These last verses in chapter 6 summarize much of what Jesus taught throughout his ministry on earth. They hit home in uncomfortable ways, so … here we go.
Luke 6: 20 – 36 NLT
20 Then Jesus turned to his disciples and said,
“God blesses you who are poor,
for the Kingdom of God is yours.
21 God blesses you who are hungry now,
for you will be satisfied.
God blesses you who weep now,
for in due time you will laugh.
22 What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. 23 When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.
24 “What sorrow awaits you who are rich,
for you have your only happiness now.
25 What sorrow awaits you who are fat and prosperous now,
for a time of awful hunger awaits you.
What sorrow awaits you who laugh now,
for your laughing will turn to mourning and sorrow.
26 What sorrow awaits you who are praised by the crowds,
for their ancestors also praised false prophets.”
27 “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! 33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! 34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.”
There is a blunt contrast between what God cherishes and what our world loves. And frankly, it’s one we all get caught in all the time. What do I put first in my life? Is it God and what he wants from me? Or is it what makes my life more comfortable/tolerable?
Luke paints a picture of that stark contrast. Those who are poor, hungry and sad will be satisfied and full of joy. Those who are rich and enjoying life like crazy will end up full of mourning and sorrow. Where do we concentrate our priorities? When I look at my day, my week – what is it that motivates me? Am I trying to make decisions, use my time, use my resources in a way that reflects my loving God to those around me? To be honest, that is me sometimes. But a lot of the time, I just think about what makes my day the most enjoyable – or when I was working full-time, what made my day more profitable.
Jesus tells us that this vast difference between what God wants and what our world wants will bring us difficult times. People might “hate you and exclude you and mock you”. I don’t think these verses are saying that we should be people who are hard to get along with, people who are so blunt and critical that others dislike us. In fact, as we go through this chapter, we are encouraged to be the most loving, nice people around. But folks in this world do get upset with people who reflect God’s standards, and we should expect that. Maybe we should be concerned if we are considered the most fun, successful, loved person at work. Why do these people who have rejected Christianity want to include us so much?
When we get to verses 27 to 36, I just hang my head. Is that me? Do I go out of my way to be kind and helpful to people who give me a hard time? Or do I prefer to just “hang with” my friends, the people who go to my church. What hits me the most is that God loved me when I had nothing to do with him. God sent Jesus to this world – he gave up living in heaven- to live a hard life on earth and die for us. How much more of an example could God have given us? Just read these verses from Colossians 1: 15 – 20:
“Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,[a]
16 for through him God created everything
in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
and he holds all creation together.
18 Christ is also the head of the church,
which is his body.
He is the beginning,
supreme over all who rise from the dead.
So he is first in everything.
19 For God in all his fullness
was pleased to live in Christ,
20 and through him God reconciled
everything to himself.
He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth
by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.”
These verses in Luke make me want to stop reading them, to stop looking at myself. I do love God, and I do want to reflect him to those around me. But I also like my pleasant lifestyle, and giving away something I’d like to have is not something that would come easily at all. “If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back.” (v. 29 – 30) That’s radical! That’s not the way I think most of the time. If people give me a hard time, I avoid them. I’m happy to help someone as long as it doesn’t make my life more difficult.
Oh, Heavenly Father, forgive me for my centredness. Help me to be loving and generous to those around me, to those who I could help. Help me not focus on living well here on earth, but to focus on what you want.
Our song for today is Love God, Love People by Michael W. Smith