Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Love….Even Enemies” based on Luke 6:27-38 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, February 24, 2019
There it is, in plain black and white in your bulletin, copied and pasted straight from the Scriptures, themselves. Of all the old axioms and proverbs that people think come from the bible; like God helps those who help themselves or when God closes a door, he opens a window, this Golden Rule is, perhaps surprisingly, actually in the bible. And, on top of that, as if it might make it anymore impressive or important for you, Jesus, himself, is the one who said it. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Your mom was right to quote it to you when you were growing up and that means, more importantly and as if there was ever any doubt, I was right when I said it to my own daughter. When a 6 year old excluded one of her friends from her group, it was good and fine and right to ask her how she would feel if that same friend would have acted that way to her. Now if only the world would actually listen to this Golden Rule, everyone’s lives would be so much better and easier!
So, why don’t they? It seems like such a simple rule to follow. It is a rule that even 6 year-olds can understand, appreciate, and put into practice. Yes, the Devil is strong in his temptations to be selfish, but no one really wants to be declared as, or known to be, selfish do they? And, besides that, Jesus makes it clear that even sinners know how to do this and, many times, even do abide by it. So, if sinners can and, at times, do, why don’t Christians? Or, to put it a little more personally: why don’t you always follow the Golden Rule?
In truth, the answer does ultimately lie under the category of selfishness, but it can be interesting to explore that selfishness at times; to diagnose the problem a bit further before finding a solution and prescription to solve it. The reason why you might be hesitant to follow this Golden Rule probably falls into one or more of three different aspects of selfishness, the first of which might sound a little something like this: I don’t treat them the way I want to be treated because they don’t deserve it.
Whether it is something as simple as kindness or something as complicated as love, it is possible that you may not be entirely wrong in your discernment of their worthiness to receive something from you. You might be right. However, do you see how selfishness has crept its way into your heart? When you refuse to follow this command from Jesus toward another person you are, in essence, saying that they don’t deserve what you deserve. They don’t deserve what you have earned or what you have worked so hard to attain. You have declared yourself better than them, worthy of what they have made themselves unworthy to receive.
The second option is closely related. With some sort of self-righteous piety, you have determined that it is actually better for them if they don’t receive a free gift from you because you are simply enabling them to continue on in their lives without earning or working hard for anything on their own. You have determined that it is your right and your responsibility to teach them some responsibility and you, above Jesus, himself, know how best to carry that out: by refusing to do to them as you would have them do to you.
The third hidden agenda behind your selfishness, if you can believe it, is likely the most self-centered of them all. You refuse to help, be kind, or show love to someone else because you aren’t getting anything good out of the deal. They are just taking advantage of your goodness and never return the favor. How many times do I have to keep calling or texting my friend without him ever asking me how I am doing? How many act of service, words of affirmation, or physical touches do I have to give my spouse before she returns the favor? Is it asking too much for someone to love me for a change?
Love even 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 also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you.
Jesus does, indeed, continue on about how, if you follow this rule, you will receive a reward and you won’t be judged and you will be forgiven. However, not once here, or in any other portion of Scripture, does Jesus say that the reason why you ought to follow this command is so that you will receive your desired outcome.
There is a marked difference in the teachings of Christ between the reason behind and the results of a Christian’s thoughts, words, and actions.
The irony is that, in reality, many of you do treat your enemies as you would have them treat you, even when you know they don’t deserve it, when you believe it won’t help them, and even when you know they are just going to take advantage of you. But, something is different with those you love, isn’t it? Your expectations are higher for those you love—especially because it is much easier to see the results of the way you treat those that you love. Yeah, the idea of world peace and the ending of world hunger is awesome and amazing to think about and aspire toward but, honestly, would that really change your day to day life all that much?
Compare that, though,
– with having a husband who washes the dishes and gives you flowers on a regular basis,
– with having children who don’t have to be told a third time to get their pajamas on, brush their teeth, and get into bed,
– with having a boss who respects you and your work with bonuses and raises and words of praise,
– with having a friend who will finally listen to you and your problems for once.
– that selfishness that causes you to disobey Jesus’ Golden Rule is based almost entirely on the result that your life won’t get any better if you follow it.
Stop worrying about the results. Concern yourself, instead, with the cause. Do not give to your children because they are cute and cuddly. Do not lend to your neighbor because some day you may need someone to lend to you. Yes treat others in the way that you would like to be treated…but not so that they will treat you the same way.
Instead, treat them the way you would like to be treated because you have already been treated well by your God who gave you all things; who filled your cup to overflowing.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. You didn’t deserve it, but God showed you love and forgiveness anyway.
Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing. He prayed for those he loved as he was actively winning their salvation. Did they learn any responsibility for their sin from his action? No, they spit at him, beat him, hurled insults at him, and drove nails through his hands and feet. But Jesus showed love and forgiveness anyway.
Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Jesus fed thousands, healed the sick, and raised the dead. Did people shower him with money? Did they offer to him their daughters to marry? Did they give to him a palace with a richly ornamented throne to rule over this earth? He received nothing in return, but showed love and forgiveness anyway.
Do to others as you would have them do to you—because of what your God has done for you. Show love because, not so that. Do not love everyone, even your enemies so that your life will get better or so that this world will become a better place. Love everyone, even your enemies, because when you were, by nature, blind and dead enemies of your God, your Jesus showed love to you. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Amen.
Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “Remember to Love” based on Luke 1:39-55 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, December 23, 2018
Pregnancy can be an emotional time. That has been true ever since Eve, just outside the Garden of Eden, and continues for just about every woman who has ever been with child. There are hormonal balances that become unbalanced. There are physical changes to a woman’s body during those 40 weeks that can make favorite outfits unable to be worn and, therefore, can make a woman feel uncomfortable even in her own skin.
But, it’s not just the chemicals inside or her outward appearance that can make for an emotional roller coaster ride. The simple idea of another human being growing inside of you has its own ups and downs.
Like many other women, both before and after, Mary must have had her fair share of feelings about the embryo inside her own womb. Some of her thoughts were surely the same as what might run through your own mind if you were in the same situation.
Fear definitely has its place. She was carrying another human inside her; a human completely and utterly dependent on her for life – for protection, for nutrition, and even to supply oxygen for lungs that hadn’t fully developed yet. Every move and every decision would have its implications on her child. There is a healthy amount of fear involved in that responsibility.
That fear, though, is, at times, displaced when the joys of life are considered. What a gift God gives to allow women, with a little help from their male companions, to create and sustain life inside themselves! A sense of holy pride, not like the kind in the bible that makes you bad, can send women’s hearts swimming in a sea of accomplishment while carrying their children those nine months.
Fear and joy, godly pride and helplessness, happiness and anxiety. All those emotions are normal. But, as you well know, Mary’s situation can confidently also be called atypical and abnormal and not simply because she lived in a different culture than you and me.
Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me…from now on all generations will call me blessed.
Elizabeth, Mary’s relative, confessed the truth of the mystery of this pregnancy and Mary concurred. The conception itself was outside of the norm, but the result of that conception was even more important and impressive. Both women knew, by divine intervention, that the child inside of Mary’s bourgeoning belly was the Lord promised to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, and to all his descendants, forever.
Now, because it was God, himself, inside her womb, he could have cared for himself and been an independent infant. He could have, in miraculous fashion, provided for his own protection and provisions. Yet, instead, he chose to rely on Mary. He chose to be born in a natural way. He chose make himself like you and me in every way, in human flesh. Why? Why would God do such a thing?
He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.
In her famous song, the Magnificat, Mary sang the motivation behind the Lord’s choices. He remembered his mercy.
Though the world may claim otherwise, particularly in times of trouble, natural disasters, and the horrors of human existence, your God did not remember because he forgot the people in this world which he created. Rather, this word, translated into English as remembering, has much more to do with bringing things to the forefront of your mind at an appointed time.
Do you remember how to cook a steak? How about the directions to your parents’ house? Do you remember how to turn off your alarm in the morning or how to turn off the Christmas lights when you go to bed for the night?
You probably never forgot those things. They were always in your mind and they are always important, but there are times when you turn your attention to other things that lead up to them. You focus on starting the grill, packing up the car, getting your good night’s sleep, or simply enjoying the seasonal glow inside your house. Then, when the appointed time comes, you remember to carry out your next action.
God’s focus, even since before the creation of the world, has been on sending his Son to live and die for you. And, when the appointed time came for Jesus to take on flesh inside the womb of Mary, he called it to the forefront of his mind. All of the promises and prophecies and provisions he made for his people had been laid in place. Now was the time to use what he never forgot and was always the focus of his plan.
And, in sending Jesus to do what mankind could not and to correct the wrongs that all of humanity has wrought, God accomplished all that Mary sang about in her song—bestowing his blessings upon the humble, the hungry, and the helpless. In short, he chose to be merciful.
Those who are humble, hungry, and helpless know that they cannot gain anything for themselves in God’s eyes and that, in contrast, the only thing they have earned from their God, based on their own thoughts, words, and actions, is his divine and deserved wrath for all of eternity.
But, friends, that’s the very definition of God’s mercy. He called to mind and remembered his plan not to give his people, Abraham and all his descendants, including you and me, what they rightly deserved. Because Jesus lived in Mary’s womb, was born, lived a perfect life in your place, and sacrificed that life to pay the redemption price for sin, God chose to be merciful to them and to you. And, as motivation to act this way, God used the only emotion that would cause him to remember his mercy—his great love for you.
He made the decision to love you whether you deserve it or not and did not let anything stand in his way. He worked behind the scenes of all of history to put Mary where she needed to be and carry out his plans for her and for the benefit of each and every one of you.
And, because God, in love, remembered his mercy, all of the emotions and circumstances that surrounded Mary’s pregnancy caused her to remember to show love as well. She showed love for God, and for all Abraham’s descendants as well, by carrying out her calling from God. With all of the hormonal and physical changes and the emotions that affected her every action, you would be hard pressed to say that she ever forgot that she was carrying Immanuel everywhere she went.
And yet, when the appointed time came, she remembered to love that child and all people when she delivered him to them and to you and to me.
Whether you are pregnant or not, whether you have ever been or won’t ever be, you surely have your own share of emotions that affect your own thoughts, words, and actions. Fear and joy, godly pride and helplessness, happiness and anxiety aren’t only reserved for those who are with child.
The world you live in can cause any number of setbacks as well as reasons for celebration and, as you endure your own roller coaster ride of emotions, it would be easy to allow those things to distract you and cause you to forget your own calling from your God.
Especially over the next few days, you, too, are carrying the mystery of the Christ-child within you—not in your womb, but in your faith-filled heart. And, whether it is during your Christmas celebration or in the weeks that follow, the time appointed for you to deliver him for the benefit of others will also come.
As you wait for that appointed time, motivated by God remembering his mercy to you, remember to love. Call that message of free forgiveness for all to mind, glorify the Lord, rejoice in God your Savior, and sing the song of your salvation. Amen.