Intro: Well morning friends and visitors and those joining online. My name is Pastor Matt Johnson and today we continue our sermon series on Luke’s gospel called PORTRAITS OF JESUS. Today our portrait is Jesus the ethicist. Ethics is about how we should live as Christians. And Jesus says the Christian ethic for life – is radical love.
Well today – we’ll see that in a fallen world radical love involves lots of mercy and forgiveness. As I thought about radical love, mercy and forgiveness, my mind was drawn to the Abdallah family (Slide 2). Last year this family absolutely blew Sydney away with their Christian faith, love and forgiveness.
It was the 1st February 2020 and the Abdallah’s had a large, extended family gathering at their house. At about 7:30pm the older kids asked if they could walk to the corner shop in Oatlands and get ice-creams. About the same time SAMUEL DAVIDSON got behind the wheel of his four-wheel drive; three times over the legal alcohol limit, with cocaine and amphetamines in his system.
Samuel then hit the 7 children with their ice-creams. (Slide 3). Antony (ENTER), Angelina(ENTER) and Sienna (ENTER) were killed instantly, along with their cousin Veronique. DANNY (the father) says that as he and his wife stood on the footpath looking at their dead children God intervened (ENTER).
In the aftermath of this tragedy – Danny and Leila made public statements that as Christians they knew Jesus love and forgiveness and as such they needed to show Samuel the driver love and forgiveness. The media couldn’t believe it. Where was the anger and the hatred? How could parents forgive such a terrible crime.
This year at the anniversary of her children’s death – Leila (the mum) spoke and said that as Christians, they had no choice. Leila said (Slide 3). Danny also said; (SLIDE 4).
The Abdallah’s are Catholic Maronite Christians and I know protestants often question whether Catholic faith is real. It’s probably a question we could ask of many protestants as well. But last year, in the midst of incredible loss, I watched Danny and Leila live out the gospel of Jesus in the media spotlight, in a truly mesmerising way. There was NO PRIDE. NO ARROGANCE or SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS. Just amazing trust in Jesus, with love and forgiveness like Jesus. I watched in awe and wondered if I could have responded with such humility and grace.
Today, Jesus says that this sort of love and mercy – should characterise all Christians, all the time. THE ETHIC OF JESUS is not tolerance, or niceness or even love your neighbor as yourself. It is actually love your enemies, even those who HATE you, HURT you and ROB you of your children. So how good are you at love – really?
Point 1: Radical Christian Love Does Good to Everyone, even Enemies
Show: Luke.6:27-31 (READ; Slide 6-7)
Explain: Well, in this passage today “LOVE” and “DOING GOOD” are held in parallel. Loving your enemies is doing good to them. But lets admit it up front, these may well be the hardest words in the Bible to truly put into practice. When someone wrongs us and our emotions are rising– we all believe it is our right to come out swinging. Maybe, not literally. But you wrong me and I’m going to get justice somehow.
But Jesus’ ethic is upside down and back to front. It’s shaped by the gospel, not the law. We still believe eye for eye, tooth for tooth and life for life is the way to right, wrongs, despitewhat Jesus did on the cross. If someone hurts us, (we believe) it is right that they receive a PROPORTIONAL hurt in return. But Jesus is telling us to love our enemies and extend goodness even to those who hurt us. Jesus gives us FOUR EXAMPLES of this radical love (Slide 8); 1) Love your enemies; 2) Bless those who curse you; 3) pray for those who mistreat you and 4) turn the other cheek.
Now I’m sure you all do this quite NATURALLY. I mean that’s right isn’t it? You all do these four things? Your child throws a tantrum and I’m sure you all respond with the Aaronic blessing; “May God bless you and keep you, may the Lord turn His face towards you and give you peace – my precious, precious child.” Or perhaps someone stabs you in the back at work. I’m sure your natural and automatic response is to start praying for them. And I know that if we socked Keith or Jamie a good punch in the face, I’m sure they’d turn the other cheek. (That’s right, isn’t it boys?) Maybe we can all take a swing at each other over morning tea and see 1) if we are just hearers of the word or 2) doers of the word.
Friends, I admit this is really hard stuff. In fact, it is so hard that Martin Luther and Dietrich Bonhoeffer both say this is pretty much impossible for sinful people. We can’t do it. That’s kind of the point.
This is God’s standard for entry into heaven. If you loved like this all the time and never lost your cool – maybe you don’t need Jesus to save you. The problem is – no one loves like this (all the time) and that’s why we need Jesus as our Saviour.
This teaching should first and foremost drive us into the arms of Jesus. If this is God’s standard – all of us should realize that we need forgiveness and we need Jesus to save us. None of us are good enough for heaven. (GOSPEL) But as we come to Jesus and accept Jesus as our Saviour, we begin to see Jesus has shown us exactly this sort of love as he died on the cross. The Bible says we are God’s ENEMIES because of our sin. We’ve all told Godto get knicked, used his name as a swear word and rejected his commandments. So, what we deserve from God is punishment or vengeance. But instead of giving us our just desserts – God loved us and turned the other cheek. At any point God could have smashed us and got His justice. But instead, God turned the other cheek and let us crucify him. Then even as people MOCKED JESUS – he prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That’s praying for those who mistreat you and that’s Jesus practicing what he preached. Despite all our sin, Jesus took the punishment for us, so that we would be spared.
Now how many people do you know who love you that much they would die to save you after 1) you’ve spat in their face, 2) mocked them, 3) disrespected them and 4) treated them like garbage. THE ANSWER IS ZERO. But Jesus loves you that much.
Apply: Now in terms of blessing those who curse you, GOD NOW SAYS, if you simply say sorry, I’ll forgive you. AND GOD SAYS, if you repent of your sin and try to love people like Jesus did – he’ll give you a place in heaven (even if you don’t do it perfectly). This is the gospel of God’s love and mercy. And this “gospel love” is the Christian ethic for life. We are meant to love one another as God and Jesus loved us.
Now in Matthew’s gospel; Jesus says “you have heard it said, love your neighbor as yourself, but I tell you love your enemies.” We’re all somewhat ok at loving our neighbor(when our neighbor is a nice, older lady who is always polite and friendly and makes us scones). But we’re not so good at loving our neighbor when they are a young wild child who parties until 3am every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. That person is my enemy. But Jesus is saying “yes, I mean love those neighbors too”, because that is the real world.
Illustrate: Even if you live in one of those gated communities on TV where all the houses are nice and there are golf courses and ponds with ducks swimming on them – be assured some of those neighbors will be worse than anything in housing commission. The reality is we live in a world where all of us are BROKEN to various degrees and we need to learn to love one another – nonetheless.
So Jesus says in verse 31; “do to others as you would have them do to you.” Now this is often taken out of the context. People say things like; if you want someone to give you a Ferrari, then go and give someone a Ferrari. Or if you want other people to help you, be a person who helps others. Now that is not wrong, per se. But Jesus actually says this in the context of sin. He’s saying that if you want other people to be gracious towards you when you sin, you need to be gracious and forgiving with others when they sin. Don’t act like you are always perfect. In the context of sin and failure “do to others what you would have them do for you”.
Point 2: Radical Christian Love is Merciful, not Transactional
Show: Lk.6:32-34 (READ)
Explain: Well, Jesus points out life is generally TRANSACTIONAL. We love in order to get love. We do good to others in order to receive good from others. We even lend to others on the condition that it is repaid in full – often with interest. Life is usually transactional. THE OLD PROVERBsays; if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But if you fail to scratch my back OR you don’t scratch my back in a proportional way – the friendship is over.
Conditional and transactional type love is how we usually act. If you really examined the relationships in your life – you’d find a lot of the time, a condition or a transaction of sorts, is present. Jesus is saying that’s not real kingdom love. It’s actually SELF-SERVING behaviour. You’re acting in a way that mimics love in order to gain something for yourself. Now I’ll admit humans are COMPLEX CREATURES and most of the time (even as Christians) we are no better at love, than regular sinners. We love in order to receive…
But what Jesus is saying is that THE TRUE STATE OF HEARTS is only really revealed by 1) how we love when we have been wronged or 2) how we love when there is zero return for us. WHEN YOU REALLY DO GOOD TO ANOTHER PERSON despite them hurting you then you are doing good for goodness sake and God will reward you in heaven. You’re doing good because God tells you to do good. You’re doing good for God, not for self. AND WHEN YOU LOVE ANOTHER PERSON with no expectation of getting something in return then it really is love and there will be reward in heaven. You’re loving your neighbor in obedience to God, not for self. So Jesus says in verse 35 (READ – Slide 12).
Apply: Please notice Jesus says be merciful, just as your heavenly Father is merciful. Now let me say mercy and grace are similar, but they are not the same. (Slide 13 – READ). Notice that one is extending is extending an underserved positive, the other is holding back a deserved negative.
Now this is really important because mercy doesn’t just turn a blind eye to sin. FOR MERCYto truly be received as mercy – it must be given to someone where wrong is identified.
Now the problem we have with much of Jesus’ teaching today is that if we do this – people will abuse our friendship. Now to some extent the answer is YES. If you do what Jesus says, some people will try to take advantage of you, just as some Christians try to take advantage of God. So yes, suck it up, deal with it and remember God is Sovereign. Eventually He will deal with such people, one way or another. But the important thing about mercy is that it still calls sin, sin. If someone is hurting you or taking advantage of you – it’s ok to point that out in a gentle and respectful way – remembering we are all sinners.
Illustrate: You might say; “Listen, I loaned you my car the other day and you brought it back with an empty petrol tank and a big ding in the side. I was upset that you didn’t tell me or offer to fix it. That’s wrong. But I’m not going to hold it against you. You can borrow the car again, just try to be more careful and considerate next time.” That’s mercy. Or you might discover someone has broken a secret you told them. It’s ok, to confront them and say “Look, I told you that in confidence and now I know you told others. That hurt me. Please be more considerate next time and keep the things I share with you, private.” Again, that’s mercy.
Apply: Mercy confronts sin for what it is, but then offers A) no consequence or B) less consequence than the sin probably deserves. Jesus is saying that in a sinful world real love needs to learn to express itself in mercy. God does the same with us. WHEN WE SIN, God still confronts our sin, through the Bible and by the Holy Spirit. But in God’s mercy we then receive no consequence or less consequence than the sin probably deserves. This is mercy. And as we truly learn to show others mercy (with GENTLENESS and RESPECT) like God shows us mercy – we all start to become more and more like our Father in heaven. In a fallen world our love needs to merciful, not transactional.
Point 3: Radical Christian Love needs to be Generous, not Stingy
Show: Lk.6:37-38 (READ)
Explain: Now notice, there are four things Jesus wants us to be generous in. 1)Do not judge. 2) Do not condemn. 3) Forgive and 4) give. Now when it says “DO NOT JUDGE” it means the person themselves. As Christians we must judge one anothers actions. Drunkeness is wrong. Lying is wrong. Adultery is wrong. So, if you are doing these things I’m going to call you on it. But I won’t judge you as a person or write you off as a Christian, because there is probably a lot of factors I don’t know. Mercy will still call sin – sin, but it won’t judge 1) the person or 2) the persons faith or 3) the person’s heart. That is ultimately up to Jesus.
And mercy certainly will NOT CONDEMN another person. Condemnation is the decision in our heart (that the person who has wronged us) is a complete waste of time and destined for hell. Mercy should never write anyone off because God often saves and changes even the worst of sinners. FOR EXAMPLE the apostle Paul, or me, or even you. Until the final trumpet mercy condemns no one…
Rather mercy, continues to FORGIVE and even GIVE love to those who do not deserve it – again and again and again. You may recall that Peter asked Jesus how many times should I forgive my brother? Is seven times enough? And Jesus responded not 7 times. But 70 times, 7 times. In other words, you keep forgiving and you keep showing mercy.
Illustrate: The final illustration in verse 38 – is of wheat or barley seller. In an agricultural society you bought seed by a measure. Now if the seller wanted to be STINGY they’d just pass the measuring cup through the grain, lift it up, sweep off the excess and quickly give you that amount. But the nature of grain is that if you do that – there will be all sorts of air pockets in the measuring cup and you’re not giving the person a fair or full amount. So, a proper seller of grain – would fill the cup, then tap it and shake it around a bit to get rid of the air pockets.
Then, they would create a mound of grain on top of the measuring cup to the point where adding one more grain results in some other grain falling over the side. That was considered a full and generous measure. And Jesus’ point is that we need to be people who give a generous and full measure of mercy, love and forgiveness to others.
Apply: Now with all that said – there are some natural complications with today’s teaching that require BIBLICAL WISDOM. We need to remember that radical Christian love is constrained by doing good to people. Under some limited circumstances, our love, mercy and forgiveness can actually facilitate evil. FOR EXAMPLE, if we have a child who has become a drug addict we still need to forgive them, but giving them more money or more opportunities to steal from us – may actually be enabling evil, rather than good. So our radical love and mercy still needs to be guided by wisdom and governed by goodness. Our objective in showing mercy and love is to bring about that which is truly good.
Also, some of us have the wrong concept of mercy and forgiveness. FOR EXAMPLE, if we have been ABUSED as children or have gone through DOMESTIC VIOLENCE or some other SIGNIFICANT sin – it’s important that we forgive the offender. But that doesn’t meanforgetting the offense and it doesn’t mean you have to be reconciled with the offender. In order to protect others you may even need to report the wrongdoing to police. But it’s super important that we forgive (and we hand over the anger in our hearts to God) because that anger and bitterness will destroy us if we don’t.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are RECONCILED and have a relationship with the person who wronged you. You must forgive. But you may not restore the relationship. For reconcilation to take place there must be both forgiveness by you, and repentance by the person who did wrong. ALTHOUGH GOD OFFERS forgiveness to everyone, GOD IS ONLY RECONCILED to those who repent of their sin and trust in Jesus. The same is true to some extent with us.
We should offer forgiveness and mercy to everyone. And generally speaking with most day to day sins we should try to maintain the relationship (even if the other person isn’t really repentant). But with certain sins like drunkeness, or domestic violence or adultery – you will only be able to have restored relationship with the other person if they truly repent. If they refuse to repent you may need to keep that person at arm’s length to protect yourself and others. But let me say that in ordinary life these last few examples represent a very small percentage of our ordinary life.
In the vast majority of cases we need to become MORE LOVING, even those who wrong us. We need to become MORE MERCIFUL and less transactional. And we need to learn to be MORE GENEROUS with our mercy to each other; a good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over into one anothers lives. FOR 1) as I am generous in mercy to you and 2) you are generous in mercy to me we begin to reflect the character of our heavenly Father who is generous in mercy to us all. Let me pray.