The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
Luke 6:27 “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 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 Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (NASB)
As you know, the Season of Epiphany is dedicated to showing that Jesus is the Son of God in flesh, who has come to save both Jew and Gentile. To this end the readings for the Season of Epiphany consists of various miracles as Jesus distributes both spiritual and physical gifts to those in need. From His Baptism, turning water into wine, casting out demons, healing diseases, feeding the people, and bringing in a large catch of fish, while spending the majority of His time teaching the people the difference between the Law and the Gospel.
Throughout the history of the church, there has always been a struggle to balance the physical and spiritual teachings and work of Christ and His Church. Aestheticism, pietism, mysticism, neo-platonism spurn the physical, while hyper extending the spiritual. The church after the enlightenment and rationalism to the opposite. The social gospel movement, liberation theology, social justice movements, and “do gooder” sects reject the Gospel that brings with it forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation and focus exclusively on the physical, social, and political life of human beings.
As I have often taught, the Lutheran church in particular and Protestants in general largely spent the last 100 years failing in their duty to remain faithful to Christian doctrine and second to care for the physical needs of the neighbor.
The Gospel lesson for this morning follows immediately after the Gospel from the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany not only in the lectionary, but as the immediate following verses. What Jesus says here is simply a continuation of the Sermon of the Blessings and Woes that Jesus began preaching in last week’s reading.
In the Gospel for the Sixth Sunday (Lk 6:17–26), Jesus preached on the blessings bestowed upon those who had little and woes/curses on those with much. In other words Jesus was separating our fath from our circumstances. Being poor has nothing to do with the purity or strength of our faith and being rich has nothing to do with our standing before God. Having little or having much says nothing of our standing before God. So the first part of this sermon belongs to the First Table of the Law – “You shall have no other God before Me.” What does this mean? “We are to fear, love, and trust in God above all else.”
Luke 6:27 and following moves us from the First Table of the Law to the Second Table of the Law. The Second Table of the Law (Commandments 4-10) are not matters of salvation before, but of service to our neighbor. This is the very lesson congregations like ours, namely traditional, biblical, confessional, liturgical congregations have long neglected. Again, the attitude has been – the hungry should be fed by the government because we pay our taxes. The children should be educated by the government because we pay our taxes. The homeless should be housed and the naked clothed by the government, because we pay our taxes. So how is all that working out for our neighbors, the country, and the church?
Luke 6:26 was the last verse in last week’s reading and it leads us into the first assertion in this week’s lesson. 26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. 27 But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
As is often the case, Jesus is once again flipping the expected cultural standard on its head. Let me make this point again. As a general rule, if you are parroting the cultural and popular talking points, morality, and latest politically correct civil religion of the day, you are likely contradicting the Word of God and the Christian Faith. Jesus is always turning the cultural standards of the day on their heads.
While all these things demand compliance to the moral laws of the day, Jesus is always taking the Law to its only possible conclusion. He is always putting the Law’s impossible demands on us so show that we cannot fulfill them and that they are only fulfilled by Christ Jesus. Thus verse 38, which is a version of the so called “golden rule” set forth in Matthew 7:12. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Here in Luke we have, “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
The point of the golden rule is that Christians ought to live by it, while at the same time knowing that it is impossible for sinners to fulfill. In verses 32-34; 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount.”
Our translation uses the word credit, “what credit is that to you.” Some translations use the word “benefit.” The Greek word used here is, “charis,” which is usually translated “grace.” Most people read these “golden rule” passages and loving your enemy passages and think it adds something to a person’s standing before God. But the use of the word “charis,” indicates that this is not just a matter of looking good or doing the right thing in the eyes of men, but that these things have no benefit or credit toward salvation and in the eyes of God.
Here Jesus compares and contrasts the deeds of people who are already Christians with those of non-Christians, “sinners” as He names them here. By the way Jesus constructs the argument, He is teaching that as Christians we ought to be and do better than those who are not. Christians are to live in the freedom of the Gospel, not working for our salvation, but helping our neighbors in need.
One wonders how much different things would be if Christians and Christian churches had remained faithful to the Word of God and had continued to educate and care for the people. Christian schools filled with Christian and non-Christian kids, Christian hospitals, job training and placement programs run by Christians and congregations, housing programs run by and tied to churches. Yea, I know that pretty unreasonable and costly. Although those facts didn’t stop the early church when Roman governors complained that Christians not only took care of their own people, but took care of the non Christian poor and sick as well. The church was going so quickly as a result, that the Romans found themselves fighting a losing battle in driving Christianity from the territories. If the Christian church is going to survive, perhaps even thrive in America, American Christianity needs to return to fidelity to God’s Word in matters of salvation and to the love, care, and protection of the neighbor.
35 “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 Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
We are just as unworthy as the non-Christian. Christ Jesus was the only man to fulfill the Law perfectly. He alone follows the golden rule perfectly. In the first part of verse 35 Jesus speaks to us. In the second part, He speaks of Himself. “For He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.” Even now He continues to be kind to ungrateful and evil men. Jesus speaks in the present tense.
1 John 4:18-19 says the same kind of thing in a different way. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us.”
It’s the standard of measurement that ultimately counts. “For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” If the measure standard is the law of men, the newest and latest civic religion, we will all fall terribly short because we are all by nature hypocrites. We can’t keep the standard we impose on others. If the measurement is the Law of God, we sin in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. “No one is good except God alone.”
In regard to verse 38, the gifts of God, the forgiveness of sins and eternal life are those things that are pressed down, shaken together, and running over into our lap for we are measured not by what we do but by what Christ has done for us.
The Bible has a ranking for the use of its financial and material resources. It si a three tiered system. First, comes the Word and sacrament ministry– the material support of the pastor. Second, aid to the members of the congregation. Third, aide to our neighbors.
You need not do, you need not measure to gain or improve your standing before God. You don’t need to measure yourself by judging your neighbor to be a greater sinner than you. You need not condemn, to demonstrate your acquittal. You need not collect and save and grow rich because they are some benefit to you before God.
Your measurement is Christ. Not that you have to or even can do as Jesus did. But rather you are measured in Christ. His perfect obedience becomes yours. His perfect love is imputed to you. His life becomes your life. His death is your death. His resurrection is your resurrection. 22 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.