A truck driver is sitting in a crowded roadside diner ready to eat his lunch. It’s not just any diner and any lunch. It’s his favorite diner on the road and his favorite lunch. Just as the waitress brings the truck driver’s meat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and green beans to his table, a motorcycle gang swaggers in the door.
Most of them seat themselves at the table next to the truck driver but there’s not room at that table for all of them. The gang members left standing turn to the truck driver and bark, “Move! We want that table!”
The truck driver calmly says, “I haven’t finished my meal.” One of the motorcycle toughs takes his dirty finger, swipes it through the mashed potatoes and gravy, sticks his finger in his mouth and says, “Hey, not bad grub.” Another gang member takes the trucker’s cup of coffee and slowly pours it over the remaining food on the plate and snarls, “You’re finished now!”
The trucker stands, takes his napkin, wipes his mouth, walks to the cash register, pays for his meal, and silently walks out the door. All the bikers are laughing now.
One of them says, “Ain’t much of a man, is he?” The waitress says, “And he’s not much of a truck driver, either. He just backed his rig over your motorcycles.”
So, how do you react to people who make life difficult for you? How do you treat the “jerks” in your life? You know, that naughty neighbor, or that cantankerous co-worker, or that fat-mouthed family member, or that crusty church member.
Luke 6.27-30 has a few things to say about this. And frankly, I do not know of any biblical teaching that is more challenging than what we find in this text. Would you believe the Lord commands us to love our enemies?! That’s exactly what He says in verse 27. I honestly wish the Lord had not said these words. I wish they weren’t part of His expectations for my behavior.
The love we are called to flesh out here is extremely difficult. But it is the appropriate kind of love for a disciple who has experienced God’s forgiveness, someone who is the recipient of the supernatural grace of God.
Five ways to love your enemies…
(1) Do good to them (“do good to those who hate you,” 27b)
A woman wrote to Pulpit Helps to explain an awesome lesson her family experienced…
During one of our family Bible readings as new Christians, we came across the verse in Romans 12.20 which states, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Ours sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were especially puzzled. “Why should you feed your enemy?” they wondered. My husband and I wondered too, but the only answer John could think of to give the boys was, “We’re supposed to because God says so.” It never occurred to us that we would soon learn why.
Day after day John Jr. came home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. “Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn’t looking. One of these days, when we’re out on the playground, I’m going to jab him back.”
I was ready to go down to the school and jab Bob myself. Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn’t Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I’d better give her a verbal jab, too, at the same time!
I was till fuming over this injustice to John Jr. when his 7-year-old brother spoke up: “Maybe he should feed his enemy.” The three of us were startled. None of us were sure about this “enemy” business. It didn’t seem that an enemy would be in the 5th grade.
We all looked at John. Since he was the head of the family, he should come up with the solution. But the only answer he could offer was the same one he had given before: “I guess we should because God said so.”
“Well,” I asked John Jr., “do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you’re going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes.” “Jelly beans,” he almost shouted, “Bob just loves jelly beans.”
So we bought a bag of jellybeans for him to take to school the next day, and decided that the next time Bob jabbed John Jr., John was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his “enemy’s” desk. We would see whether or not this enemy feeding worked.
The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, “It worked, Mom! It worked.” I wanted the details: “What did Bob do? What did he say?”
“He was so surprised he didn’t say anything – he just took the jellybeans. But he didn’t jab me the rest of the day!” In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends – all because of a little bag of jelly beans.
Both of our sons subsequently because missionaries on foreign fields. Their way of showing friendship with any “enemies” of the faith was to invite them into their own homes to share food with them around their own tables.
(2) Speak well of them (“bless those who curse you,” 28a)
“Bless” here is the same word from which we get our English word “eulogize.” When we eulogize someone we speak well of them.
This doesn’t mean that we can never confront someone with their sin and with their misbehavior. But Jesus doesn’t want us fighting verbal fire with fire. He doesn’t want us launching verbal grenades at others, even those who curse us and wished we were damned.
(3) Intercede for them (“pray for those who abuse you,” 28b)
One of the best ways to have a genuine loving attitude toward those who persecute us is to bring them before the Lord in prayer. We can pray for their salvation. We can pray for them to be responsive to God’s Spirit. We can pray that the Lord would perform a life-change in them like we want Him to do in our own lives.
It is impossible to pray for someone without loving him, and impossible to go on praying for him without discovering that our love for him grows and matures.
(4) Retaliate not against them (“to one who strikes you…offer the other cheek,” 29)
Revenge is such a natural response. It’s the default setting of our flesh. Our depraved nature cannot stand being mistreated.
Over 10 years ago, my Sunday newspaper kept being stolen out of its box. One Sunday, while enjoying an after-church-lunch with my family, I looked out the window and noticed a car slowing down. I quickly jumped up, ran to the window, and caught the paper thief in the very act! I spun around, grabbed my car keys, and took off after him…I was determined to get my paper back!
After three right turns, one left turn, and traveling less than a mile, I pulled in right behind the villain. Upon exiting our cars, I asked the guy, “Why have you been stealing my paper?” As he started to deny any wrongdoing, I firmly told him, “I saw you take the paper out of my box!” and then I jerked it out of his little grubby hand, and told him to stop stealing. That’s right…I put him in his place! Nobody’s going to steal my Sunday paper and get away with it!
Well, in retrospect, that was foolish. No, it was plain dumb. Acting the way I did left me with NO opportunity to share the Gospel with him. I miserably failed to demonstrate the kind of love Jesus calls for here in Luke 6.
Imagine how differently things might have gone if, upon arriving at his trailer, I got out and said something like, “Sir, please don’t try to deny it cause I just saw you steal my paper. But I tell you what, since you and I both like to read the Sunday paper, why don’t you let me and my wife read it first, cut out the coupons we want, and then I’ll bring it to you so you can read it? Oh, and by the way, I pastor Unity Church on 14th Street. I’d love for you and your family to be my personal guests one Sunday. You can join us for lunch, and then take the paper with you after the meal.”
Now, for clarification, turning the other cheek is not to turn a blind eye to justice. This command does not prohibit me from calling the authorities and report a robbery or damage to my property. But, the execution of that justice is to be left in the hands of human government (cf. Romans 13.1-5; 12.17-19).
(5) Be generous with them (“give to everyone who begs of you,” 30a)
Christ was not talking about giving handouts to every stranger or beggar around. If every believer did that, then as one write put it, “there would soon be a class of saintly paupers, owning nothing, and another of prosperous idlers and thieves.”
We are not required to respond to every foolish, selfish request made of us. Plus, we are instructed in 2 Thessalonians 3.10 not to feed a person who can work but refuses to do so.
The implication in this verse is that the person who asks for the money has a genuine need. They may ask for a loan (cf. vv. 34-35) or simply for a sum of money with no intention of paying it back. Jesus says, “Let them have it.”
Help me, Lord!
God, please help me to love like Jesus did! Please help me to love like this passage of Scripture tells me to. Father, help me to die to self, and exhibit the spirit of Jesus on the cross, the spirit of Stephen when being stoned to death, and the spirit of Joseph who, when he could have easily taken revenge upon his hateful brothers, chose to love them instead.