“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:27-36 (ESV)
For nearly a two year period, my wife and I had the tremendous honor to be welcomed into a small sphere of the local homeless population where we live. We were not homeless ourselves which made this experience even more meaningful. For the first five or six months it wasn’t an easy undertaking but it was incredible. We met so many new people and heard exciting and heart breaking stories. But we noticed that many of the church fold coming down to help were not responding in the same way. In fact, some of the comments we heard from the Christian servants there were so sad. The three that stood out the most were:
“This just isn’t my thing.”
“I don’t feel called to this.”
“I can’t serve people who aren’t grateful for it.”
The people who made comments like these came and went. For some of them I’m sure they came in the first place to quill some guilt in their hearts or check off another ‘to-do’ item on their Christian servant list. If these weren’t bad enough, we even received warnings from people who told us to think twice about helping the homeless because they could have a bad influence on us.
Over the next several months we went to their camp where we’d eat food, talk about Jesus, and have conversation. I would like to tell you that they all dedicated their lives to Christ and turned their lives around, but that isn’t how it played out. There were many tears shed and there was repentance and lots of prayer, but all but two of those men and women remained on the streets. So the question becomes, is it worth it? Was it a waste of time?
I believe most people would look at that and say that those of us who served threw away those two years. And that is the attitude that I think Jesus is addressing in our focus passage for chapter five. There is something in the fallen human condition that functions on the principle if reciprocity.
Reciprocity is defined as, “the quality or state of being reciprocal: mutual dependence, action, or influence: a mutual exchange of privileges.”
Reciprocity is the enemy of true love. Many relationships die out of self-pity due to one party believing they’re giving more than the other and not receiving back what they think is owed to them. For our service and love to be sincere, we must eradicate any presence of self-entitlement. No relationship can flourish with a ‘what can I get out of this’ mentality. For us to serve and love how Christ called us to means we have to first break the cycle of reciprocity in our lives.
In Luke chapter 6, Jesus is basically saying that if your love is based on return than you’re no different from anyone else. You don’t have to be a believer in Jesus to love but the kind of love that He calls us to is way beyond how worldly love operates. Christians and non-Christians alike, love those whom they receive love from, but Jesus says there’s more…a whole lot more…to love than that. Jesus actually says our love isn’t genuine until we can love the following:
- Our Enemies (verse 27)
- Those who hate us (verse 27)
- Those who curse us (verse 28)
- Those who abuse us (verse 28)
- Those who strike us (verse 29)
- Those who exploit and steal from us (verses 29 and 30)
- Those in need who can’t repay (verse 30)
Love is the key marker for how Christ’s followers stand out from the crowds. For our love to stand out it must be as obvious a contrast as light is from darkness. God’s grace would not be exceptional if it was only for those who were great and lovable. God’s grace becomes amazing when we realize He loves us even though the best of us are wretched sinners. If we are going to stand out and bring glory to God’s name by how we live, we cannot be selective in who we love.
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Peace and Blessings in Christ!