Community Group Study “Luke 6:27-42 Loving Your Enemy and Blessing Those Who Curse You”
One of the largest hurdles to loving our neighbor can be our tendency towards judgement and seeing them as an enemy. Luke 6:27-42 deals with these two lines of thought. The first is the call to love our enemies and have a different standard of love than the world has. The second is a command to “judge not” until we have done some work on our own souls and know our own need for mercy and grace. The verse connecting these two thoughts together is Luke 6:36 “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” When we deeply know the mercy we have received we are able to offer that same sort of mercy towards others. The obstacle though is that it is much easier to assess the faults of others than to see our own faults. Likewise, it is natural in our worldly natures to return evil for evil or hate for hate instead of blessing and seeking the good of people we’d call our enemies.
Let’s explore these two threads and look at how we can overcome our tendency towards flippant judgment and grow in loving our neighbor.
A Different Kind of Love (Luke 6:27-35).
The first obstacle to loving your neighbor is when you treat them as an enemy. Jesus seems to ask the impossible in this passage. Instead of hating our enemies, which is the natural thing to do, we are commanded to love them and seek their good. In typical Jesus fashion he does not just give you someone you’d find semi-annoying as “your enemy” but someone who may even be actively seeking your harm. The passage is loaded with negative actions towards the disciple. This enemy hates you, curses you, abuses you, strikes you, begs from you, and takes away your goods… This is not just an unpleasant neighbor who plays loud music or someone who is naturally different than you. The response Jesus encourages from his people is to have a love that is greater than the love of this world. Luke 6:32-34 shows us the model of the world’s love which can be summarized as love those who love you, do good to those who do good to you, lend to those who pay you back. All of these things are easy and natural. Instead the follower of Jesus is to respond to their enemy with the commands of love, bless, pray for, offer the other cheek, give generously and not demand return payment.
Love that flows from followers of Jesus will be different because of the good news of what Jesus has done for his people. Jesus did not return hate for hate, but rather sought to love his enemies and bring them to God on the cross. There was no tangible payback or benefit for Jesus’ costly sacrifice. Instead he generously poured out his life to bring outsiders into his family.
What motivates the disciple to do this? The answer: the reward God gives and the mercy God has shown (Luke 6:35-36).
Clear Eyed Judgement (Luke 6:37-42).
A second obstacle to loving your neighbor (or your enemy for that matter) is the tendency of the human heart towards judgment. Jesus heaps up 4 commands in Luke 6:37-38: Judge not, condemn not, forgive and give. Each of these is given a cause and effect relationship like Judge not and you will not be judged; meaning that a life of judgement or condemnation typically will be a life that is likewise judged and condemned by others. Is Jesus telling his followers to never judge or to just practice “you do you”? Let’s look at what judgement is and then talk about the illustration of the plank and the speck.
Judging others is assigning a value or predicting someone’s life based on outward appearance or a minimal amount of “facts” about them. We do this all the time and most often without thinking about it. In fact your brain does something social psychologists call “thin-slicing”, which is this process of stereotyping people based on past interactions or assumed interactions. Your brain does this to save time and to help categorize possible responses or actions. However it is hard to love someone when you’ve already categorized them and often your reactions like this can be wrong.
Paul Miller tells a story of a friend of his who was in a wheel chair due to muscular dystrophy. One time at a restaurant they were ordering and a waitress looked to Paul and their friends and asked “what does he want?” while gesturing to the man in the wheel chair. She was communicating in that moment that he must be incapable of ordering since he was wheel chair bound. This friend was an electrical engineer, and a person, not an object. (Paul Miller, Love Walked Among Us, 37) Maybe you’ve had a moment where you’ve assessed someone based on outward appearance like what they wore to church, their age, their tattoos (or lack of them), their accent or their skin color. Maybe you already categorized someone as a person who wouldn’t be interested in spiritual things because of the car they drive or the people they have over in their homes. It could be that you even know of some overtly sinful things they do, maybe even including some of the actions in Luke 6:27-31.
The danger of judgment is that it can quickly lead to self righteousness and self love. Which is why Jesus uses the illustration that he uses. He gives us a visual image of someone with a huge log attached to their face trying to help someone who has some dust in their eye. Can the person with a plank in their eye help remove the dust in the other person’s eye? Sure. But, the irony is that they are blind to their own problem and can cause a lot more damage than they realize. The call for the follower of Jesus here is to do some soul work. We judge falsely when we do not first look at our own lives for a realistic assessment of who we are. When we do that we are able to help others with mercy, forgiveness and generosity.
Moving from Judgement to Love of Enemy (Luke 6:36).
The problem for many of us is that we are blind to our own faults and sin; and the faults of others are clearly seen. This passage is an invitation to see clearly by removing the plank from your eye. The follower of Jesus, who understands the depth of mercy they have received, will see more clearly and be free to love their enemy and do good to those who may even try to harm them because they know that they were enemies of God and God chose to show them good.
Know that you were an enemy of God, but that he purposed to love you. Look in your heart and ask God to reveal to you the depth of mercy you have received and then pray that God would bring opportunity into your life to help your brother and sister in Christ and love your neighbor; even those whom the world would say is your enemy.
Jesus calls his followers to a love that is greater than what we see in the world. We are to be like our teacher (Luke 6:40) who loved his enemies and loved selflessly. This happens as we recognize the mercy we have received and move from a place of judgment to a life of compassion.
Read Luke 6:27-36
Describe the way the world loves based on this passage? How does that differ to what Jesus tells his disciples? Have you experienced Luke 6:32-34? How is Luke 6:35 different and a more difficult way to love?
What kind of barriers has our culture made between people? How does this contribute to people seeing others as enemies?
How does experiencing the mercy of God empower us to be merciful?
Read Luke 6:37-42
Jesus gives us a call to self assessment. How is judgement dangerous when someone is doing so with a log in their eyes? Is this passage telling us not to judge or to judge differently? If we are to judge differently, what things shape the way the do that?
What are some steps that God is calling you take to grow in loving your neighbor based on this passage and the sermon?