Family Bible Study lesson for March 11: Loving My Enemies
February 23 2001 by William (Mac) McElrath , Luke 6:22, 27-38

Family Bible Study lesson for March 11: Loving My Enemies | Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Friday, Feb. 23, 2001

Family Bible Study lesson for March 11: Loving My Enemies

By William (Mac) McElrath Luke 6:22, 27-38 Enemies! Do you have any? Surely no one is trying to do you in or vote you out like those amoral contestants on the "Survivor" show. Yet each of us has to face people who seem to stand in our way, people who criticize us unjustly, people who take a skewed view of who we are and what we're doing. What do you do to enemies?

Jesus says, "You gotta love 'em."

Expect opposition (Luke 6:22) In chapter 6 of his Gospel, Luke gives his version of the Beatitudes that are better known as listed in Matthew chapter 5. Only the last of these "Blesseds" is included in this lesson passage.

Notice the condition Jesus put at the end of verse 22. If you are hated, excluded, insulted, or rejected because of your own bad deeds or bad attitudes, then you don't qualify for the promised reward. But if any of these things happen to you "because of the Son of Man," then you may hope for God's blessing.

The rest of today's lesson is Jesus' expansion and explanation of Luke 6:22.

Act rather than react (Luke 6:27-30) In these verses Jesus lists eight types of behavior that ought to characterize His followers. Every one of the eight goes against the grain of human nature.

Notice that Jesus' commands are both inward ("Love your enemies") and outward ("Do good to those who hate you"). In both cases He suggests specific action: Inwardly, we are to pray for those who abuse us. Outwardly, we are to turn the other cheek, offer the coat along with the pilfered cloak, and so on.

Are these commands of Jesus to be taken literally? Obeying the last part of verse 29 could result in nakedness. Obeying verse 30 could result in starvation. Obeying the first part of verse 29 could result in annihilation.

The key word is love. Jesus' followers must always act in love. His list of specifics may be taken as a warning of possible dangers in such selfless love.

Return good for evil (Luke 6:31-34) Jesus stated the Golden Rule in simple words (v. 31). Yet perhaps no other verse in the Bible has been so often misquoted, misapplied or misunderstood.

For one thing, don't listen to anyone who tries to tell you that great Jewish rabbis, the Chinese sage Confucius, and other religious leaders have all stated the Golden Rule just as Jesus did. The fact is, Jesus was the first ever to state it in a positive form. Both Confucius and all Jewish teachers down to the 1100s A.D. put it negatively: "Don't do to others what you don't want them to do to you."

Even more misleading are those who "simplify" the Golden Rule into "Do as you're done by."

Other well-meaning people perhaps make the opposite error: They try to glorify the Golden Rule into the highest, fullest expression of Christian morality. Luke 6:27 might be a better choice for that.

Yet the Golden Rule certainly is handy. Consider it a portable guide, a reality check, an emergency clause. If you can't do any better in a pinch, at least you can do to others what you'd want them to do to you if the positions were reversed.

Having stated the Golden Rule, Jesus then went ahead to mention three types of behavior that any honest person would classify as kind and appropriate: Love your loved ones. Do good to your friends. Lend to people who need money.

Thus far a Christian's pattern of behavior might be no different from a non-Christian's. "But this," says Jesus, "is not enough. Don't limit your loving and your doing good to the realm of enlightened self-interest. Don't limit your lending to good credit risks."

Hope for the right kind of reward (Luke 6:35-38) In these closing verses, Jesus continues to urge His followers to show a higher type of morality. But He also begins to say, "Your reward will be great."

Who will fulfill the great promises stated in these verses? Who will give to us, if we give? Who will not judge us, if we don't judge others? It seems as if Jesus didn't say, for all of these great promises are couched in passive terms.

Probably Jesus was following Jewish tradition in using the passive voice to avoid repeated mention of the Name that must not be lightly uttered. Most likely His true meaning was: "Do not judge, and God will not judge you. Do not condemn, and God will not condemn you."

If we obey His commands, so Jesus said, then we "will be sons of the Most High" (v. 35, NIV). Of course we will! Who else but children of our merciful God would be brave enough to show mercy in a merciless world? And who else but God will reward us for it?

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2/23/2001 12:00:00 AM by William (Mac) McElrath , Luke 6:22, 27-38 | with 0 comments
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