Hard Sayings of Jesus, I (Inscription 47)
Blessed Are the Poor Who Turn the Other Cheek?
March 27, 2011
Scripture Reading: Luke 6:20-31 (Erin Kaplan)
A strange conversation at the Co-op
· I had a strange conversation at the Co-op this week, that’s nothing unusual, I was at the Co-op.
On Thursday, I went to work on my sermon at the Co-op, and there is this guy who is almost always there in the morning, doing the crosswords. He typically sits in one seat, but this morning he wasn’t sitting down and but had his stuff in the other seat.
Not wanting to take “his” seat, I asked him which one he was sitting in. He muttered, “Just sit in the ____ seat, you don’t have to have _____ routine and ______” and other stuff that I didn’t catch.
I was a little taken aback – he doesn’t usually talk to me that way, but I replied, “Ok, thanks,” and remained pleasant.
· I thought about this sermon I was working on, and felt pleased with myself, I’d just been kind to someone who mistreated me!
But then again, I know that he is a card or two shy of a full deck, and so I took it as personally as if a dog had barked at me. It’s easier to overlook things like that.
Q What if it had been someone who meant more to me?
Q What if it had been a genuinely personal and nasty attack? Would I have respond so well?
The Hard Sayings of Jesus
Today we are starting a new 3-week series -- the hard sayings of Jesus.
Jesus amazes me - God comes down and becomes one of us, but is utterly different than what we would expect. He loves the sinner and snubs the religious. He doesn’t demand service but services. He loves and cares for the weak, broken, and vulnerable.
· But when he speaks, he confuses me.
Some things I don’t understand, other things I understand perfectly well, but I just don’t like them.
This morning, we are in “The Sermon on the Plain,” a shorter version of “The Sermon on the Mount.” It has a clever structure, four sets of four, wrapped up by “the really big idea.”
· Four “Blessed are you’s,” four “Woe to you’s,” four commands, then four illustrations.
All of it boils down to the Golden Rule, the one driving idea of what you are supposed to pursue as a child of God.
The purpose of this whole passage is to teach how citizens of the Kingdom of God act. The Kingdom is a central theme of Jesus ministry. The idea is that his followers were part of two kingdoms: The World and God’s
· He isn’t telling you how to get into it, but how to live if you are – getting in is only through his death.
In the first two section, compares and contrasts how citizens of those kingdoms live and what they pursue. I am going intersperse the blessings and woes together on screen to help you see it:
NIV Luke 6:20 Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
24 ¶ “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort.
On one hand, some guy lives in his broken-down car spending his last cent on drugs. On the other, Rick Warren made a ton of money on his books, but gives 90% of his income away.
Q Who is more blessed according to Jesus?
Q Is Jesus saying that all poor are blessed and righteous, and all the rich are wicked and going to Hell?
Let’s think about this. Remember a couple of weeks ago, I said I don’t only want to teach you God’s word, but also teach you to be able to read and understand the Bible better?
· Here is a key hermeneutical principle: Scripture interprets Scripture.
Jesus spoke this knowing the full scope of everything the Bible said (and would say!). Biblical authors wrote taking into account what had been said on the subject. The Holy Spirit guided writers knowing the full scope of what would be said.
· It’s like my sermons: no one can cover everything, I might overemphasize grace one week, but holiness the next.
So when Jesus says this, he knows that we know that Abraham was a righteous man and very wealthy. He knows than many key Biblical figure with godly and rich.
Jesus is using hyperbole, stating things in the extreme, like “Pluck out your eye.” (Matt 9:47). This is to shock them out of their preconceived ideas, to make them think differently.
· Jesus was contradicting the teaching of the day (an extreme “Good Life” perspective) and had to push really hard.
God or mammon?
Q So what is his point?
You can either pursue wealth or you can pursue God, not both. You can pursue God and still have money, many have. But you cannot pursue money and still get God.
· God will not be an add on. “You cannot serve God and money.”
And if you are spending your life pursuing money, woe to you. Yes, you might have comfort in this life, but all that money will be useless when you die.
· If you are not following Jesus, this is the closest to Heaven you will get.
21a Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied.
25a ¶ Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.
Life is not about physical comforts, being well fed and comfortable. It’s not even about being hungry, as if anorexics are more holy. But woe to you if a full stomach can keep us from evaluate your spiritual hunger.
21b Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh.
25b Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.
Life is not about being happy, about pursuing fun. We like being happy. Woe to you if you are so busy laughing on the outside that you ignore the emptiness on the inside.
Q Is this starting to sound familiar?
This is Jesus’ take on Ecclesiastics. There is nothing wrong with the God-given joys of this life, so long as they are in their proper place and don’t distract us from the next life.
22 Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. 23 Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
26 Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.
Life is not about being popular (nor is it about being hated), it’s about following God no matter the cost.
· In Jesus’ day, following him was sure way to persecution, not so much now.
But we are still in danger of care more about the opinions of your friends and co-workers than of God. Woe to you if you deny Jesus out of fear of being thought a weirdo or prude.
So our life is not about money, possessions, happiness, or fame. Those things are not bad in and of themselves, but woe to you if you pursue them instead of God.
Q What should we be pursuing instead?
Love. Jesus and the Beatles agree that “all you need is love,” but they mean very different things.
Remember, all of this teaching is leading us to the Golden Rule. He first pulled our eyes off our selfish pursuits, now places them on selflessness.
Loving the unlovable
NIV Luke 6:27 ¶ “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
Now this is brilliant. If I were to ask you to evaluate how loving you are, you (like me) would probably think in terms of those closest to us:
· I did this for my friends, I said this to my spouse, I bought this for my sister.
But these are all people who love you back! Jesus hits us with a real low blow:
NIV Luke 6:32 ¶ “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them.
Q Are you a citizen of the Kingdom? Then God expects better.
If you want to evaluate how loving you are, look at how you act towards those who unloving back to you.
· Great love expects no return.
To make the point, Jesus paints the strongest possible examples: Enemies, the ones who hate you, who curse you, who mistreat you.
Jesus is not asking anything he hasn’t done. This is the love God gives us, he loved us “while we were sinners,” (Rom. 5:8) his enemies. Jesus came to be tortured and murdered by his enemies, for his enemies.
Luke 6:35-36 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 sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
· When you show love to those who don’t deserve it, at times when they don’t deserve it, you are acting like your Father:
Who’s my enemy?
Q Now let’s think about this: Who are your enemies? Batman has Joker, who is your arch-nemesis?
Your competition at work? That neighbor who just refuses to be kind to you, no matter how hard you try? Your boss? Or it might be someone who has really hurt you.
· Get that person in your mind as you listen.
But let’s broaden it out a bit. Jesus did not mean “only love your enemy,” he meant “even love your enemy.”
Q If this is true for those who hate you, how much more so for those who love you, but don’t always act loving.
Even sinners can love their spouse when they love them back. What credit is that to you? You are call to something better.
Here is how you are to treat those who hate you or those who love you even when they are acting unloving:
1. Love them
Love starts as an act of will. It is a choice that will eventually be followed by emotions. Notice all the other things Jesus says, none of them are emotions:
2. Go good to them.
Treat them better than they deserve, show kindness without hope for a return.
3. Bless them (wish them well)
Wish them well, hope that things turn out well for them.
4. Pray for them.
Praying for your enemies is an amazing to have your heart softened. Add them to your prayer list.
Is he serious?
So let’s remember the structure: 4 blessings, 4 woes, 4 command to love, now 4 illustrations. These are the most challenging part of the passage:
NIV Luke 6:29-30 If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Q Does “give to the one who asks you” mean you should you give your last cent to the guy by Taco Bell, even though you know he’s working a racket?
Q Does “turn the other cheek” mean we are supposed to let people beat us up?
That is how Ghandi took it. In a letter to the British shortly after France fell and before the bombing began:
I would like you to lay down the arms you have as being useless for saving you or humanity. You will invite Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini to take what they want of the countries you call your possessions.... If these gentlemen choose to occupy your homes, you will vacate them. If they do not give you free passage out, you will allow yourselves, man, woman, and child, to be slaughtered, but you will refuse to owe allegiance to them.
Let’s go back to hermeneutics: Scripture interprets Scripture. I know Jesus doesn’t mean this literally. Not because I don’t like it (he says other things I don’t like), but because:
· In Luke 22:36 Jesus tells his disciples to carry swords; he expects them to defend themselves.
· In Acts 23:3, Paul doesn’t turn the other cheek; he confronts the person who hit him.
· In 2 Thess. 3:10 we’re commanded not to give food to the idle.
· The entire Biblical context of justice and hard work.
So what does Jesus mean? He is not saying, “Check your brain at the door, be mindlessly walked all over.”
· That isn’t even love, that’s enabling.
Jesus is using hyperbole – he is giving the extreme to make a point: Show love, be forgiving, don’t get revenge, be kind, be generous. To who? To those who don’t deserve it.
Let’s put this into practice:
I would bet that this week you felt like you were slapped, an enemy, or more likely, a friend or spouse, has said or done something that was utterly unloving.
Q How did you respond?
Did you turn the other check, love them, speak kindly, pray for them? Or do you sock them on back?
It would be tragic if we got caught up in all of the hermeneutical principles and contextual arguments and miss the real point: Be loving even when it is not deserved.
· This is huge in marriage, because they will keep waiting for you as you keep waiting for them.
The Golden Rule
All of this takes us to the main point:
NIV Luke 6:31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Q What do we want? What do we desperately crave?
We want someone to love us when we don’t deserve it.
We want to be able to have a really bad day, the ones that you wish you could do over, with the scream, shouting, silent treatment, manipulation, threats, and everything else, and know that we are still loved.
This is what God does for us, if we accept it. And if we have accepted it, then we in turn do that for others, whether they are your enemies, or just feel like your enemy.
Q & A
· Memorize and mediate on this passage, pray to be prepared to turn the other cheek.
· Pray for your enemies.
CTW: Communion reminds us of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, his enemies.
 “To Every Briton” an open letter by Mohandas Gandhi, published in Harijan, July 6, 1940.