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.