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Christ’s Light of Love in and Through You

    Feb 24, 2019

    Passage: Luke 6:27-28

    Preacher: Rev. Dr. Alfonso Espinosa

    Category: Sunday, Epiphany

    Detail:

    The Text: 27[Jesus said:] “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

    In the Name of Jesus. Amen. What the LORD Jesus Christ did for us doesn’t make any sense. It isn’t the way we operate. It doesn’t fit our way of doing things. The words that He spoke and speaks today are unnatural for us. To say the least, these words are unreasonable. Love my enemies? Do good to those who hate me? Bless those who curse me? Pray for those who abuse me?

    And yet this is what Jesus did. His words are not empty theory. For Him, these were not idealistic, but actual descriptions of what He did for you and for me. The Word at Romans chapter 5 makes clear that Christ loved us and saved us not before, but while we were weak (vs 6), ungodly (vs 6), sinners (vs 8), and His enemies (vs 10).

    Thus, the Scriptures record Jesus’ prayer while on the cross dying: “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ And they cast lots to divide his garments.” (vs 34)

    What is more, the Scriptures prove that this seemingly crazy love was not confined to the Lord Jesus Christ. St. Stephen – among the first deacons appointed by the apostles – proclaimed the gospel to the enemies of God, loving them and serving them so that they would not be condemned. What did it buy St. Stephen? Acts 7:60: “And falling to his knees [Stephen] cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ And when he had said this, he fell asleep [that is, he died].” Just as Jesus prayed for His enemies before they finished murdering Him, Stephen – the disciple of Jesus – did the exact same thing: He prayed for His enemies who were in the process of murdering him. Jesus’ seeming crazy love was now contagious.

    Still, even with the example of our Savior (who was without sin) and even further with the example of St. Stephen who was a sinner, we still find ourselves unnerved by Christ’s words to us: “love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” It just doesn’t seem right.

    What are we to do with these words? One option that is not right nor in accord with the saving faith is that we ignore them. This is quite simply not an option for the child of God who has been saved from sin and death by Jesus. If we ignore these, then we are kidding ourselves. If we ignore these, then we are not Christians. To ignore these words, to treat them as unrealistic hyperbole, is to join the world. The world’s way is clear. It is easy. Do good to those who are kind to you. Do good only to those who respect you. Do good only to those who treat you the way you want to be treated. This is the way of any unbelieving person. That’s the world’s way. If our lives are not different than this standard, then our hearts and our souls are not different than the hearts and souls of unbelievers.

    St. Augustine taught a brilliant balance about our lives in the world. He wrote, “…we are both prohibited from loving in it what the world itself loves, and we are commanded to love in it what the world hates…”. (Just Jr., Arthur A., Ed., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture: New Testament III: Luke, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2003. 108)

    What does the world hate? It hates God, and therefore it hates those who belong to God, who speak for God, who represent God. We are hated people. We call the world out. We do not go along with its ways and standards. And this causes the world to say that you all think you’re better than others. You are judging and looking down on others. You think you’re high and holy. And for this perception – for not following the crowd and for rejecting the popular standard – you are hated.

    Jesus taught at John 15 while speaking to His disciples: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (vss 18-19)

    That is, it is indeed a good thing to be hated. We should all aspire to it. Let us be hated and thus be identified disciples of Jesus. This doesn’t mean we go looking for trouble. It simply means that this is what happens to anyone who is true to God. Sooner or later, you will be hated.

    Once I told a man that he was wrong to pursue an adulterous relationship. His comeback was to call me a servant of the devil who denied his so-called “true love” for the married woman. He hated me because in his opinion I did not see that the problems in her marriage justified his pursuing her. This man clearly without holding back at all, expressed sheer hatred toward me. He hated me and he let me know it.

    On another occasion and in respect to a different man, I knew this man attending the Divine Service was not prepared to receive the Holy Sacrament. As clearly as the Scriptures teach, “You shall not commit adultery,” the Word of God also teaches that pastors are “stewards of the mysteries of God.” (1st Cor 4:1) We are also taught by God’s Word concerning the Blessed Sacrament that, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.” (1st Cor 11:27) I was carrying out my pastoral stewardship, and when I determined that this gentleman still needed preparation for his own good, he was furious with me. And he verbally assaulted me while expressing hatred.

    The accounts could go on and I am sure that you could share some with me. One of my staff members in Texas used to remind me that sometimes, “No good deed goes unpunished.” There are times that that is exactly the case. “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” (2nd Timothy 3:12).

    Still, even with this heads-up that because we are one with Christ, that we should expect to be hated, we still do not want to cut off our desire to hate back. And this is the reason the words of Christ here are so difficult for us. We need to back up and get a better view of what is going on here.

    First, we need to clear up a very important matter about the love that Jesus is commanding us to have for our enemies. It is not the love of affection. This is a colossally important point.

    That is, it is too easy for us to assume that love always has feelings of being drawn to someone or having endearment for the object of our love. It is easy to assume that Jesus is talking about having affection for our enemies. That we should like them and approve of them. And this is where we would be wrong. This is not what the Lord is commanding.

    Such a forced affection by the way, would also be extraordinarily unwise: a forced so-called love upon an enemy, could provoke the enemy to lash out at you.

     

    But not only is the Lord not commanding us to like and to want to hang out with our enemies, He is also not saying that we ought to be close to our enemies, nor that we should trust our enemies, or even that we should be trying to find value in our enemies. What value did Christ see in us? We were condemned enemies of God! What was our value? None of this is about what we deserve. All these ideas are distractions to what Jesus commands; it is misleading fluff that gets in the way of what our Lord is saying.

    The Lord is not denying that you might have very hard feelings against your enemy. He is not saying that we do not experience a natural repulsion from our enemies. He is not denying that we don’t like our enemies very much. But all of this is beside the point.

    This love, in this commend in Luke 6, is not the love of feeling. It is the love of faith. One Lutheran teacher describes it this way:

    “This requires the love of the will, of deliberate purpose, the attitude of the regenerate man.” (Buls, Harold H., Exegetical Notes: Gospel Texts, Series C Luke-John Festival Season Sundays, Fort Wayne, Indiana: Concordia Theological Seminary Press, 1979, 27e).

    Lenski taught, that this love is “love of intelligence, comprehension, and corresponding purpose.” (Lenski, R.C.H., The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1946. 360-361)

    He elaborated, “[This love of the new will] sees all the hatefulness and the wickedness of the enemy, feels his stabs and his blows, may even have something to do to ward them off; but this fills the loving heart with only the one desire and aim to free its enemy from his hate, to rescue him from his sin, and to save his soul … the higher love may see nothing attractive in the one loved … its inner motive, be the object worthy or not, is to bestow true blessings upon the one loved, to do him the highest possible good.” (ibid., 361)

    So, we have defined and qualified this love. Still, we ask, “From where it comes?” “How can I get this love?” “How can it ever happen in my life?”

    And now we speak of what is most important. This section of Luke 6 is full of imperative commands. In the two little verses we are looking at, there is the first overarching command, and then there follows three more commands:

    “Love your enemies.”

    “Do good to those who hate you.”

    “Bless those who curse you.”

    “Pray for those who abuse you.”

    These are all about doing, but the context of Luke 6 will not allow us to isolate these words about doing from the words before them in the Beatitudes – the Blessed Statements from Jesus to His disciples – that are words not about doing, but are words about being. Before Jesus commands the doing of the Christian, He first commands the LIFE of the Christian. These commands to do come from the CREATION of what Christ has called into existence: a new creation! That’s you baptized one!

    Luke 6:20 describes disciples who are learners and to these learners, Jesus gives grace blessings. He blesses them and the Word of Jesus is powerful to bless. They are incorporated into the ONLY life that lives out the description that Jesus gives: it is Jesus’ life. And at Luke 6:27, they are called “hearers” (“those who hear”). How do they hear? How do you hear? God opens your hearing. God give you hearing. God puts His Word in you to hear and to know what He has created. And you have become what you hear! And you have begun to do what you hear!

    God commanded Lazarus to rise from the dead. This was not about what Lazarus wanted to do. Jesus did not consult with dead Lazarus as if He asked, “Hey Lazarus, do you feel like rising from the dead? Is this ok with you? Would you help me out?”

    No, Jesus commanded Lazarus to rise and Lazarus both became (was being) and started doing (was doing) what Jesus said.

    That’s the key Christian! What we speak is the work of God!

    Jesus’ Word is what changes your mind about your enemy. It is not about our emotion, it is about what the Word says. We hold to it, we believe it, we confess it, and we do it. How do you know this creation? You were baptized into Christ. That’s it.

    In baptism God created a new person. Do you still experience those old, anti-enemy thoughts? Oh yeah, we do! But that is not the last word. By God’s grace, we have another thought: it is the Word of Christ in us. And what moves us to do what we are; to live out what Christ has commanded, is what Jesus did for us:

    Loved us while we were His enemies.

    Did good to us while we hated Him.

    Blessed us while we cursed Him.

    Prayed for us while we abused Him.

    You ask, when did I do these to Jesus? You and I have done them whenever we have done them to any person Jesus made. What we have done to any person, we have done to their God who made them and died for them. Yes, we have done these to Christ, but Christ has not held it against you. In fact, He has forgiven you completely! And keeps doing good to you!

    For this reason, we have a thought that follows and overcomes our feeling. Our feeling says, “I do not desire to do good to my enemy,” but then the Word of Christ in us says: “that is beside the point.” In Christ, I turn from what I feel, and He directs me to do what Jesus did for me. This is what faith does. This is what the Christian does. This is what you are. This is what you do! In this, epiphany continues. Not only do we see the light of Christ through the miracles of nature, and His miracles over the demonic and over all disease; but we continue to see the light of Christ in another miracle: you have born again Christian. His Word shines in you, His Word has made you to be, and so His Word enables you…to do! This is all Christ. He is the One shining, not us. Let us rejoice, that His light is still seen when these words are taken seriously by the Christian:

    “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

    This is what Jesus has done and is doing for us.