Love As Jesus

“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” (Luke 6:27-31 ESV)

“I only punish you because I love you.” Yeah, thanks mom. But it’s true. In Hebrews it says that God does the same thing. So how does letting someone abuse me show them love? Why here does the lack of a secure boundary demonstrate love but in every other circumstance to punish is loving. This is really a rhetorical question, because the answer may already be obvious to you.  For those for whom this is not obvious, you’re in for an “aha” moment. For those of you for whom this is obvious, stick around, I’m often unexpected. You never know.

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Reward? What Rewards?

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. (Luke 6:35,36 NASB)

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.” (Luke 6:38 NASB)

I’ve said it a lot in this blog, Americans love their “return on investment”.  We most often express it in the question, “What’s in it for me?”  But this isn’t unique to American culture, I believe it’s easy to find in any human culture, past or present.  The values may be different, but the question or interest in what’s valuable as a reward remains.  It’s fundamental or foundational in human beings.

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A Facet of Holiness

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.    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. (Luke 6:32-34 NASB)

Holiness is one of those terms people inside the church think only relates go God, and people outside the church think is a “church word”.  So few seem to understand a few, rather key, facets of the diamond that is holiness.

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Foundational Obedience

“Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?    Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and acts on them, I will show you whom he is like:    he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid a foundation on the rock; and when a flood occurred, the torrent burst against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.    But the one who has heard and has not acted accordingly, is like a man who built a house on the ground without any foundation; and the torrent burst against it and immediately it collapsed, and the ruin of that house was great.” (Luke 6:46-49 NASB)

Obedience.  It’s one of those words that affects us at a gut level.  Sure, when we were teenagers, it was difficult.  But now that we’re adults…it’s still hard.  We want to drive faster than the posted limit.  We want to leave work early or come in late, and who’d know?  We tell “white lies” to our families, some of which we eventually believe.  Obedience is not exactly a strong behavior trait in our culture.  In fact, the highest degree of obedience is when it we consider obedience to be a direct benefit to us.  Then we’re obedient, and it’s easy; as long as it’s about us.

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The Heart Is Like A Fruit Tree?

For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.    For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.    The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart. (Luke 6:43-45 NASB)

One of the images Jesus seems to prefer are references to fig or fruit trees. He also uses grapes, He refers to a mustard seed and tree.  But He seems to use references to the fruit produced most often.  In Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, Jesus uses this imagery to refer to false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20).  Here in Luke’s Sermon on the Plain, Jesus is using the imagery to refer to the human heart.

Again, context is important here.  The fruit is what reveals the “log” or “splinter” in the eye.  The “logs” and “splinters” are things in the heart.  What Jesus is providing is the measure which we use to “judge”, right here in the same context as His charge not to judge.  He says that by the same measure we judge we will be judged.  Rather than have no measure, we are to examine our hearts.  Actually, considering the log and splinter parable, we are to have someone else help us with our heart.

One of Jesus’ points in the log and splinter parable is that we are often unaware of what sort of fruit we’re producing.  So, combined with the prior parable, this reference of Jesus to fruit, trees, and our heart would mean that we are to actually invite someone else into our examination.  That’s not very American of us.  We don’t broke no guff from anyone.  It seems that Jesus expects His followers to do just that.

So as to be clear, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 that we are to examine our own hearts, but in saying, he doesn’t prohibit inviting someone else to look at us as well.  Jesus is very accurate in pointing out that we are often blindest when it comes to our own logs and splinters.  When the fruit of our lives indicates a heart problem, we are often the last to see it.  What we tend to see first is the reaction of people around us, and we reason backwards from there.

But if we adopt a transparent, humble approach to our walk with Jesus, then we have the benefit of discovering these logs and splinters much sooner.  And that reduces the damage we cause to the relationships around us.  This doesn’t make it easier to be open to criticism, and it doesn’t mean we take criticism from just anywhere.  Keep in mind that some who criticize haven’t removed their own logs or splinters.

So what I’m advocating in applying this passage is accountability as to what is in our hearts.  What sort of fruit are we producing?  What are people gathering from us?  Are the fruits of the Spirit evident or are we producing bad fruit?  This sort of invitation to others to inspect us for logs and splinters is part of what keeps spiritual leaders able to lead.  It’s a strange quality, and not necessarily popular.  But I believe it’s necessary.

An area I have struggled with, and continue to struggle is pride.  I don’t mean to, and I’m typically the last to notice I’m exhibiting it. So I need people around me relatively log and splinter free to point it out.  My wife is excellent at pointing out when I’m producing selfish fruit because she’s the closest person to me.  I need this sort of accountability in my life.

It’s very easy for me to excuse my own splinters and logs of anger, resentment, selfishness, pride, and so on because I convince myself they don’t affect others.  But these things in my heat “leak” and produce fruit in spite of my efforts to hide them.  I may be blind to such a log or splinter, but others see my fruit, and can either move on to a different “tree” or help me prune my own, and change my heart.  In very plain terms I need help to repent.  I need it.  I can try to repent on my own, but I’m still blind to my own stuff.  I need help to see so I can help others see.

So my heart is changed, I repent, in the context of others who will come along side me and point out to me the fruit I’m producing.  To the extent I’m open to it, I will become sighted enough to help others with their logs and splinters, enabling them to help others.  It’s this quality of transparency in a congregation or group of followers of Jesus that enables them to become a healed group helping others heal.

Transparency and the openness to criticism isn’t the only quality that makes healing possible.  But without it, I’m not sure the Holy Spirit has the opening He seeks in the life of His followers to make the changes He’s after.  We may like to think that His work is personal, and it is.  But He prefers to work on a person in the context of the corporate body of the Messiah.

That’s my view through the knothole.  What do you see?

Christian “Ophthalmology”

And He also spoke a parable to them: “A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?  A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.  Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:39-42 NASB)

One of the most well-known parables of Jesus is the “Plank-eyed Ophthalmologist”.  The context is more of the “judgmental” issue I looked at yesterday.  Here Jesus talks about “self-awareness” which is different.  I still believe it has to do with judging others, but doing so with a humble self-aware attitude.

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To Judge And Not To Judge

“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.    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.” (Luke 6:37,38 NASB)

This is one of those passages that gets thrown around, used as a “defense”, and basically misused a lot.  Because of this there is a responsibility that believers have which we’ve abdicated.  And because we’ve abdicated this responsibility many people never come to repentance.

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Be Stupid Like God

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. (Luke 6:35,36 NASB)

The whole of the teaching in both sets of “Sermons on the Whatever” are difficult to receive, hear, read, even believe?  For instance, in Luke’s “Sermon on the Plain” he records Jesus’ words about loving enemies (6:27-36).  Most people, regardless of culture or where in the world they are from, read that and find it hard to swallow.

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Blessings And Curses From Jesus

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.    Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.    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.    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.    But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full.    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.    Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:20-26 NASB)

It doesn’t take a pair of loops, a lifetime of review, and a PhD to notice that Luke’s “Sermon” is different than Matthew’s.  One of the most obvious differences in in their set of “Beatitudes”.  Luke clearly has a different use and point to make from these statements of Jesus.  Part of that comes from the inclusion of “Woes” in Luke’s set missing from Matthew’s.

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Jesus and Prayer…Why?

It was at this time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the whole night in prayer to God.    And when day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles: (Luke 6:12,13 NASB)

It seems that Jesus had quite a crowd of devoted followers around Him by this time in His ministry.  There was a great crowd of them when He descends to the plain.  But in Acts we are told that there were enough followers who were with Jesus from His baptism that they needed a selection process.  Paul says there were over 100 in the upper room where Jesus appears to the disciples after His resurrection.  I think it’s an error to think there were only twelve guys on the road with Jesus.

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