A difficult Blessing -Blessed are you when men hate you...
Luke 6:12-38 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; and James and John; and Philip and Bartholomew; 15 and Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17 Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. 19 And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.
20 And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. 21 Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. 22 Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. 23 Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. 24 But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. 25 Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. 26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.
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 mistreat you. 29 Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 31 Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive 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 Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
God’s kingdom, the kingdom of heaven has been called the upside down kingdom. In today’s text Jesus, speaking to His many disciples and a great throng of others who had come to hear Him and to be healed, names some of the ways the kingdom of heaven is different, opposite of what is normal to our society and culture. Among those things Jesus says: “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.” In John 15:18-25 Jesus says: “If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well. But they have done this to fulfill the word that is written in their Law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.’” Certainly it is not that as followers of Christ we should want people to hate us. We should not try to be contentious. People will appreciate much of what we do for them, but we can expect that if we are truly like Jesus many in the world will hate us. We will be hated, ostracized, insulted, scorned and persecuted for the sake of Jesus, if we are like Him.
Yet Jesus says: “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 Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful…Treat others the same way you want them to treat 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.” Part of what we get wrong is the motivation for our actions, even for the way we treat others. We are to love, bless and pray for those who hate, ostracize, insult and persecute us. Our motivation though is not that they will love us in return. If we are followers of Christ that should neither be our motivation, our expectation or our goal. We are to love because God loves. We are to be merciful because He is merciful. When we make receiving the love of the world our focus, we begin to operate within the paradigm of the world and the culture rather than within the kingdom of God. When we concern ourselves with doing things that will cause the world to love us, to embrace and receive us, we begin to compromise what Jesus teaches. We begin to accept, tolerate and even condone sin for the sake of the approval of man. The love of God and the love of Jesus is unconditional. God does not love us in hope that we will love Him. God loves us in spite of the fact that we hated Him. Romans 5:8 says: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The cross of Christ is the demonstration of God’s love. The greatest demonstration of hate and rejection of man, the cruelty of the cross was the response of the world to the love of God. Jesus didn’t set His mind on winning the approval of men. He lived and died for their redemption. The world has a choice whether they will accept the love of God, demonstrated in the cross of Christ or to continue to hate Jesus because of His righteousness. Judgment is not God condemning people. Judgment is the response of people to the love of God. Jesus says: “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”(John 3:19-21) The world must choose. We, on the other hand, if we are followers of Christ, if we want to walk and operate in the kingdom of heaven, have no choice. We must love, not as the world loves, not expecting to be loved in return, but rather we are to love as we have been loved by God. We are to love even knowing that we will be hated. We are to love both unconditionally and uncompromisingly as Jesus did.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit thank You for Your unconditional love demonstrated in the cross. Thank You that even while I hated You, You loved me. Help me to love as You love, unconditionally, not expecting to be loved in return, but being a demonstration of Your love, unconditional and uncompromising. Amen.