Who do we love?

“But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. To the person who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other as well…Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you” (Luke 6:27-31 NET).

When Jesus taught the people, whether in a large setting such as what we find here or in a smaller setting, he often said things that went against how people usually live. Here he is dealing with who people love and how they show it. Although taught almost two thousand years ago, it is equally applicable to us today.

When I have studied these verses with people, invariably someone objects – how can we love our enemies? Why do good to someone who has just done something terrible to us? Why pray for those who are doing bad things to us?

The word for “love” here is from the Greek word “agape.” I believe this is a difficult word for us to understand. This is not talking about having warm fuzzy feelings for everyone and especially our enemies – there were other Greek words for love that dealt with our feelings.

Agape is a word that deals with our actions. It isn’t how we feel toward a person but how we treat that person. Jesus defines what he means by “love your enemies” when he said to do good to them, bless them, and pray for them.

We need to treat others in the way we want them to treat us. When asked how we can pray for our enemies, I’ve often said that if they are mistreating us we should at least pray that they have a change of heart towards us. Ultimately, the best thing they could do would be to follow Jesus! Then they wouldn’t be mistreating people. That would be a great thing to pray for!

Jesus went on to talk about why we need to love our enemies (Luke 6:32-36). Everyone loves those who love them, so how does that distinguish us as being different? If we only do good to those who do good to us, what makes us stand out as any better people for following Jesus? If we truly want to show that we belong to Jesus we need to love even our enemies, do good to everyone and not expect anything back in return. This is what distinguishes us as the sons of God because this is the way God is: “he is kind to ungrateful and evil people. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:35-36).

Part of loving people is learning not to judge and condemn them. Instead of judging, we need to be characterized by forgiveness. Notice what Jesus said about this: “Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive” (Luke 6:37-38).

Did you catch that? The measure we use for others is the measure God is going to give us! If we are constantly judging others, God will use that same measure for us. But if we are forgiving, God will give the same to us. Notice as well, that God gives us more than we give. He gives a good measure that is so full that nothing else can be added to it!

We need to learn to love others as God loves them, not as they treat us. In this way we can show in our lives what being a child of God is all about. If we want to win the world for Jesus we need to be living a life of love.

Readings for next week:
18 July – Luke 7:24-30
19 July – Luke 8:1-25
20 July – Luke 8:26-56
21 July – Luke 9:1-27
22 July – Luke 9:28-62

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