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Tell Your Heart to Love Again

Feb 24, 2019

Passage: Luke 6:27-38

Preacher: Roy Thomas


“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” - Luke 6:31

Is it really possible to love your enemies, to do good to those who hate you, to bless those who curse you, and to pray for those who abuse you? Why in world would Jesus instruct us that - ‘If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also?’ Was this ​a convenient excuse for inaction; was this Jesus’ rationalization for being passive and accepting whatever injustices or unfair treatment we witness or experience. It appears that this would be the equivalent of saying “just ignore them” with the naive hope that whatever or whoever it is will just go away.

On the contrary, Jesus understood that retaliating against violence with violence might win you the battle but that you would lose the war. For Jesus, turning the other cheek meant finding the courage to challenge the enemy with the power of love; turning the other cheek meant the victim was boldly proclaiming that they are a human person with dignity and worth. The oppressor does not own them, the abuser cannot control them, and the victim no longer is a slave to the master.

In this light, in can be argued that Jesus’ instruction to love our enemies, to do good to those who hate us, to bless those who curse us, and to pray for those who abuse us transforms from an instruction to accept injustice into a challenge to resist systems of domination and oppression without the use of violence. This has, at times, been referred to as civil disobedience. Rather than ignoring an evil situation and hoping it will go away, Jesus is telling his followers to find creative, active, and nonviolent ways to assert their humanity and God’s love in the world. This nonviolent way is the model Mahatma Gandhi used in freeing India from colonial oppression. This nonviolent way is the model Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used in liberating God’s people from segregation. This nonviolent way demands that we love our enemies. But what kind of love is this?

In Greek there are many words used for the term ‘love’. Three of the most common are ‘philia’, ‘eros’ and ‘agape’. ‘Philia’ is used to describe the love between friends. ‘Eros’ is used to describe sexual love. ‘Agape’ refers to self-sacrificing love. Christians are called to a life of ‘agape’ - self-sacrificing love.

The Apostle Paul exhorts us that if we sacrifice our body but do not have love, we gain nothing. He reminds us that love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.

My wife Rachel and I have three children: Isaiah, Faith and Jeremiah. We love our children, we do good to them, and we make sacrifices for them. Yet, there are times when we fail as parents. On the whole, our children are awesome and we are so very proud of them. Yet, there are moments when our children get on our very last nerve and drive us crazy.

Rachel and I are sure that our children feel the same way about us. The fighting in our family has been weighing on us more recently than ever before. The reason for this is that two of our children - Isaiah andFaith-are teenagers.

Rachel and I occasionally find ourselves in a battle with them and feel like the enemy. In those times, all we want from them is to be loved; we want them to be good; we desire for them to make sacrifices for the sake of the family and wider community. Yet, how can they love us if we, as parents, refuse to do good or sacrifice our pride in the moments where our battles are most fierce? Yet, to be totally honest, in the midst of our most heated arguments, Rachel and I have found it difficult to love, to do good or to sacrifice.

We have to remind ourselves that God’s grace is sufficient for us. God’s power is made perfect in our weakness. Therefore, we should boast all the more gladly of our weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in us. We must be content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever we are weak, then we are strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Rachel and I are constantly having to remind ourselves that we should do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard our children as better than ourselves. We must not look to our own interests as parents, but rather to the interests of our children. We must have the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross. This is the mind of Christ. This should be the mind of every Christian parent.

  • When Pilate questioned Jesus about why people had risen against him. Jesus acknowledged their attack. We must acknowledge the hurt others have caused us.
    When Herod questioned Jesus about why the chief priests and the scribes accused him of wrongdoing, when Herod and his soldiers mistreated and mocked him, Jesus gave no answer. We must not answer the violence of others with violence of our own.
  • When Jesus was unjustly forced to carry the cross, no one would have blamed him if he chose to curse the people. Instead, Jesus turned to the Daughters of Jerusalem and said - ‘do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.’ We must stop allowing ourselves to be the victim and start inspiring others who still are stuck in that role.
  • When they crucified Jesus in the midst of criminals, Jesus prayed - ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ We must forgive those who hurt us or we will forever be forced to carry the pain they have caused us.
  • When Jesus was mocked by one of the criminals, Jesus intentionally chose to respond the prayer of confession offered by the other criminal and assured the repentant criminal - ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ Let us consider for a moment how Jesus could have possibly envisioned Paradise after all he had suffered and while still hanging from the Cross.
  • God offers to restore paradise to us but we must first be willing to let go of our self-defeating desires to meet violence with more violence. We must stop being the victim and start being the survivor who transforms others who are still being victimized.

Jesus Christ modeled for us the truth that without love whatever we do is worth nothing but with love all things are possible. Do you want to be loved again, then start loving again. God the Father, in Jesus Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit frees us to love again and to live with the real hope of experiencing paradise again.

Acknowledging our woundedness and permitting our heart to love again is the first step to healing. For those who are hungry for healing, the Body of Christ is the Bread of Heaven. For those who thirst for the freedom to love again, the Blood of Christ is the cup that saves us from a life consumed with hate and bitterness. Love - not because it is desirable. Love - because it transforms.

Love transforms us and those whom we dare to love. Love compels us to stop complaining about how bad our life is and start creating opportunities where love can flourish. Love visits someone before surgery, love visit someone at the hospital, love takes the Eucharist to someone who can’t come to church, love offers words of hope, love finds joy in acts of random kindness, love notices someone who is lonely and gives them fellowship, love inspires us to listen, love encourages us to forgive, love reminds us that we are all broken. Love looks for ways to transform not only our situation but also the world around us. Love makes sacrifices today that establish a legacy of faith for tomorrow. Therefore, tell your heart to love again for love never fails. Amen.