Last week I introduced the next section in Jesus’ sermon in Luke 6, the section he starts off famously “Love your enemies.” Jesus really has some challenging things to say here. Because Jesus’ words are so different from the prevailing truth of most cultures around the world, some people have taken to calling Jesus’ approach, The Upside-Down Kingdom. From the vantage point of our culture, Jesus seems wrong and thus upside-down.
If you’re like me, you can respond to Jesus with of all kinds of “yeah, but…what about this or what about that, Jesus? Have you thought about how your teaching will work out in real life?” Let me explain. As I’ve studied for this sermon, I’ve struggled with how to present Jesus’ teaching. There are exceptions to the rule. Would Jesus be okay with allowing for exceptions?
Usually the difficulty lies in those life situations when obeying one teaching leads us to disobey another. Like the idea that if I give all my clothes away, I won’t have any for myself. Do I practice generosity so far that I am guilty of disobeying modesty? If I gave all my clothes away, I would be nude. Should I do that? Of course not. Do I practice non-retaliation so far that I allow my kids to be abused? Of course not. We need to use wisdom in applying these principles. And these are great principles. Let us not get confused by the exceptions to the principles so that we just chuck the principles out the window.
Jesus is calling us to be disciples in his upside-down kingdom, and that means we have hearts that love and give, sometimes in a way that seems reckless to the world! So here are some principles to take away:
First, let us give generously and sacrificially, especially to those in need. The biblical principle is that we should give towards equality. In the example of the first followers of Jesus or in passages like 2 Cor 8:14 we see this:
Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: “He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.”
Last week I introduced our evangelical forefather John Wesley’s teaching “Earn all you can, save all you can, give all you can.”
Earn means “work hard and make money.” In fact, make all you can. Use your gifts and abilities to make a lot of money. There is nothing wrong with amassing wealth, as we learned last week, if that wealth doesn’t own us.
Instead, Wesley says, “Earn all you can, save all you can.” Save means “don’t spend the money.” When he said “save,” he didn’t mean you should earn a ton of money and build up a massive savings account so that one day you can have fun in retirement. He specifically meant, “don’t spend your money on yourself.” Of course, we must meet the essential needs of our families, but in so doing live very, very simply. This incredibly hard to do in America because we have been told that we need tons of stuff, food, clothes, gadgets, cars, houses, hobbies and vacations. What we want and what we need has been confused. Wesley taught, however, the biblical principle of simplicity.
And why? So that you give all you can. Make a ton of money, don’t spend it, so you can be generous.
This video of a freezing child really challenged me to be more generous:
In addition to radical generosity, let us practice the principle of radical love.
Let us live lives without tit for tat. You have heard it said “eye for an eye” (OT principle), but Jesus tells us “get hit, turn the cheek!” Jesus himself is our example, washing the disciples’ feet. He is our example, saying “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” while they were nailing him to the cross. We must become people who do not take revenge. Instead, in this upside-down kingdom, when people mistreat us and take advantage of us, we seek to love them. Again, loving them doesn’t mean enabling bad behavior. But we should not be people who hate others, who are looking for revenge, who are hoping for bad to happen to others.
Instead we practice kindness. We practice love. Let us love the difficult people, the enemies. Treat them like you want to be treated. Remember that you are a person who some people have a very hard time with.