2nd Sunday of Luke (2 Cor. 6:1-10, Luke 6:31-36)
Love of Enemies (Parallel Matt. 5:38-48)
(6:31) The Lord said, "And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.
Εἶπεν ὁ Κύριος· καθὼς θέλετε ἵνα ποιῶσιν ὑμῖν οἱ ἄνθρωποι, ποιεῖτε αὐτοῖς ὁμοίως
Easy enough to accept for an orderly society, most reasonable people would agree with this command of Jesus. However the following is a list of questions which are a bit more challenging: and difficult to accept.
(6:32) If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
καὶ εἰ ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστί; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τοὺς ἀγαπῶντας αὐτοὺς ἀγαπῶσι.
It is easy to love those who love us. It is difficult sometimes to love those who openly do not love us. When Jesus asks so poignantly "what credit is that to you", he is pointing out that we indeed give credit for precisely this thing which is most easy for humans. When he points out that even sinners do this, than how can we confidently distinguish ourselves from sinners if this is all we do. Within the context of sin, if a sinner loves those who love him, it is likely that those who love him, are also engaged in a life which is similar, that is to say "sin". Within this context, within this revelation then Jesus points out something subtle, but enormously important, with human love there is no barometer, there is no compass, there is only relativity, and not the kind of Love God expects of us. This Love is insular, circular, finite, and destined for frustration.
(6:33) And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
καὶ ἐὰν ἀγαθοποιῆτε τοὺς ἀγαθοποιοῦντας ὑμᾶς, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστί; καὶ γὰρ οἱ ἁμαρτωλοὶ τὸ αὐτὸ ποιοῦσι.
Jesus is now pointing out the very same thing regarding the good we would do. Why do we do it? And for whom? Does this reflect the good God would do? Or is this the good a mere man, not knowing and loving God would do?
(6:34) And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
καὶ ἐὰν δανείζητε παρ᾿ ὧν ἐλπίζετε ἀπολαβεῖν, ποία ὑμῖν χάρις ἐστί; καὶ γὰρ ἁμαρτωλοὶ ἁμαρτωλοῖς δανείζουσιν ἵνα ἀπολάβωσι τὰ ἴσα
The same is being said of lending.
(6:35) But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.
πλὴν ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ ἀγαθοποιεῖτε καὶ δανείζετε μηδὲν ἀπελπίζοντες, καὶ ἔσται ὁ μισθὸς ὑμῶν πολύς, καὶ ἔσεσθε υἱοὶ ὑψίστου, ὅτι αὐτὸς χρηστός ἐστιν ἐπὶ τοὺς ἀχαρίστους καὶ πονηρούς
Now the Lord goes beyond natural human proclivities. It is not enough to go beyond loving those who love you, but also to love in fact your enemies – this of course is radical to human nature left on its own, that is to say, left apart from God's grace.
The same radical progress forward is instructed by Jesus on the points of doing good and lending – "Expect nothing in return", Jesus commands - but what sort of human lends and expects nothing in return? That is really giving away one's wealth (which is most often hard earned) – but it is really an examination of the definition of wealth that matters here.
Some do this publicly, but privately expect something in return, even if just recognition, honors and the glory of other men. The same is true for those of us who do good. Most often we do this with some cognitive understanding that that good will be returned to us in some form of payment. For others, it remains a deep sub-conscious hope and expectation, or away of esteeming one's own ego.
But this is not what the lord is speaking about here, and it is not what he is instructing us to do.
The lord immediately tells us why; "because our rewards will be great" and we "will be sons of the Most High"
However, it must be understood, that these "rewards" are not of the world – this does not mean if we love our enemies, and lend without expecting repayment and do good when there is certainly no hope of it being reciprocated, that we should expect a new Porsche will be in our driveway (although anyone who has seen the new 911 has my complete sympathies if they desire this outcome nonetheless).
No. Our rewards will be great in Heaven, that is to say, these things must be done with faith, and without expectation of any repayment in this life. Faith is belief and conviction in a future event which is so strong that we can love our enemies, lend without repayment and do good without tiring.
Is this easy to do. No. Is it even possible to genuinely do this on our own? No. But these things are possible with God.
To do these things with faith is also to do them with Love. This ensures that we will be sons and daughters of "the most high"
And what kind of God are we speaking about? One who is "kind to the ungrateful and the selfish". Hmm. Kind. Not just accepting, not just tolerating, not "putting up with", but "Kind". And towards folks who are behaving with unattractive human behaviors such as "ungratefulness and selfishness", these are unattractive qualities to all – is it our knee-jerk response as humans to respond in "kindness" to these types? No. But it is the Lord's, it is our God's, and He after all fashioned us in His "image and likeness".
Therefore our natural response is an aberration from the original design for us, it is not an aberration for God – it is quite the opposite (He sent his only begotten son – such is His Love). It is something we must overcome, and we do this by knowing of God's great love for us, through His only begotten Son.
(6:36) Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful."
Γίνεσθε οὖν οἰκτίρμονες, καθὼς καὶ ὁ πατὴρ ὑμῶν οἰκτίρμων ἐστί.
The result is Jesus' final command in this passage, simply "to be merciful" – this is the fruit of real love towards one another, towards are brother and sister – we are able to be merciful, and that is far from a dependence purely on the Law, and our related desire for justice (as we heard in today's epistle reading).
Jesus is pointing out to His disciples that they should not resist unlove with unlove, and to move away from an exclusive dependency on the law. Evil and the persons through whom evil works can only be overcome by good – the alternative is the possibility of an endless cycle of violence (e.g. Gjakmarrja) and insanity.
If we follow these commandments of Jesus, we are kept free from Anger which is of exceeding value, for to have Anger in our hearts is to be a prisoner to our emotions and ironically to those who have harmed us. We cannot let our hearts be frustrated in this way. By following Jesus' commandments we are kept free from being poisoned by the evil directed against us and its related destructive forces.
Finally, we instruct others through the most efficient teaching method – by the example of our own Christian forbearance. The result is we and our enemies are brought under the yoke of God's love, and its paradoxical power to set us free in every conceivable way.
To love our enemy as a true expression of the life of the Kingdom to come is a radical notion to most. However, the Lord having freed us from hatred, sorrow, and anger, offers the greatest gift of all – perfect Love, which is what our hearts desired all along.
It is a gift which can only be bestowed on the one who, by the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, establishes God's love for all. This Love, which has its origins beyond all creation, calls us to bless others, do good beyond ourselves and beyond those who do good to us, and pray for all – even for enemies. Love of "the other" regardless of their feelings towards us, is the sign of the true son or daughter of God.
To think of Love merely as an emotion, or worse yet, merely some sort of chemical event or reaction is a supreme fallacy. Love is a divine grace, it is uncreated divine energy, that is what it is when it is uncompromised by impurities, in its highest form, in its origin, in its source.
Love inflames the soul and unites it to God, and in that oneness - to all others.
An accurate description of God's Love (1 Jn. 4:7-21)
God Is Love
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. 13By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. 14We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.