it's going to be when the Christian church is prepared to live with the inverted set of world values that we will make an impact on the culture. You see how stupid we've been for 25 or 30 years trying to champion a political cause and fix it in Washington? God says, Fix it in your own heart, would you? Fix yourselves!
Fix your church! Fix your snobbery! Fix your grudges! Fix your animosity!
Cut it out! Do you honestly think you've changed the world by political machinations? Do what my Word says. I'll show you how to make an impact on the culture, says Jesus. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate your guts.
Bless those who curse you, and pray for those who ill-treat you. Do you think that would be a revolution in a culture? Without any question at all.
Without any question at all. Because first of all, this is what it would do tomorrow morning. It would involve a significant number of telephone calls out of here that would close down frivolous lawsuits, which are all about vengeance and revenge, which are all about imbibing the world's mentality, which says, You know what? I'll stick it to you for that.
I'm going to get you for that. And what are we saying when we say that? We're saying that time is everything. This is all we have. This is all we possess. And we must have it, and we must keep it. When we say, You know what?
That's a significant loss. I love you. Not because I feel affection for you. I feel no affection for you. Not because I think you're distinctly likable. I don't even like you at all. I don't feel one ounce of anything for you except animosity, but I'm going to love you.
Because I've asked that the mind of Christ my Savior may dwell in me from day to day and by his love and power controlling all I do and say, And may the love of Jesus fill me as the waters fill the sea, and him exalting self-abasing. This is victory. Is that an inversion of the world order? Him exalting self-abasing.
The world order is self-exalting, everybody else abasing. Oh, I read this, and I sometimes wonder if I'm a Christian at all. Someone strikes you on the cheek. Jesus said, Let me just illustrate it. Someone punches you on the jaw. Turn to him the other. Someone takes your cloak.
Don't stop him from taking your jacket. Give to everyone, ask you, and anyone takes what belongs to you. Don't demand it back and do to others as you would have them do to you. That's the royal law or the golden rule as we know it.
Jesus is calling his followers to display something that is radically counterculture, radically different from the principle upon which Roman society and village life was built. What was the principle? The principle was patronage. Now, it's a principle with which we are not unfamiliar. One of the great patrons of the arts just died, a man in his 90s I saw in the New York Times last week.
I've already forgotten his name. It didn't mean anything to me when I read it, but it was interesting for me to read again about the nature of patronage and how this man, because of his wealth, was able to take young aspiring artists and buy into their lives and experience as a result of him becoming their benefactor. And the whole of Roman society was built on that. The benefactor provided the resources, held the people to account on the strength of the fact that he had bought his way in.
In the same in village life, somebody was in usury to somebody else who had provided him with something. And Jesus is saying this, I don't want you to live in that community bearing the principles of that community. This is what I want you to do. I want you to essentially form a community that is marked by a refusal to treat others—even those who hate, exclude, revile, and defame you—as though they were your enemies.
I want you to live in a community marked by a refusal to treat others as though they were your enemies. Is abortion counter to the creative handiwork of God without question? Are abortionists our enemies? In one sense, yes. What then shall we do?
Continue to do what we do? Or do you want to have a go at it the Jesus way? Is homosexuality a perversion in his practice? Does it undermine all that God has established in terms of the creative order, in terms of the nature of productivity and reproduction? Absolutely. Is that an enemy to everything wholesome and true and pure and right?
Without question. So how then should we treat the enemy? The way we've been doing it? Or do you think we might try the Jesus way?
See, by and large, the church has got no clue what kind of impact we would make on a culture if we were prepared to take clearly the call of Christ to a cultural mandate that is so radically different from everything we've lived by. We are like our neighbors. We file for divorce on the same basis.
We pursue lawsuits on the same frivolous basis. We give so we can get back. If someone strikes you a blow, we nail them in case they come back again, and so on. Now, what's Jesus saying? Our activity in life is not to be driven by having somebody stand at the entranceway, as it were, to our house, constantly shouting, who goes there, friend or foe? The person says, foe?
We reply, I hate you. Get out of here, please. Friend, come in, oh lovely one.
And we may think that's kind of cool, but I'm going to tell you, if you want to go and really survey our community about what they think about church, I'd pretty well guarantee you that they think that we've got somebody standing at the door doing just that. Foe? Friend? Jesus says, how about this? Now, it's not just an attitude.
It's an action. It's revealed in our actions. We cannot weasel out of it by saying, well, you know, I don't do anybody any harm. If you have this conversation with people, somebody will eventually say, you know, one of two things. This is how they opt out. They go, well, you know, charity begins at home.
Where'd you get that from? Well, let me just say it again. Charity begins at home. Actually, we're talking here about loving your enemies. Where does that fit in just now?
Well, I don't know if you think it fits in, but I always like to say charity begins at home. Mm-hmm. And then the other one, someone will interject and go, you know, I don't do anybody any harm. Well, hey, good for you. We're actually talking here about something very positive. We're not talking about passivity. We're not talking about what you don't do. We're talking about what you do do. And that is, do you love your enemies?
Oh, no, I don't do that. But of course, as I always say, I don't do anybody any harm. It's not enough to refrain from hostility, says Jesus. Our deeds and our words are to display the love of Christ. Do good to those who hate you. Bless the ones that swear at you and curse you out.
Pray for those who abuse you. And then he illustrates it—from taking a punch, losing a coat, learning to give. What is the principle that Jesus is making here? It's simply this, that when we receive an injury, as we inevitably will, we must not instinctively seek revenge.
Indeed, he says, we must be ready to take another injury if necessary, because the fact of the matter is, it is more than likely that the person will come back and have another go at us. Now, don't misunderstand me when I say what I'm about to say. Here is another place in which a crass literalism will prevent us from truly understanding and applying the Bible. What I mean by that is the distinction that we've mentioned before between taking the Bible literally, which is taking the literal sense and meaning and application of what is being conveyed, and taking the Bible literalistically, which of course would be to do it a disservice. So, for example, Jesus said, I am the door. Literalistically, Jesus is a door, you know, a literal, you know, eight-by-two door or something like that.
That would be literalistically. Literally would be within the framework of metaphor and simile which Jesus is using. Now, the reason I say that here is because when you get to John chapter 18—and I'll leave this for your homework—where Jesus is struck by one of the officials in the temple court, Jesus doesn't actually do what he says to do here in Luke chapter 6. The temple official strikes him on the face.
We would expect that we would read, and having been struck on the face, Jesus turned around so he could be struck on the face again. No. He said to the guy, hey, what do you think you're doing? Was he violating his own teaching?
Absolutely not. Is he really suggesting here that if somebody nicks off with your outer coat, that you go running after him and go, hey, you want a jacket as well? See, that's what he's saying. Or in contemporary terms, you come back to your driveway and your car's gone, and you go, I've got to go find that guy, because that's my wife's car here. Maybe you can steal that one as well.
Hey, my wife in the car, you want to take that as well? The guy said, that's an idiot. This person's an idiot. This isn't the teaching of Christ. This is idiocy. And he'd be absolutely right. The principle is clear. Indeed, literalistically, what you would have as a result of applying this would be a group of pious paupers all sitting around with swollen faces, and another group of people, you know, fat cats, all sitting around with stuff and cloaks and everything, and just cussing like crazy, you know. And then people say, there we are, we've got it the way it's supposed to be now.
No, that would be stupidity. And that's what you get every so often from people that study in the Bible. They get in home Bible study groups, and it just goes totally south. Jesus is not calling his followers to some weak form of complacency, which confirms evildoers in their weakness. The context is that of personal relationships. And he's saying, it is normal for people who, when reviled, to revile in return. It is normal for people to respond like to like, force to force, vengeance to vengeance.
It is normal for people to deprive others of what they need and, having given to others, to extract as much interest and usury for them as they can. And he says, I don't want my followers to be living like that at all. It is not, I say to you again, a form of weak sentimentalism. It is a strong, self-determined, God-motivated love, which seeks to do what's best for the enemy. Again, a crest literalism would allow a murderer to come and take your wife away.
Wouldn't it? I mean, if you applied this exactly, someone came and struck you on the cheek, and then you just stayed there until he beat you into a bloody pulp and into eternity? Is that what Jesus is saying?
No, listen to Lenski again. I'm going to wrap it with this. Love is to foster no crime in others, or to expose our loved ones to disaster or perhaps to death. Coupled with selfless love—and this is a great sentence.
I wish I could think of one sentence like this once before I die. Coupled with selfless love is the wisdom which applies love. Christ never told me not to restrain the murderer's hand, not to check the thief and robber, not to oppose the tyrant, or to foster shiftlessness, dishonesty, and greed by my gifts. But he did tell me to love my enemies with a love that knows no bounds except love itself. That brings us then to verse 31, and to what we refer to as the golden rule, do to others as you would have them do to you. Now, we're going to have to understand what that means and rescue it from the people who trot it out with regularity and then display it in a way that will cause many who are our enemies perhaps to become the friends of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus calls each of us to live a radical lifestyle where we love our enemies. It may lead them to become friends of God.
You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life Weekend, and Alistair returns in just a moment to close today's program with prayer. Here at Truth for Life, teaching the Bible is at the heart of all we do. In fact, our sole purpose is to open God's Word every day. We trust that as you listen, you'll come to understand what the Bible says and what it means, and that as a believer, your faith in God will be strengthened by the Scriptures.
Another way you can grow in your faith is by spending time in personal Bible study. So if you haven't already, we want to invite you to sign up to receive the Truth for Life Daily Devotional. This is a brand new daily email from Alistair. It presents a scripture passage followed by a reflection that Alistair has written. All of the daily reflections are taken from his recently released book titled Truth for Life, 365 Daily Devotions.
Sign up for the free email by going online to truthforlife.org slash 365. While you're on our website, be sure to check out our featured book this month, Little Pilgrim's Big Journey. You may be familiar with the classic book The Pilgrim's Progress. It's a story that's inspired countless generations of Christians, including Alistair. The author, John Bunyan, was a Puritan.
He wrote the book while he was spending 12 years in prison for preaching the Gospel. This is a classic tale that in this edition has been wonderfully simplified for young children. Little Pilgrim's Big Journey takes you from the city of destruction to the celestial city. The story is perfect for bedtime reading. Children of all ages will love hearing the engaging adventure that tells of the challenges and pitfalls of the Christian life. Find out more about Little Pilgrim's Big Journey when you visit our website truthforlife.org. Now here's Alistair to close with prayer. Father, I thank you for the Bible. Thank you that it is such a challenging book. It searches into our lives.
It is uncomfortable. It's sharp as a two-edged sword. Forgive us, Lord, for being hearers of the Word and not doers also. Forgive me for paying lip service to the idea of loving my enemies. And the only safeguard is to have my mind renewed and my will brought into subjection to your truth. Lord, I believe you have great purposes for Parkside Church if we, as a company of people, are prepared to take these issues seriously.
And if we're not, then perhaps we'll stand on the sidelines and watch as others know the privilege of seeing unbelieving people become the committed followers of Jesus Christ. Save us from that, save us from that, we pray. We're jealous to have a part in your kingdom plan. So then, establish within us the principles of your kingdom. And may grace and mercy and peace from the triune God be our portion now and forevermore. Amen. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us today. I hope you'll listen again next weekend as Alistair examines the golden rule. All of us have heard it, but can we possibly live it? The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
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