Love your enemies – Luke 6:27-36

On Remembrance Sunday, it’s especially challenging to hear Jesus tell you that you’re to love your enemies. As people around the world are dodging bullets and bombs – and even here in Europe – there doesn’t seem much room for love.

When life is quiet, and no-one is opposing you, passages like this seem like interesting “what-if” puzzles. But not today. Today, we remember lives lost, children orphaned, families broken and displaced.

And still, Jesus says, “Love your enemies.”

So we’ll look closely at what he actually said. Then we’ll look at what Jesus did. And then we’ll think hard about what it all means for you and me.

These notes accompany a sermon on YouTube delivered at Bromborough Evangelical Church on Remembrance Sunday in November 2022. You can find more in the series in our Sermon Index.

Look what Jesus said

Read Luke 6:27-28.

Jesus has just spoken some blessings and some woes. Blessings for those who put the kingdom of God first; woes to everyone who fills up their lives with ‘things’ (money, etc). So now he focuses his words “to you who listen” – he’s very emphatic. You – if you say you follow Jesus – you listen up!

And he gives you four things to do:

  • Love your enemies | Do what is good to those who hate you | bless those who curse you | Pray for those who hurt you (or mistreat you)

You might think you don’t have any enemies. Life is ok! But remember the context: Read Luke 6:22-23.

So who are your enemies?

  • Certainly anyone who opposes your attempts to live for Jesus – whether they just ridicule you, try to get in your way, mock you, or get more aggressive.
  • Also anyone who has attacked you in some way and you’ve wondered how or if to retaliate, to get even.
  • In that sense, your enemies can be your friends! They might be members of your family, work colleagues, or neighbours.
  • They might feel hostile to you, they might not. 
  • Either way, you’re to love them.

Love! What is love?

  • In English, ‘love’ has a broad range of meaning. It did in Greek too.
  • You can love chocolate, your dog, your spouse, your family, your country, God – all quite different (hopefully!).
  • There is an emotional attachment, of course.
  • But love is also active and directional. You don’t just “love” – you love something or someone

So when Jesus tells you to love your enemies, to do good to those who hate you, to bless those who curse, he expects that to result in good action towards them.

Attitude of readiness to do good

Read Luke 6:29.

  • Jesus isn’t stipulating a law. He’s illustrating an attitude for you.
  • Your attitude isn’t to be a person who wants to stick up for your rights, but rather have a state of readiness to do good – even to those who do you harm.

Might people take advantage of you? Yes! Read Luke 6:30.

  • That sounds amazing, don’t you think?
  • Partly that sounds hard because we like our ‘things’ and don’t like the thought of losing them.
  • We forget: “God blesses you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours…” We say, “Yes, but…”
  • We always need reminding of Paul’s attitude in Philippians 3:13-14, Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Anything you can hold in your hand today isn’t your ultimate prize. You can let go.

We need that simple open-handed generosity in church. We have a church library. 

  • When someone takes a book, do we demand it back?
  • Should we have books signed in and out? Fines?!
  • We need to develop an open-handed generosity to do people good; you need to work that out in your own life.

The Golden Rule

This is what it looks like: Read Luke 6:31.

  • It’s an active, positive phrase (sometimes called the Golden Rule).
  • It’s not, “Don’t do anything to someone else you wouldn’t want them to do to you.” It’s much more positive than that.
  • Love is active, not passive. 

And if this level of love feels alien to you, that’s no surprise. People find it easy to repay good for good, but you’re to repay good for evil.

  • Read Luke 6:32-34.
  • Demons repay good with evil; people repay good for good.
  • But God returns good for evil done against him.
  • And you will participate in his nature when you love, do good, bless and pray for those who do evil against you.

Read Luke 6:35-36.

Jesus isn’t giving you hardline laws to follow. He’s reorienting your heart and attitude to be in line with God.

  • You’re not looking for the edges of conduct (do’s & don’ts), but rather a God-like outward orientation of love, goodness, and blessing.
  • You’ll live that out as a child of God, with an eternal perspective, more interested in the wellbeing of others than your own material comforts.

But still: Is it possible in the real world in 2022?

Look what Jesus did

Luke’s gospel has given us an amazing description of who Jesus is, and the rest of the New Testament gives more:

  • Son of God Most High! Christ the Lord, a Saviour.
  • He is the eternal Son and creator, through whom and for whom everything exists.
  • He is the radiance of the Father’s glory and the exact representation of his being; Jesus is divine (in every sense).

You, on the other hand, are not. Naturally, you live in God’s world but go your own way. You know what’s right and wrong (to a point) and often choose the wrong – because you want to, because you like to.

In your natural state, you are at enmity against God. You’re a rebel, an offence, an object of his just wrath.

  • And a strand of God’s infinite glory is his perfect justice.
  • Which is bad news for you; you deserve only punishment.
  • And God would be glorified even if he never displayed mercy; he would be glorified in your just punishment.

God loves his enemies

But when you love your enemies because you are a child of God, you participate in his nature – because he loves his enemies. In love, God sent his Son Jesus into the world to save you.

  • Phil 2:8 Jesus humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21 He made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God
  • Col 1:19-20 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile everything to himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross

All well-known verses. But when was this great work of God planned and accomplished?

  • Eph 1:4 For [the Father] chose us in [Christ], before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him.
  • Romans 5:8 But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
  • 1 John 4:10 Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

God has shown you, in Christ, love as an act of will to undeserving and ungrateful rebels. And Jesus took every single step in love for you. Even as he was led to crucifixion, he prayed for the forgiveness of those carrying it out.

Love is a costly act of will

It is in Christ’s very nature to love even his enemies, to the extent that he has provided a way for you to be reconciled to him. Now that is love. And it cost him.

And, amazingly, as an adopted child of God, you’re enabled to do the same. You have the same Holy Spirit in you that Stephen had, as he prayed to Jesus for those who were stoning him to death.

When you love your enemies, you participate in the divine nature. So let’s face some difficult questions as we apply it:

Love your enemies

“If I was this open-handed in generosity to enemies (or anyone!), I’d have nothing left!”

  • Maybe. Love always makes you vulnerable to abuse.
  • That’s no reason not to love; though you must ask if you are actually loving someone if you enable their sin.
  • Love is the path. Jesus isn’t giving you hardline rules. Sometimes, love’s best path is to say ‘no’.

“What about Putin and Russians?”

  • These statements from Jesus (and the equivalents in the Sermon on the Mount in Matt 5-7) are about personal conduct.
  • It’s quite clear from elsewhere in the New Testament that governments are in place to uphold national peace.
  • While it’s hard to see justification for attack, a defence of a nation’s weak, poor, and vulnerable is a core function of government.
  • Putin is a wicked aggressor; it seems right to defend against him. It’s an awful situation.
  • These verses aren’t about that situation directly.
  • Even so, it’s appropriate to pray for Putin and his people. That is an expression of love to Ukraine and Russia. 

“What if I’m attacked or mugged? Do I turn the other cheek?”

  • This is sort of the same as international aggression.
  • God places governments and judicial structures in place to bring peace and justice to the world.
  • Self-defence when attacked is natural and right.
  • Jesus is speaking about a readiness to be hurt for the good of others, rather than being a helpless victim for no purpose.

“What if I’m arrested for hate crimes for saying ‘Jesus is the only way to God’? Do I just roll over?”

  • In other words, what if the state (the government) is my enemy for Jesus’ sake?
  • As it was for Jesus, for Stephen, Peter, Paul…
  • Keep that eternal perspective. Keep your eyes on the prize that is Jesus and point others to him.
  • Love, do good, bless, and pray.

“What if I just can’t love someone, after what they did to me?”

“If I keep turning the other cheek, my abuser will go on and on.”

“Can’t I just walk away, or stay silent?”

  • Remember that love is often an act of will.
  • Jesus is calling you to will yourself to do good, to bless, to pray. He isn’t calling you to like anyone.
  • I know a woman whose ex-husband was drink-driving with their children in the car.
    • It was an act of love to him to phone the police.
    • He needed help.
  • Love takes many forms.
    • If someone bullies or abuses you (or has done in the past), it is loving of you to lead them to see their sin.
    • Only when someone sees their sin can they repent of it and turn to Christ.
    • And that’s the greatest act of love you can do for anyone.
  • Should you stay silent? You have to ask if that’s really love. If Christ had stayed silent to you, your own eternal destination would still be hell.

“What if my ‘enemy’ is actually another Christian?”

  • Christians can hurt Christians, of course.
  • We’re family in Christ, but sometimes we can hurt one another as if enemies – how painful that must be for our Father.
  • Church discipline is an act of love. The aim is always, always for repentance, forgiveness, and full restoration.
  • It’s always hard because none of the people involved are faultless. But love is an act of will that needs to be there in all God’s people. Without it, relationships are doomed.
  • You can’t make others choose to love. You must choose it for yourself as your own path.

Our world is a world of war and pain.

Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and the Government is on his shoulders. 

While you were his enemy, he loved you enough to die for you.

He has called you to share in his eternal bliss.

He can reconciled you to himself; it’s his pleasure to do so.

So, for those people you’re not reconciled to:

  • Love them; do good for them; bless them (not curse); and pray for them.
  • In doing that, you display the love of God in the world.