27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Luke 6:27-38

Bumper stickers are like the cover of a book. The cover of a book has the title, the author and often a picture that sums up what the book is about. In the same way, a bumper sticker sums up the person driving a car. Bumper stickers can be funny, they can show that someone is transporting a baby, they can show how many cats or dogs someone has, but they can also touch on the three taboo topics of money, politics and religion. Bumper stickers have the power to cause divisions and anger to quickly well up inside all of us when we see someone supporting something that we are against. They have the power to expose the conditions we use to determine whether we like or dislike someone. We all have conditions we use to determine whether or not we like someone, but what conditions does God place on liking or even loving us? In our Gospel reading from Luke 6, Jesus reminds us that God’s one condition to love you is mercy.

Last week Jesus told us that we are blessed as his followers because of the reward coming to us in heaven. Jesus’ words reminded us that we may not get all we want from God in this world, but we have what we needed most from God in our Savior and we have the promise that we will be rich, satisfied, filled with laughter and loved in heaven. This week, we pick up right after where we left off in Luke 6 and Jesus revealed to his followers how they were to act before going on to the rewards of heaven. Within these verses we see the familiar phrase,

31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you,”

often termed the “Golden Rule.” These words have become widely accepted as something for all to live by, but actually living out Jesus’ words is not easy.

In order to get a full understanding for what Jesus meant by

31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you,”

we have to look at the wider context. Jesus began by saying,

27 …“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

What Jesus said did not come naturally to everyone listening to him, and that has not changed for this generation either. We especially find Jesus’ words difficult to listen to as he continued on to say,

29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.

Jesus gave three examples to illustrate what it might look like if you were to love you enemies and finally he gave what we call the “Golden Rule,”

31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

By itself, the “Golden Rule,” sounds good, but when Jesus included our enemies, the precious golden rule quickly turned into a ugly block of coal.

When Jesus tells us to “love your enemies,” it does fall under the “Golden Rule.” The “Golden Rule,” is universal. “Do to others,” has no conditions. It treats all the same because there is no condition on the word, “others.” At first, we like the idea that the command has no limits on it; it appeals to our American idea of equality. We like the thought of the “Golden Rule,” until it is for someone we don’t believe deserves it. We have trouble hearing, “love your enemies.” We don’t believe our enemies and people who hate, curse and mistreat us deserve our love and kindness. If someone has wronged or hurt us, perhaps over and over, whose mistreatment has left lasting damage to us and who has no desire to apologize, make up for or stop hurting us, then we don’t want to love them. When we see that Jesus made our enemies the focus of the “Golden Rule,” we stop wanting to live by it. But if we look closely at what Jesus said, the focus of Jesus’ command was not how others act, but how we act. When Jesus said,

31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you,”

he told us to do two things. One, picture how we want others to act. Two, act that way. But, does that mean I really need to let my enemies slap me in order to be Jesus’ follower?

In order to understand Jesus’ examples surrounding his command, we need to get at the heart of why he is asking his followers to “love their enemies.” As we read this section, we might conclude that Jesus never wants us to defend ourselves or try to get out of a difficult situation. However, if we look at Jesus’ life, there were moments when he would not let people hurt him, like a few weeks ago when Jesus came to preach in his hometown. The people rejected him and tried to throw him off a cliff, but Jesus walked right through the crowd to safety, which doesn’t sound like turning the other cheek. At the same time, Jesus did allow the people who crucified him to slap him, spit on him and take his clothes. Does this mean Jesus did not follow his own command? Or, take the Apostle Paul. There were times when he came to towns on his missionary journeys and the people beat, stoned and imprisoned him, and Paul allowed that for the sake of spreading the gospel. At other times, Paul stopped the people and used his rights as a Roman citizen to prevent his mistreatment. Does this also mean that Paul did not follow Jesus’ command? No. The command Jesus gave us to

31 “Do to others as you would have them do to you,”

is one of many truths he wants us to live by, that we balance along with other commands he has given us. The heart of why Jesus asks us to “love our enemies,” is to show mercy. Mercy means you show love or forgiveness toward someone who deserves to be punished or harmed by you.

When we understand that Jesus gave us this command so that we would show mercy it becomes clearer how we are to follow it. As sinful people, we put many conditions on who we will or will not love, but God’s one condition to love you is mercy.

We would not be able to show mercy to others if God had not first shown it to us. As Jesus went on to explain the “Golden Rule,” loving our enemies and mercy, he used the following examples,

32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.”

Jesus used these examples to point out how easy it is to do good to those who are good back to us. He said that it doesn’t make you one of his followers if you only do good to good people. Instead, Jesus tells us to Luke 6 35

35 …love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.

Jesus calls us to love those who do not deserve it because he showed love to us when we did not deserve it.

God’s call for us to make mercy our one condition to show love to others opens the door to share what he has done for us. In our Old Testament reading from Genesis 45, Joseph’s mercy toward his brothers revealed his faith in God’s mercy. Joseph had been sold into slavery by his brothers because they were jealous of him. In fact, before they sold him into slavery, they hated him so much that they had lowered him into a cistern planning to leave him for dead. Years later, Joseph had become the second in command of Egypt by God’s working, so that Joseph could provide food for Egypt and other nations during a seven-year famine. Joseph’s brothers came to him to buy food during the famine and after learning who they were buying from the brothers were scared, but Joseph held no grudge. Joseph then asked his brothers and father to move to Egypt to be taken care of by him. After they moved, their father died and the brothers worried that Joseph would now take his revenge without fear of disappointing their father, but again Joseph assured them,

5 “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”

You and I may not have a family history quite like Joseph’s or be in a position to provide relief from famine on a national scale for the better part of a decade, but we have been put in a position to save lives in our community.

The mission of Divine Peace is to bring the true Word of God to our community. God has called us to share Jesus forgiveness and love with others, and doing that often begins with us showing others the kind of love and forgiveness Jesus showed to us. In 1 Timothy 1:15, Paul wrote,

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”

We are all born sinful meaning we are God’s enemies. Sin causes us to love what God hates and even if we do something God loves, we are doing it with the wrong motives. In the end our sin deserves punishment from God and God would be right to punish us, but God’s mercy meant he did not want to punish us. Punishing us would mean separating us from himself because of our sins, but God did not want to be separated from us. So, he sent Jesus to save us. Jesus took our punishment by giving his life for us and even as he was dying on the cross, we see God’s mercy in Jesus’ words in Luke 23:34

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

God loves his enemies and God loves you. And as his children, as members of his kingdom, blessed because of the reward of heaven that is ours through Jesus, God asks us to

36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Bumper stickers are like the cover of a book. The cover of a book sums up a book like a bumper sticker can sum up the person inside a vehicle. Bumper stickers can be light and funny, but they also have the power to point out the conditions we use to determine whether we like or dislike someone. Without God we fail to love one another, even the ones that share our same bumper stickers. Without God the bumper sticker on our souls would read, “ungrateful and wicked,” but God has been kind and merciful to us through our Savior Jesus. Through Jesus’ sacrifice and the gift of faith by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are children of the Most High. And, God has not called us to choose who we like or dislike, but to love one another, even our enemies. Yes, there will be times when we are taken advantage of and hurt, but in our second reading from Romans 12, Paul reminds us

19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.

God is the judge and he will deal with everyone as he sees fit. We are not the judge, instead Paul tells us,

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

We pray that God would continue show us his mercy, fill us with love for all people to have the chance to share God’s mercy with them in their Savior Jesus and give us peace because God’s one condition to love you is mercy through Jesus and through him our reward will be great in heaven. Amen.