Commentary by Walter Albritton


January 13, 2008


Grace Helps Us Love Other People Like God Loves Them  


Luke 6:27-36


Key Verse: Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. – Luke 6:35


When we choose to live within the kingdom of God, we are given a tough assignment. We are to love people, all people, like God loves people. The way God loves is quite different from the way we might love a brother or sister, a friend, a car, or banana pudding.

We use the English word love in a hundred different ways. Fortunately the Greek language, in which the New Testament was written, gives us three distinct words for love: eros, philia, and agape. Eros is the word used for passionate, sensual love. Philia is the word used for the love shared by friends and family members. Agape is the word used for God’s kind of love, the self-sacrificing, self-giving love that caused God to give his son to die on the cross for our sins.

The Bible teaches us that God loves us with agape love. When the Bible says God is love, the word used is agape. When the Scriptures admonish us to “love one another,” the word agape is used. When Jesus instructs us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us, he is using the word agape. There is no way to escape the fact that God expects us to love others, even our enemies, with agape love, God’s kind of love.

Think about how God loves. His mercy is astonishing. He not only forgives us for our sins, he even forgets our sins! Look at Jesus on the cross, asking the Father to have mercy on the very people who are crucifying him. Look at the way the forgiving father loved his prodigal son; instead of demanding a pound of flesh the father threw a party. That is agape love, the way God loves.

Earlier I said that this is a tough assignment. Actually it is more than that. It is an absolutely impossible assignment. What we must admit is that we cannot love like God loves – without God’s help. Loving those who hate us seems ridiculous outside the kingdom of God. But inside the kingdom there is no alternative. The only way to live as subjects of the King within the kingdom of God is to practice agape love.  

In our time there is much talk of God. Some speak of a God who directs them to kill themselves and innocent people in suicide bombings. Others speak of a God who is either dead or uninterested in human affairs. Clearly this is not the God of whom Jesus speaks. The God Christians worship is different. If we take Jesus seriously, we find ourselves, despite our wickedness, forgiven and loved by a God whose tender mercies are never exhausted. No wonder the Psalmist cried, “Thy loving kindness is better than life”!

Given the fact that God has called us to do the impossible – to love like he loves – what are we to do? The answer: embrace the truth as Jesus explained it. In John 15:5 Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without me you can do nothing.” There it is: offering agape love to our enemies is impossible unless Jesus abides in us. But turn it around: if we live in Jesus, and Jesus lives in us, we can love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who abuse us.

To live in Jesus is to surrender to Jesus – not superficially but fully so that he is Lord of everything about us. If Jesus is truly Lord, he will give us the grace to resist the temptation to hate those who hate us. He will help us to live by kingdom standards rather than the standards of the world. The world says, return hostility with hostility. Jesus says return hostility with agape love. We cannot do it without him. With him we can love like God loves – not perfectly but well enough for our Lord to be pleased.

If our Lord Jesus Christ can equip us to love like God loves, to want the best even for those who hurt us, should we not put aside our anger, hostility, and the desire for revenge, and flee to Jesus? When we choose the way of Jesus, we have chosen to live in the kingdom of God. Nowhere else is the practice of agape love possible. When any one of us makes that choice, the world soon has a little more evidence of the true character of the God of Jesus. So may it be.

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