Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Daily Reading: Luke 6v27-36 'Looking like the Father'

Jesus is teaching his disciples, this is not for the crowd, these are the marks of those who follow him. This is how his Apostles, who he has just called, are to live it is what marks out those who Jesus has just called ‘Blessed’, favoured by God, as opposed to those who he has just warned with the woes (24-26). These are the characteristics of those who make the Son of Man – Jesus – their priority. This is the way to live if you are part of Jesus’ new way of relating to God (5:36-8).

It is for those who are listening (27), who are paying attention who have decided he is who he claims to be – God’s spirit filled, promised kingdom bringing Messiah - and that his words are the ones to live by. If you believe that, if you listen to his teaching Jesus says you will bear the family image, you will be marked by love. Not the warm fuzzies, not the sweaty palms and racing heart of romantic love but a love that leads to action on God’s, his people’s and others behalf. A disciple’s…

We all have people we find it hard to get on with, who have wronged us, or mistreated us and what Jesus says here is easy to say but harder to act on. But that does not mean we can dismiss it. This is not higher level discipleship, this is not year 3 of 'Discipleship with Jesus' this is basic discipleship.  The context for this is in (20-22), Jesus followers  will have enemies “because of the Son of Man”. Making Jesus priority number one will result in exclusion, insult and rejection.   Why? Because it will be seen in the dishonest practice we will not be a part of at work that means we get passed over for promotion, it may mean there are conversations we are excluded from, it may be in rejection from a family, or belittling by teachers, or the taunt of ‘bigot’ or our description as a fundamentalist.

How should the disciple react to that? How do we deal with that opposition? “love… do good… bless… and pray for them.” Disciples doesn’t fight fire with fire, the disciple meets hatred, opposition, rejection, and put downs with compassion seen in serving and seeking others good.  This is radical; loving your neighbour the Jews could do, and we’re pretty good at it too, we’re great at loving those like us, who we get on with. But Jesus raises the bar, love your enemies. The Jew was to love the Roman, that’s how radical this is, they are to love the occupying power, the religious are to love the irreligious. Do I love those who are different from me?

But Jesus doesn’t stop there, he illustrates his point. Love is seen in actions not words, in seeking others good at cost to ourselves and in foregoing our rights. Jesus gives 4 situations and the response such love gives to each (29-30). Each rejection or wrong is to be met not with revenge or demanding our rights but with compassion, concern for the other person above myself.  (31) Love for the disciple is compassionate, it seeks the good of others even if they reject us.

Do you remember Top Trumps, it’s a game where you won the other persons card if yours had a higher value for a given category, if your card trumped theirs.  Jesus here highlights his point about the love of the disciples, the disciples’ love trumps the love we see in the world, it is extraordinary.

A sinner is someone who doesn’t keep God’s standards and a sinner’s love marked by reciprocity –giving to those who can give back. But the disciples’ love is different because it's given to those who do not, or cannot, give anything in return (32-34). Love to the person who does not love us, doing good to enemies, lending to those who cannot lend back to us if the need arises. This is not a you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours love, the disciples’ love for others is to go way beyond that.  This is a love that breaks the mould, that is without prejudice, that is lavished without thought of what I get in return. The disciples’ love is to be extraordinary.

Do we love people like that, or do we settle for reciprocal love, serving those who serve us, loving those who love us? Does our love for people stand out in the office, or among our neighbours? If we were to survey each others family, friends, work colleagues would love and compassion be words that dominated their responses?  Do I love and forgive those who make life difficult at work or at home? Does love restrain my tongue from making the quick reply that cuts the person who has belittled me or my faith down to size? Does love compel me to keep serving them, to keep sharing the gospel with them despite rejection?

It means we don’t join in the backstabbing of the boss that goes on at work, not just standing quietly giving silent consent but actively loving. It means we don’t join in the character assassination of the vindictive parent at the school gate, even after they have ridiculed our faith, we meet ridicule with love.  Are we generous with our love, service and money? The idea is of lending to those who cannot return the favour if we had need. The disciples’ actions are to be extraordinarily compassionate.  The disciples’ love is extraordinary, it gives lavishly without expectation of getting anything back and even after rejection.

Why does the disciple love like that?  Do you see the reasons Jesus gives?   (35) Because they live not for the worlds but for God’s approval. I think we struggle with this, we get caught up in wanting to be liked, loved, to be like the neighbours, to have our rights. Live for God’s blessing not the comfort of the world Jesus says. C. S. Lewis' wrote: "We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased."

Secondly because it reflects the love they have received from God (35). It shows the father’s likeness. As we exhibit active, extraordinary, compassionate love even for our enemies it shows we have understood God’s love for us.

Jesus is not teaching something which he knows nothing about. Why is he stood there? Because of God’s love, why has he given up worship and glory in heaven, because of love, why will he experience betrayal, opposition, rejection, arrest, beating and separation from God? Because of love. Jesus will weep as he goes into Jerusalem over those who condemn him to the cross, he will pray whilst nailed there for his Father’s forgiveness and blessing on those who plotted his murder and who hammered the very nails into his hands.

God does not ask us to do anything he has not done for us. That is what it looks like to love as God loves, to bear the Father’s image. We are able to love like that because we have experienced a love like that.  There are no proviso’s, no get out clauses, if you look at the footnotes there are no exceptions, no small print. It does not say love your enemies except if your boss is called Neil, or you work at DRI, or whatever.

The mark of a disciple is that having been loved whilst an enemies they love their enemies. A love that is active, that gives, that serves, without thought of return but with the love of the Father in mind.

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