We are Children of God When We Imitate God’s Mercy

Sermon notes for  Luke 6:31-36  from  3 October 1993

Then the Lord said:  “Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.  If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 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.  But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

Jesus is the Son of God.   He speaks to us with all of the authority of God the Father because Jesus is fully divine.   Jesus is THE Teacher of morality for the restored people of God.  If we as God’s people have any questions about how we are to behave, we are to learn from Jesus who is God’s own Son. 

When the Lord Jesus speaks to us, He is not teaching law which sets legal boundaries.  Rather, He is speaking of our inner attitude and He speaks to our hearts.   Our Master rejected the legalism of religion of His day, and offers no legalism to us.   Jesus came to us not as God’s lawgiver, but as God’s example to us.  Jesus fully reveals to us how God expects His people to behave. 

And so we ask the question, how are we to behave?

One thing the Lord Jesus reveals to us is that we are to imitate the kindness of God in our dealings with others.   When we are kind to others, when we are merciful like God our Father is merciful to us, then we show ourselves to really be His children.  We will never be God’s children just by claiming we are.  We are not God’s children simply by claiming that we are human.   We show ourselves to be children of the Merciful God when we ourselves practice the kindness and love which God practices toward everyone on earth.

In other words, what the Lord Jesus teaches us is now the normative behavior for those who are hated, misused, cursed, despised.   If someone is currently sinning against you, or has sinned against you in the past and made themselves to be your enemy, Jesus has taught us how we are to respond. 

LOVE YOUR ENEMIES” 

What does this mean?   Jesus tells us to love your enemies is to do good to them, to pray for them, to bless them.   That is how you are to treat those who sin against you.   No retaliation.  No reciprocation.  Just Love. 

In fact isn’t this how you hope God will treat you on the Judgment Day when your sins against Him are read? 

Jesus teaches us to go beyond reciprocity, to gift giving.  Give people the gift of prayer, love, forgiveness.   Sinners reciprocate thinking themselves proper, justified, even good.  Sinners do good to those who are good to them, and treat badly those who are bad to them.   However, GOD LOVES.  God in fact loves even sinners. We are to imitate God. 

When Jesus says, “If you love only those who love you what credit is that to you?” –  He is saying, “what sort of gift is that?”   For the gifts of God go far beyond what is expected, deserved or earned because they are gifts of love.  We are to treat each other with gifts of love. 

Basically Jesus teaches that God will do to us as we do to others (including how we treat our enemies).  —   If we bless or curse, forgive or seek vengeance, offer mercy or doggedly pursue justice, God will treat us in the same way. 

The “Golden Rule” to do to others what you want them to do to you is not merely a common sense principle based upon self-interest.  It’s context is that of calling for love for others.  It is an integral part to Jesus teaching about love even for one’s enemies.  Treat all others as you want them to treat you.   If you want your enemies to be at peace with you, then be at peace with them no matter how they behave.  If you want people to love you or respect you or serve you, then do that to them. 

To “do good to those who hate you” means to “act well toward those who hate you”.  It is an attitude (something you choose to do), it is not a feeling (emotion).   Jesus does not say feel good about those who hate you, but only to chose to do good to them, despite their hatred toward you. 

From the 19th Century Welsh “Triads of St. Paul”  –   “There are three ways a Christian punishes an enemy: by forgiving him, by not divulging his sin, by doing all the good in his power.”

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