Here is part two in my series on Grace. This sermon is from Luke 6:27-36. Thanks for stopping by. jerry
A Short Series of Sermons on God’s Grace
Grace as Undeserved Love
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If 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. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31Do to others as you would have them do to you. 32″If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But 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. 36Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
I like to read to you the story from Christian Post concerning the recent shooting that took place in a Colorado Church and mission training complex. I’m going to just read it as it is without comment and allow you to think about it while I read.
Members at New Life Church are not quick to question God’s authority, said one young worshiper. So when a gunman dawns on the church campus and causes the death of two teenage sisters before being shot down by a church security guard, the church isn’t angry or in despair and asking God “why?”
God didn’t do this. That was Satan attacking,” Savannah Miller, 14, of New Life told The Los Angeles Times. Rather than questioning God, New Life members are turning to God during this tragic time. Moreover, they’re celebrating the miracle of that fateful day.
“God protected so many people here that day,” said Miller. On Sunday afternoon, 24-year-old Matthew Murray shot and killed Stephanie Works, 18, and sister Rachel, 16, at the parking lot of New Life Church in Colorado Springs. Twelve hours earlier, the gunman killed Tiffany Johnson, 26, and Philip Crouse, 24, at Youth With a Mission training center in Arvada Police in Colorado Springs believe the gunman intended to gun down many more victims at the megachurch before he was shot down by Jeanne Assam, a volunteer security guard, just as he entered the church building. He was carrying an assault rifle, two handguns and as many as 1,000 rounds of ammunition. An autopsy confirmed that the gunman died of a self-inflicted wound.
New Life members called it a miracle that hundreds of lives were saved that day. The shooting took place just a year after church founder and then senior pastor the Rev. Ted Haggard was fired. A male prostitute had alleged Haggard paid him for sex and methamphetamine. Haggard confessed to “sexual immorality.”
While attendance at the church has declined since the scandal, the prominent megachurch had set itself on a new course of recovery with new senior pastor Brady Boyd and 10,000 members. And then this happened.
“The devil has been really trying to break down our church,” said Tanner Vanbebber, 15, of New Life to The LA Times. “But I think we’re going to come up even stronger.” “This is building our faith,” said Chris Gordon, 16. “We must be doing something right in this church if Satan doesn’t like it.”
“The question, ‘Why did God let this happen?’ is a stupid one,” said Hayden Trobee, 15. “One of the cool things about New Life is, we’re not quick to question God’s authority.” On Wednesday, the church was packed with families and teens who said they had laid down their anger, fear and questions, to focus on worship.
Survivors at Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Arvada are also moving past the tragedy and placing trust in God. “Lord, we don’t know why two of our dear friends died in this hallway. But although we don’t understand why, we trust you,” prayed Peter Warren, director of the Denver chapter of Youth With a Mission.
Just days after the shooting, students and leaders at the missionary training center shouted a message to the gunman: “I forgive you, Matthew!”
“The enemy has been defeated and death couldn’t hold You down. We’re gonna lift our voice in victory, we’re gonna make Your praises loud,” the students sang on Tuesday. They rededicated the dorm building, where the shooting took place, to God.
Speaking for the first time since the shooting, Charlie Blanch, 22, who was shot in the leg at the center, said on Wednesday, “In the midst of this, I know that God is good. And He’s helped my legs heal. I wholeheartedly forgive Matthew Murray, and my prayers go out to his family,” according to Rocky Mountain News.
The families of the two YWAM victims have also offered Murray and his family forgiveness.
Now, I would like to make four observations about the grace that you and I should be interested in showing towards others. It is a difficult thing to do this though because I think sometimes that sermonizing such an important issue as grace sort of ruins what grace actually is. In other words, I don’t want to reduce the scope of grace to a mere 3 or 4 points here and there. What I want to do for grace is not reduce it in your life but expand it. I want grace to be an all-encompassing lifestyle, an over-arching set of lenses, an expanse as wide as the sky, as deep as the ocean, and as never-ending as space.
I don’t want to restrict grace in your life, but rather I hope to set it free. I hope to unleash the shackles that have bound you to a life of laws that told you you can only show grace in certain situations or that you can only be gracious at certain times or that being gracious in all situations is illusory. I want grace to be the principle that governs your relations with all people in your life: friends, enemies, children, relatives, and yourself. What I am hoping to do with grace in these sermons is teach you that you have been saved by grace and that, as such, you continue to be saved by grace each day. When God saved you by his grace he did not change the rules after and expect you to live by law from that point forward. If you have been saved by grace, he expects you to live by grace too. When grace is your very life you don’t need and won’t need my silly bullet-points concerning grace. When grace is your life it will always be your first, second, last, and only option. It is terribly liberating to live in such a way.
This is what I hope to do with grace in these sermons. Now, on to the four points.
1. Demonstrate Grace in the way you respond to mistreatment by others (vs 27-30)
Jesus said: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If 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. 30Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”
These words of Jesus are dominated by action words, imperative commands. Love. Do good. Bless. Pray. Turn. Do not stop. Give. Do not demand. Our lives demonstrate to others a reaction. Jesus doesn’t say, “Don’t react.” No, he is quite content that we do react. He is concerned mostly with the nature of our reaction.
And here’s the thing: Our response is the polar opposite of the manner in which every other person on the planet responds to crisis. David Faust writing in the Lookout asks ‘In a dog eat dog world filled with pain and justice why would anyone make the unnatural choice to forgive?’ There’s only one answer: the grace that we have received in our own life. There simply is no other response for the person who has been saved by grace.
I have a sneaking suspicion that if more churches understood this, if more Christians lived it, there would be a lot less friction, a lot less discord, a lot less sin in the church. If we lived by the grace that we have been saved by our world would simply be a different place to live in every day.
Here’s another important thing to remember concerning this demonstration of grace. In order for us to be the type of people who love those who hate us, or bless those who curse us, or pray for those who mistreat us, or who give to those steal from us, or turn the other cheek to those who slap us once, we have to be close enough to them, involved enough in their lives, living in their sphere of contact. In other words, we have to put ourselves in a position to be taken advantage of, a place where we can be hit, a place to be robbed. In other words, we need to be involved in the lives of those who might do such things.
But when we are, Jesus says, our response will be different and it will make a difference.
2. Demonstrate Grace in the way you would have grace shown to you (v. 31)
Jesus said: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” We call this the Golden Rule. But you would think that most people in the world really truly expect to be treated poorly considering the way they treat others. Darrell Bock wrote: “The idea of simple service and unconditional love are not in vogue. When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, I have a hard time seeing that love in the way we communicate with those who possess different values from our own.”
Look, we wanted to be treated well. There’s not a musician on the planet who has not written a song with the words, “We all want to be loved.” But if we really want to be loved why are so typically unwilling to love? Why is it so difficult for us to demonstrate to others, concretely, that we want to be loved by the way we treat them? Do we ever really stop to consider what we are telling others about ourselves by the way we treat them?
Why do you suppose it is so hard for us to do the one thing that the Holy God found so simple? Yet we happen to think that for some reason we hate sin more than God who forgives sin. I said last week that forgiveness is in fact God’s prerogative. Now I add to that: It is God’s prerogative to deal with sin and God, as demonstrated by Jesus Christ, chooses to forgive. Do we think we are more offended by sin as to hold grudges against those who sin against us? Or do you think we should be forgiving as God has forgiven?
We live in a world that is most devoid of grace. This is so true that when grace makes an appearance it is usually front page news or accompanied by a book release. We should have such an expectation of grace in our lives that the expectation should be fully demonstrated in our own actions. The vaccum of hate and grudges in this world needs to be filled with a generous grace. The world needs just now a generous helping of grace. If there is anything we can afford to give away it is grace, mercy, love.
Demonstrate grace to the world in accord with the grace you expect from the world.
3. Demonstrate Grace in a way that is contrary to the world’s expectations (v. 32-36)
Jesus said, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. 33And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. 34And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. 35But 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.”
The point is simple, isn’t it? Do something out of the ordinary. Do something that will make the world shake its collective head in disbelief. Here’s the thing, and I have said this before, love is the difficult choice; it is the difficult response; it is the difficult action we demonstrate. Furthermore, it is easy to love those who will reciprocate; it is much harder to love those who are ignored and brushed off as mere irritants.
But we see those imperatives again, don’t we? Love. Do Good. Lend. Love. There’s something about love in these verses that is irritating. There’s something about this love that Jesus expects us to demonstrate to others who are far less deserving than some we can think of in our lives. I think that what is irritating is that Jesus expects us to love without expectation of reward in this world. He says we live and love with only the expectation of being rewarded by God—perhaps not even in this world.
What sort of God is this who is even kind to the ungrateful and the wicked? And are we to be imitators of this God? Are we to demonstrate to others that this is the sort of God we serve? Would it please God if we showed kindness to the wretched and wicked and vile and contemptible and sinners and haters and enemies? Darrell Bock wrote, “The world is used to dealing with people either on the basis of power, utility, or equal exchange.”
Jesus says we should do different from what the world expects. Let’s respond not only contrary to the world’s expectations, but also contrary to the world’s standards, and contrary to the world’s experience. And let’s demonstrate it towards the ones in this world that the world typically overlooks and rejects.
Love does not discriminate even if we happen to differentiate. Love knows no bounds and no limits.
4. Demonstrate Grace in Accordance with the Grace shown to you (v. 36)
Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” In the very next chapter, we see an event in the life of Jesus that illustrates this perfectly.
Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”
40Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41″Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.
44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” 48Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
I think it is simple enough to say, concerning the grace you are willing to demonstrate towards others, this: How much grace has been shown you? And lest we answer too quickly let us bear in mind that the standard of grace we demonstrate is God’s grace to us. Howard Marshall wrote, “The mercy of God supplies both a pattern for his children to follow and a standard of comparison for them to attain.” So when God Himself is the standard of comparison and the pattern for us to follow, I have to ask: Should there be anyone outside the scope of our grace?
Or I might ask: How much grace have you been shown? What are the depths of your transgressions that God has forgiven and forgotten as far as the east is from the west? I don’t need to spill profound theology or philosophical thoughts on this matter. All I have to do is ask you to examine yourself: What has God forgiven you?
I need not even preach the sermon except to say: Considering how much mercy God has shown you, how much he has demonstrated to you, how much are you willing to show others, your enemies, your friends, your children, your neighbors? But God demonstrates his mercy in this: While we were yet sinners Christ died for our sins. Do you wait for others to repent before you forgive or is your forgiveness proactive and preemptive?
How much have you been forgiven?
David Crowder Band has a new CD out called Remedy. I don’t think there are finer musicians on the planet right now than David Crowder Band so when they release a CD I listen carefully to their lyrics. Crowder sings on this CD that the world is a difficult place to live in just now. Crowder says that we, you and me, should be the Remedy to this broken world. He sings on the last song Surely We Can Change:
And the problem is this, we were bought with a kiss
But the cheek still turned, even when it wasn’t hit.
And I don’t know what to do with a love like that
And I don’t know how to be a love like that.
When all the love in the world is right here among us
And hatred too.
And so we must choose what our hands will do.
Where there is pain, let us bring grace
Where there is suffering, bring serenity
For those afraid, Let us be brave
Where there is misery, let us bring them relief
And surely we can change, surely we can change
Oh surely we can change,
If we are going to be this gracious, then we are the ones who must change. If we are to be the Remedy then we are going to have to change the way we think about our salvation, our hope, and how that salvation and hope are lived out in this world concretely. We are going to have to alter the way we think, the way we live, the way we respond and react to the world.
The amazing thing about grace, I heard in another song this week, is that we are free to give it away.
The amazing thing about grace is that we have been empowered to demonstrate grace to the world around us. That we don’t need to be stingy with grace. We are free to be as grace-full as we want, as we can, as God has been.
The amazing thing about grace is that we should be eager to give it away, anxious to demonstrate it every chance we can. It should be first nature to us. We should not even need to be asked to forgive. It should be obvious.
Let me leave you with a thought. Six years ago on September 11, 2001, radical Islamic terrorists hijacked four airplanes. Two were flown into buildings in New York. One was flown into the Pentegon in Virginia. And a fourth was re-hijacked by the passengers and crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. The response of the United States was nothing short of terrifying. I remember rejoicing quickly and often at the retribution meted out against Mulsims in Afghanistan and later Iraq. After my initial shock and horror and sorrow at what befell us in the US I became angry and applauded the calls to arms.
Muslims do not know about grace. All they know is law and obedience.
I wonder how this world would be different if, instead of bombs and arms and war, the United States had responded to Muslim nations with grace. What if President, instead of going on television and announcing that our response would be swift against those who were against us, had gone on television and announced that the terrorists were forgiven?
What if, even to this day, the Christian response to Islamic terrorism was grace and forgiveness instead of hatred and violence?
The point is this: How big is grace? How much grace is too much grace? How can we be the Remedy in this world when our response to violence, hatred, and cheek slapping is nothing more than reciprocated violence, hatred and cheek slapping? I wonder if we need to change our thinking on this? The world, obviously, does not deserve our love. The world hates us. That is precisely why we must demonstrate it, because we did not deserve it either and yet that is the very thing God demonstrated to us.
Surely, we can change. Surely, we must.
Soli Deo Gloria!