Be Merciful Just As Your Father Is Merciful.
Luke 6:27 – 38.
In both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Beatitudes prefaced the Sermon on the Mount. The Sermon as taught by Jesus to His disciples encapsulated broad aspects of kingdom life within the community of faith, from giving to the poor to prayer, from fasting to money matters. It touched on practical aspects of a countercultural society, reflecting a model that is unlike anything found in this world. Hence, it was certainly not meant as a list of goals for personal development, but to be embraced inter-relationally by all who espoused Yahweh’s shared values of service and sacrifice. The very implication of being a disciple in community implies mutual accountability in all aspects of daily life, which appears to go against the very grain of much of our individualistic upbringing and orientation (c.f., Phil 2:1-18). Recognising and respecting the Christ in another believer, despite the other’s immaturity, calls for a discerning lovingkindness that is only found in Christ. Furthermore, it is obvious that a self-centred Christianity is impotent to fulfil God’s community life as modelled in the Sermon on the Mount, and this remains a bane when further prejudice and animosities extinguish that witness in Christ. The requirement is a changed heart, a new heart that internalises kingdom values that works itself out from within a transformed life. Its witness is, therefore, persistently consistent and graciously self-sacrificing (Eze 11:19-21; Heb 8:7-13).
One of the first topics Jesus taught in the Sermon dealt with community relationships, and He began by promulgating love for three groups: our enemies, the less privileged, and the apathetic. Our enemies are ones who go out of their way to do us harm, including those who hated and cursed us, and those who physically assaulted us. We are to love them (Luke 6: 27-29a). Scandalous indeed! The second group consisted of the less fortunate who may dispossess us of our personal belonging, and we are to love them too. The drift of this instruction is to be purposefully self-sacrificing and bighearted towards the needy (Luke 6:29b-31). A third group involved those who are unappreciative and indifferent towards us; those who do not belong to our social circle despite being in the community (Luke 6:32-34). What Jesus was implying was that our identity in Christ differentiated us from those outside the kingdom, and when those outside are able to reciprocate among themselves, believers are to be more selfless and giving towards one another. The kingdom’s high view of mercy and love towards the antagonists, the poor and the apathetic, is never based on reciprocity, as any kindness extended reflects the heart of our Master and our life in Him, without a corresponding complementation.
The selflessness in benefiting others to the total exclusion of self in God’s new society is the central dynamic of Christian relationship. When God speaks about enemies, He inadvertently points to our prior ungodly state (Rom 5:10-11; Col 1:21-23; c.f., Luke 6:35); that state resulted in His Son becoming a curse for us on the cross (2 Cor 5:21). So, God is seeking to have us emulate Him to our enemies by loving them (Luke 6:27-31). Loving those who would hurt us is no mean feat, as the human predilection for self-preservation is unconscious and overwhelming that it literally requires an intentional effort on our part. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit (John 12:24-26; c.f., Phil 4:10-14).