* * * *
“But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee: and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again. And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again”—Luke 6:27-38.
* * * *
Do not these words seem rather strange to come to us in a day like this when so-called civilized nations are in sanguinary warfare and death prevails almost everywhere?1 Of course, we have to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ was speaking to His own disciples. We do not have here, and we might as well frankly face it, instruction for the nations of the world as to how they are to carry on their affairs of government. We find if we go through the Book that, when nations forget God, He uses other nations to punish them. The principle of government runs all through the Bible and it does not conflict with the plan of grace.
We have noticed already that the Sermon on the Mount is not the gospel. It gives us the principles of the kingdom of God, principles which should govern the lives of God’s children at all times. There are some who would ignore what we have here. They insist that it was given to the disciples in Israel and it will only come into effect again just before the coming of Christ at the Second Advent. That is sophistical reasoning. In view of the fact that we are told that the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit, how can we think for a moment that the principles laid down here for the disciples have no application for us? Christ is still the absent One, and we are here where we are bound to be misunderstood and will have to suffer if we bear His name. That is just what our blessed Lord emphasized in His address. “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” Now there is a direct challenge to everyone as individuals. I put the question to you as I put it to my own heart. Do we professed Christians love our enemies? That is the command of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we love our enemies, we will not be glad when they suffer, and certainly we will endeavor to make things no worse for them. He is speaking here of disciples, not of national affairs. If there were Christian nations they would be responsible to live according to such principles. But there are no nations which honor the Lord Jesus Christ completely and yield to His commands. The Christian sailor or soldier needs not to hate his enemy though he serves his country in battle.
Chiang Kai-Shek has sought to maintain an attitude of forbearance and love even toward those who have brought travail to his nation. A missionary tells us how his heart was stirred as that great Chinese leader prayed, “O God, keep me from ever hating the Japanese!” It took grace to pray like that. How often we have heard of Christian soldiers with no hatred in their hearts against their enemies. Yet how often we find even professing Christians with a spirit of malice and hatred toward each other. Nothing is such a hindrance to the work of the Lord as this. We need to remember that Christ has said: “With what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” “But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you.” To obey these precepts is to manifest the spirit of Christ. This is love in activity. It was fully displayed in our blessed Lord, who laid down His life for those who were His enemies and who hated Him without cause. When we are born from above (John 3:3), we receive the nature which is divine, and so are enabled in our measure to walk in love toward all men, no matter how injurious and hateful their behavior toward us may be.
Then our Lord continues: “Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” This is faith’s resource. None are so vicious or depraved but what there is a possibility that they may be reached and softened by means of the throne of God. We touch that throne by prayer. Blessing those who curse us, we intercede with God on their behalf. Again our Lord sets us the example, He who prayed, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
When somebody has been very unkind, instead of meeting him in the same way, get down on your knees and plead for his blessing, and when the Spirit of God speaks to him, his attitude will change. Try it and see. Go alone into the presence of God and ask Him to speak to those hearts in divine love. Pray for those against whom you have been cherishing ill feelings. “And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” This is one of the verses that I find a great many of my brethren delight to pass on to the remnant of Israel! It may prove a little inconvenient now, but the Lord meant us to take His words literally. He gave to His disciples an example. He bore reproach uncomplainingly and committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously. Men maltreated Him most cruelly. They dragged Him out to Calvary and nailed Him to the cross. He might have called on God to visit judgment upon them, but He cried out, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” If someone smites us on one cheek, are we willing to endure it and even to face further ill-treatment for Him? “And him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also.” We need not try to press this too literally. Our Lord Himself, when smitten on the one cheek, is not said to have challenged His persecutor to smite the other. It is rather the spirit of retaliation which is here rebuked. The disciple of the Lord Jesus is to be content to suffer wrongfully. Even if sued at the law, he is to be ready to give more than can be legally demanded. It is a standard too high for the unregenerate man, and seldom reached by those who profess to be followers of Christ.
That is manifest grace and it is supplied by Christ. “Give to every man that asketh of thee: and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.” The Christian is to be constantly on the giving side and he does not have to be too particular to see that men deserve everything that they ask from Him. Do you deserve everything that God gives you? Have we not all been ungrateful for what He has given? This does not mean that we can always give everything-that others ask for, but the point is that we are to have the attitude of giving, to be ready to assist and help rather than to oppose.
Observe it is not said that we are to give what every man asks. To do so would often mean to work injustice on others, as for the head of a family to give to beggars what his own household, for whom he is responsible to care (1 Tim. 5:8), might sorely need. There are times when it is better to give faithful advice than to bestow alms. But if one’s goods are taken by force, we can be content to let them go when assured we possess the true riches that shall never pass away.
Now comes the golden rule—“And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” It has often been said that the Lord Jesus Christ was not original in giving this rule, that it is found in other and older literature of the world. The great Chinese teacher, Confucius (King Futsze), said, “What you would not have others do to you, do not you to them.” That is negative. Our Lord Jesus makes it positive. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Here is benevolence in activity, here is goodness positive, not negative, even looking for an opportunity to emphasize the love and kindness of God to men and women in need all about one, this high standard is only found here in the Book of God.
You can search the literature of the world before Christ came, and you will not find it anywhere. This golden rule was first proclaimed by the blessed Son of God. The Bible is the Book of the golden rule.
Do not make a mistake and think this is the way of salvation. My dear friends, if you had to wait until you obeyed the golden rule, you would never become a Christian. You need to acknowledge that you have sinned against God, and when you trust Christ and accept Him as your Saviour, you become a Christian. Then you are to own Him as your Lord. He will enable you to live out the golden rule. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.”
In the next part of our passage, the Lord Jesus shows how men profess to be His disciples and yet rise no higher than the world in practical behavior. “For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.” If you only love them that love you what credit is that to you? “And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? For sinners also do even the same.” “And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” The Lord ridicules those who pretend to be the children of God when they have not reached any higher, so far as practical behavior goes, than those who make no profession at all. We are not to try to overcome evil with evil; but overcome evil with good. Then you are manifesting the spirit of Christ. “But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” This is one of the hardest lessons we have to learn. But by obedience to these words, we will be emphasizing our relationship to God our Father, for He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil. “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.”
Then our Lord says something which many of us have never considered. We know that it is in the Bible and yet it has so little influence on our lives: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” I wonder who of us can take a test like that and say, “Not guilty!” How quick we are to judge others—to judge people’s motives, to imply evil where it may not exist. How often are judgments unkind and untrue! “Judge not,” our Lord Jesus said, and we pay so little attention to it. “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.” The poet says, “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” Forgive and you shall be forgiven. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.” God is ever a Giver and we are called to be imitators of Him. Let us not be self-centered, always looking for recognition. True joy is found in ministering to others. “It is better,” said Jesus, “to give than to receive.”
If we manifest the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, we shall find that even unsaved and godless men will begin to recognize the fact that we really belong to Christ. It is amazing how grace can overcome evil and sin. You cannot lose if you spend your life giving, but if you spend it by taking in and taking in, you will lose out completely. How many folks are like the Dead Sea. For many centuries the River Jordan has been pouring fresh water down to the Dead Sea, and yet it remains as it has been for centuries. There is no outlet, it has been “taking in” all the time. If you want to know the secret of a happy life, you will find it in obeying the Lord’s word, “Give, and it shall be given unto you.”
In God’s government, He will see to it that we are treated at last as we treat others. The generous heart will receive generously in return. No one ever loses by loving, nor becomes poor by giving, for he has the blessing of those needier than himself.
Christ’s instruction was given for the guidance of His disciples. It is a mistake to suppose that in the teaching of our Lord we have a system of ethics designed to curb the evil propensities of natural men and so raise them to a higher spiritual plane. Nothing will do this but the new birth. When men are born of God, they find in the instruction of Jesus, the principles that guide in living the new life. But we need to remember there must be a life by which we live before we can live the life.
1 Written during the 2nd World-War.