Epiphany 0719 – “God’s Unconventional Love!” Luke 6:27-38

Epiphany 0719 – “God’s Unconventional Love!” Luke 6:27-38

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

The text for our sermon meditation is taken from the Gospel account of St Luke, the 6th Chapter:

“[Jesus said:] “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29To 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. 30Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
32“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34And 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. 35But 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. 36Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.”

So far the reading.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

As we hear these words of Jesus, we hear a very tall order made of the believer by Jesus Christ. Jesus asks of us, His hearers, the very thing we would rather not do. What is it that Jesus asks of His church other than to show unconditional love to everyone, even to those who are against us. Jesus uses the word enemies, Love your enemies. In order to fulfill this request of our Lord we can expect there to be opportunity to put love for enemies into effect.

Dr. Luther recognized this truth and said the following.

“There is no one on earth on whom God does not bestow an enemy and opponent as an indicator of his own anger and wickedness. The enemy harms his possessions, honor, body, or friends and thereby tries to find out whether anger is still present within him, whether it is possible for him to be kindly disposed toward his enemy, speak well of him, do good to him, and not design any evil against him. Come, then, whoever asks what he should do in order to perform good works, be pleasing to God, and be saved. Let him place his enemy before him, keep him steadily before the eyes of his heart as a disciplining exercise that he may break his spirit and accustom his heart to think of his enemy, to wish him the best of luck, to care and pray for him, and then, when he has the opportunity, to speak well of him and do good to him.” What Luther Says, #1364, page 462-63.

We heard last week concerning the blessedness of God regarding the joy of life’s difficulties and trials. Jesus continues this same discussion by focusing on those who make life difficult and even quite painful at times. Jesus lays before His people the manner in which we are to respond to such people.

How often we must hear these words of Jesus, take them to heart and put them into action. We need to hear them often because we will return to unsanctified words and actions when we tire of those around us. We need to hear these words often, take them to heart and put them into action because we will forget that we were once enemies of God. Yet, God in His mercy and long suffering showed love to us and made us receivers and hearers of His love.

So it is that Jesus says, “But I say to you who hear ….” You who hear are those who are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ. The Word of God brought you to new life and gave you the full measure of God’s love and mercy. Through that same Word, you were brought from enmity with God to fellowship with God. The psalmist writes this of the Lord’s work. Through the living Word God “ forgives all your iniquity, … heals all your diseases, … redeems your life from the pit, … as far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove our transgressions ….”

Is this love from God momentary or continuous? Certainly this love of God is continuous. It comes to you in the moment of you receiving new life. Yet, it continues to work the will of God in your life from that moment on. Consider what you know of Baptism. St Paul calls it the “washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit.” Dr Luther encourages you to return to your baptismal promise each day you are given life. St Paul again says “baptism now saves you.”

When does baptism stop working? There is no hint of baptism ceasing to work in your life. The key word from St Paul is the word “now.” When is now? It is every moment of every day from the moment the water of regeneration was poured over you. Since that day salvation and the love of God have been upon you to make you a person fit for God’s kingdom.

Such love of God is unconventional love. He loves those who are his enemies. His love turns them to servants of that love. The servants of God then serve a will other than their own. They reflect he unconventional love of God in their life. Hear this unconventional love revealed in the words of Jesus. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

At first glance your response will be anything but love, good, blessing and prayers for those who persecute you. You want to exact justice in kind, rather than showing kindness. You want to vent your anger rather than curbing your aggression. You want to return the favor rather than proclaiming forgiveness.

When such conventional thinking rises in your heart and mind, remember the unconventional preaching of Jesus. Putting his words into action, Jesus bore in his body the retaliation and rebellion of all sinners. Jesus did what was against the norm of life on earth. He opened not his mouth against those who slandered him and falsely accused him. Jesus did not raise his hand against those who condemned him to death and nailed his hands and feet to the cross. St Peter writes, “21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

So what is the purpose God for us? Why are we to show this unconventional love of God? As St Peter writes, the believer is to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ. Jesus took on human flesh to redeem sinners for the kingdom of God. Jesus came not because there would be fanfare and great popularity. Jesus came with no expectation of acceptance from the world. John writes in His Gospel account that Jesus came to his own people and his own people did not receive him. Jesus came because he was tasked by His Father in heaven to be the atoning sacrifice for sinners. Whether Jesus was believed or not believed, He gave his life for all people.

So also for those who hear and believe Jesus. We are to live our faith in Jesus Christ. This means to proclaim the love we have received regardless of the response or the situation. Last week the Coptic Orthodox Church honored the 21 Christian martyrs executed in 2015 for their faith. Their Islamic State captors demanded they recant their faith. The men answered that Jesus is their God and Lord. This confession did not convert their captors, but it did give witness to the work of Jesus Christ as each man died.

We do not face such things in our homes. Yet, we are called to give similar witness to our faith in Jesus Christ. As we are forgiven, so we are to forgive others. We pray for such words in the prayer taught us by Jesus. When we pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” remember how you have been shown mercy by God. As Dr. Luther wrote so we are to think of this petition. “We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would not look at our sins, or deny our prayer because of them. We are neither worthy of those things for which we pray, nor have we deserved them, but we ask that He would give them all to us by grace, for we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. So we too will sincerely forgive and gladly do good to those who sin against us.”

Such forgiveness is a guard against sinful judging of others. Sinful judging happens when we look down on others and withhold what God asks us to freely give. We are reminded of this free gift at the beginning of each worship service. Together we confess our sins before God’s altar. Then the words of God’s holy absolution are spoken without condition. As far as the east is from the west, so far does God remove your sins.

Consider this divine geography lesson and realize the depth of God’s love for sinners. How far north do you travel before you travel south? They meet at the north pole and again at the south pole. How far east do you travel before you travel west? They never meet. God removes the eternal consequences of your sin in Jesus Christ. You will never face God’s wrath and judgment because in Jesus you receive forgiveness.

There is even a reminder of this truth given by God to His church. This reminder is given in the bread and wine of Jesus New Covenant. This is the meal reserved for penitent sinners who seek to receive the forgiveness of sins given in Jesus’ body and blood. What they seek is given from God’s altar in the bread and wine of the sacrament. The words of Jesus proclaim his very presence in bread and wine given for the forgiveness of all sins. This is the unconventional love of God.

Such love is eternal. It is present in this world since God created the heavens and the earth. It is present in those who are blessed by God with faith for eternal life. We read earlier of this unconventional love shown by Joseph to his brothers. He was hated by his brothers as their father’s favorite child. He was sinfully treated by his brothers for the dreams God gave to him. He was sold into slavery by his brothers as an alternative to them taking his life. Joseph had every earthly reason to respond in kind. Yet, he knew there was a plan from God that was of great consequence and benefit. The Lord blessed Joseph with a forgiving heart and patient mind. Such evidence is shown in the words Joseph speaks to his brothers.

“I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. 5And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.”

This is our privilege as we speak of our salvation in Jesus Christ. We proclaim the reconciliation of God to a world in need of this gift. We proclaim a fellowship of believers who are reconciled brothers and sisters in God’s kingdom. We proclaim life and hope for the world in the sacrifice of the Son of God who alone overcame death on the cross and assured his people a future life in His resurrection from the tomb.

In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen