This Sunday, February 20, we will be looking at Jesus’ “Sermon on the Plain” found in Luke, Chapter 6. It has some notable distinctions from Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” including the context of the one of Christ’s most challenging teachings: to love our enemies and do good to them, blessing them and praying for them (Lk. 6:27-36).
Most of us may have some difficulty identifying “enemies” in our lives. That is a good thing! But all of us can recall difficult and even broken relationships where hostility, distrust and even animosity lingered. Often these relationships are very close to home. How are we to “love” such people, especially if they have no desire at all to reciprocate? Here are two suggestions from our text:
- “Loving” your enemies has little to do with “liking” them. You may not like, trust, or even want to be around these people. But you can still pray for them, offering them the same fairness and consideration you would wish for yourself if the roles were reversed. This is why Jesus ended this first part of his teaching by tying it to the Golden Rule (v.31). When you try to remain focused on the positive aspects of a person’s overall life and character, you are choosing not to be controlled by their negative words and actions. This what “freedom in Christ” looks like: it’s not freedom “from,” but freedom “to.”
- You can choose to be compassionate: both toward your enemies and toward yourself. Jesus taught us that God is merciful, showing kindness toward wicked and ungrateful people. What would it look like for you to do the same? Following Christ isn’t easy. But when you seek to see yourself and your struggles through Christ’s eyes, you will be far more able to view others as Christ sees them: as sinful and broken people for whom Christ died. This will begin to change who you are. This is the power and freedom which comes with “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). Compassion is the key.
Remember, loving one’s enemies doesn’t get done in a day. It represents a lifelong journey of faith taken one step at a time (and often a couple of steps back!). What is crucial, however, is the direction we’re going. We are courageously aspiring to become persons of goodwill, compassion, forgiveness, and grace. As “children of the Most High” (v. 35), we are seeking to be more and more like Jesus, who loved his enemies all the way to the cross.
And this is how we do it: by taking up our own crosses; by having compassion for others and ourselves; by showing kindness in the face of hostility and ingratitude; and by overcoming enmity with words and with actions that are good.