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The Golden Rule

October 22 2023

Book: Luke

Scripture: Luke 6:27-38

This morning we will look at some of the teaching of Jesus.

These are rules Jesus wants us to follow. But more importantly, they show us what God is like! We see the heart of God in these rules. This is how God treats us and I think it’s important to remember that as we read.

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 abuse you.

Remember last week, Jesus gave four blessings and four warnings. He basically divided the entire human race into two groups – the kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world.

He also said that his people, the people of the kingdom, should expect persecution. That’s also important to remember as we read. This is how Jesus wants His disciples to respond to persecution. Love them. Do good. Bless them. Pray for them. That’s your response.

And He now illustrates this in four ways:

29 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.

30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.

31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.

What does it mean to love your enemy? What does it mean to bless them? To respond to hatred with good?

Jesus illustrates for us with four simple examples. But, as they say, simple doesn’t mean easy.

Hitting a fastball is a simple concept. Swing the bat at the ball. But it might be the most difficult thing to do in all of sports. The best players in the world strike out most of the time.

Simple, but difficult. There’s nothing easy about turning the other cheek. There’s nothing easy about meeting injustice with grace. There’s nothing easy about showing love to an enemy. Simple, but incredibly difficult.

And yet, that’s exactly how high Jesus raises the bar for His disciples. The standard is grace – giving people something they clearly do not deserve. None of these blessings have been earned by the other person, but Jesus says, I want you to give them anyway!

And the foundation of this command is verse 31 – the golden rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. But in context, we can rephrase it slightly. Show grace because you need grace. The next section makes this clear.

32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

34 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.

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 is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.

36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

We should stop and consider how radical this is – offensive even. Love people who don’t love you. Do good to people who do evil to you. Love your enemies. Lend to people expecting nothing in return.

If I’m honest, part of me doesn’t like this at all. Grace is offensive… to people who don’t think they need it.

Remember, the kingdom of God turns everything upside down. Grace is not the way of the world. The way of the world is that people get what they deserve, or at least what we think they deserve. But who gets to be the judge of what people deserve?

Good question. Let’s find out.

37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

On the surface, most people like this part of the sermon. You get what you give…

And so, who are you to judge me? Who are you to condemn me? And that’s a fair question.

It is not our place to judge other people. Jesus commands us not to judge others. He commands us to forgive.

But most people quote this verse assuming that Jesus is giving us the license to do whatever we want to do. Don’t judge me! I can do whatever I want. Right?

But that completely misses the point. Only guilty people NEED to be forgiven. Only guilty people NEED to be shown mercy and grace.

Jesus is actually saying that all of us deserve judgment and condemnation and because that is true, none of us is worthy to judge anyone else. We NEED forgiveness, so we better learn how to show it. That’s the message!

Now, what would the world be like if everyone believed and practiced these things? There would be no revenge. There would be no racism. No classism. It would be a completely different world.

But it’s not that kind of world, is it? We live in a world of division and hatred and retribution. You hurt me, I hurt you back. But the kingdom of God operates differently.

To help us understand this, Jesus tells a powerful story in Matthew 20. He says the kingdom of God is like a landowner with a vineyard.  He needs workers, so he goes to the market at around 6am and hires some men.  They agree to a fair wage and head into the field.

The landowner goes back into town a few times during the day and hires more workers under the same arrangement.  But as the day progresses, he doesn’t lessen the pay.  Everybody gets the same wage.  Even the workers he hired an hour before sunset got a full wage.

As we might expect, the workers he hired at 6am are upset when it’s time to get paid.  They felt entitled to more, even though they agreed to the wage they got.  They’ve worked a full 12 hours and the last people hired only worked for one hour.  But the landowner replies that he has a right to be generous to the latecomers if he chooses and he has not been unfair to the other workers. No one forced them to work.

But we don’t like this at all.  We want to be paid in direct proportion to the work we do, and we want everyone around us to be paid in the same way.  If our boss is going to be generous with someone else, he’d better be generous with us.

But this attitude makes it very difficult for us to understand the grace of God. It is very difficult for people concerned with their own rights to understand grace, when they believe they deserve a better life.

If I can be so bold, we are being called to live as if we have no rights in this world. No right to comfort. No right to property. No right to wealth. No right to honor.

The civil authorities may preserve such rights on our behalf, and they should. Ultimately, justice will be served by God. But WE are being called to voluntarily self-sacrifice, to voluntarily surrender our rights, in love. And of course, that’s what Jesus calls us to – because that’s exactly what He did for us.

Jesus practiced what He preached. And in doing so, He showed us the heart of God.

Jesus laid down His right to crush His enemies with a single word. A legion of angels stood ready to annihilate the people who spit on their King, stripped and flogged Him, pressed thorns into his head and mocked Him, then nailed Him to a cross. He has the right to judge me… to condemn me, but He laid down that right to receive me as a friend.

And this is really what the kingdom of God is all about. That’s what Luke 6 is about. It’s what the parable of the generous landowner is about. The kingdom of God is different from the kingdom of this world.

How should we respond? The answer is repentance. We are being called to repentance. But when I say that word, it sometimes leads to confusion.

The word repentance makes us think of sin. Examine your heart. Identify your personal failures and confess those things to God. Yes, but repentance is much more than that.

A pastor friend of mine posted this statement and I agree completely:

“Repentance is not primarily about being sorry for your sins. Repentance is primarily about changing the way we think. So, when Jesus said, ‘Repent and believe the good news, the kingdom of heaven is at hand,’ he was saying ‘Change your way of thinking and have confidence in me, for the kingdom you hoped for is inadequate compared to the kingdom that is available now that I have come.’ That’s the good news.”

In other words, compare the world that Jesus describes to the world that exists and ask yourself, which kingdom do I want to be a part of? If your answer is “the kingdom of Jesus”, then turn from the world and follow Jesus.

Simple, but difficult. Why? Because it’s not one choice you make and then move on. It’s an everyday battle to actively repent and believe – a million daily choices until Jesus returns because these two kingdoms are at war.

And we won’t get it right every time, because the battle is happening in our hearts. But if you are a son or daughter of the Most High God, remember that He is kind even to the ungrateful and the evil.

I’m thankful to be counted among that group. I’m a son of God because He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil – people like me.

And so, I’ll close with this simple application. Simple, but difficult. Who is your enemy? Who in your life, today, needs to experience the grace of the new kingdom… from you? What might it look like for you to forgive and actively love the person in your life who least deserves it?