How to Spot a Real Christian
Bible Text: Luke 6:27 – 49 | Speaker: Clayton Fopp | Series: Luke – A Careful History | Luke 6:27 – 49
How to Spot a Real Christian
They’re just like their father …
I wonder if you are in any way like your parents? I don’t mean physically, genetically, particularly, but in character, in behaviour,
That if one of your friends here were to meet your parents, they would immediately say, “Oh, I see where you get that aspect of your personality from!”
Maybe actually, you were determined not to be like one or the other of your parents, but you’ve found yourself as you’re getting older, you are turning out more and more exactly like that.
Or maybe you’re a parent, and you see it in your children.
Mannerisms, that they have, because you have them!
You look at them and think, “They’re just like their Father!”
So, you know, my children look down on people who break the rules,
And think that everyone wants to hear their opinion on everything,
And I’m sure there are some less positive attributes as well! But they’re like that, because I’m like that.
You look at them, and in some ways, you can spot aspects of me.
This part of Luke’s gospel that we’re in this morning, is all about how you can spot a real Christian, by the family resemblance.
What does a real Christian look like?,
What are the characteristics of a genuine follower of Jesus?
Well, if you want to spot a real Christian, look at who they love, and how they love,
Because a genuine disciple of Jesus will love their enemies.
You can spot a Christian because they love their enemies (v 27 – 28)
Verse 27, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you
Let’s just be straight first of all. There not really any wiggle room, here is there?
Love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
There’s no room for saying, “When Jesus says love, he really means just, kind of grudgingly tolerate, and when he says those who hate you, he means just people who aren’t your best friends.”
This is revolutionary. In Jesus’ day it was considered passable to love your friends, but hate your enemies. Even the rabbis taught that.
And yet Jesus’ command to his followers is vastly different to what even those religious people in his day considered ethical. And still today, this kind of love is, well, strange and foreign isn’t it?
And so we can understand why Jesus makes that strange little comment at the beginning, But to you who are listening I say:
He knows this isn’t going to be the practice of every person on earth,
This isn’t even going to be the practice of every person who hears Jesus’ words, who comes under the sound of the gospel message.
But this must be the behaviour, of those who hear and listen to Jesus’ words.
So if you’re a Christian, these few verses give you a picture of exactly what Jesus thinks must be the character of your life.
And if you’re not a Christian, but you’re here today to maybe find out about Christian things, this is the kind of life that Jesus is calling you to.
This isn’t how you get in to a relationship with Jesus.
Jesus is talking to his disciples. Verse 20 tells us that.
This isn’t how to make God like you.
This is for people, verse 36, who are already, children of their heavenly Father.
These quite demanding instructions are not about how to get in to relationship with God, but Jesus is speaking to people who already are.
And let me say, I reckon this is hard.
This is a challenge for us.
The love that Jesus expects of us has a wider scope than what we probably want.
See down in verse 32, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.
Even people who don’t acknowledge God, or honour him,
Even people who are quite happy to thumb their nose at God and ignore him, that’s what “sin” is, according to the Bible.
Even those guys love people who love them,
Who are like them.
The Old Testament command was love your neighbour.
But Jesus’ says you’ll be able to spot a Christian because they will Love their enemies.
Your neighbour in Israel’s religious thinking was generally your fellow Israelite. Someone who believed the same things as you did, looked at the world the same way you did.
Of course Jesus opens even that idea up, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, but here the view is only those who are nothing like that at all.
Now, you might think, “I don’t particularly have any enemies.” And that’s good. If that’s what your life is like, I’m pleased for you.
But let’s remember where we’ve come in Luke’s gospel. Just back up in verse 22, Jesus spoke about being hated for his sake, for being a Christian. Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man
So probably at the front of Jesus’ mind he’s thinking of people who hate you because you’re a Christian.
I’ve been reading recently about Christians in Eritrea, who are locked into steel shipping containers and left in the desert. About 20 Christians in each container. The temperature inside can get close to 80 degress.
It’s an awful, awful torture and imprisonment.
It’s a way of trying to intimidate Christians into silence,
And the more that die in the shipping containers, the less you have to worry about actually putting on trial or anything like that.
My friend’s friend, the pastor in Malaysia, is still missing, 2 weeks after he was kidnapped off the street.
We tend not to face that kind of hatred, but as we saw last week, we do experience what Jesus spoke of in verse 22, exclusion and insult. Rejection.
So maybe that broadens the category for you a bit. Maybe within those terms you can think of people who do mistreat you, verse 28,
Perhaps you can think of some people, some names come to mind, of people whom Jesus is calling on you to love.
It’s probably not limited to those who have it in for you because you’re a Christian.
Certainly in the context that’s the primary focus,
But Jesus’ original hearers probably thought of the occupying Romans as enemies as well.
And no doubt for some here, there are others, work colleagues, class mates, family members, who treat you badly, and, maybe you don’t even know the reason.
Perhaps you’ve got some names coming to mind,
Names of people Jesus is calling on you to love.
Got some names in your head?
Can you see some faces?
That can be quite hard, can’t it?
And let me say, this passage, out of any part of the Bible we’ve looked at in our 7 years and one week together as a church,
This week, has been more confronting to me personally than any other.
I don’t think of myself as having enemies, but people have cursed me,
I have been mistreated,
People have taken from me,
And as I reflected on these words this week, I was confronted with some names of people, and I realised I had to sit down and work out how to love them, because I realised I wasn’t.
And that wasn’t particularly a fun experience.
Nor is it going to be easy
So let’s have a listen to what Jesus wants ringing in our ears when we’re faced with people who either oppose us because of our faith, or who mistreat us in various ways.
You can spot a Christian because their love is active (v 27 – 29)
Well, you’ll recognise a Christian by a love for their enemies that is active.
Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, verse 38, 28 bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
It’s not enough to simply not do, bad things to them.
So maybe there’s someone in your workplace, who’s deliberately trying to make you look bad.
They blame you when things go wrong,
They make sure the finger’s always pointed in your direction.
Maybe there’s someone in your circle who tries to sabotage your relationships. They say untrue things behind your back.
Now I’ve had that happen to me.
It’s awful, isn’t it?
It makes you feel sick,
It makes you angry,
It makes you want to get even.
Well, I speak for myself!
But I could understand if Jesus said to me, “as long as you don’t do those bad things back to them, you’re all good.”
I won’t spread lies about that person, like they do about me.
I won’t try and have every bad outcome blamed on them.
But according to Jesus, that’s not enough.
It’s not enough to just refrain from antagonistic behaviour.
The love we are to have for those who oppose us and mistreat us is active.
Love your enemies
do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you
These are the first direct commands that Jesus gives to his disciples in Luke’s gospel. We’re half way through chapter 6 before Jesus lays down instructions for those who would follow him.
So if this is where Jesus begins, we should take notice, shouldn’t we?
You might remember in 1995 the United Nations declared an International Year of Tolerance.
But disciples of Jesus don’t do tolerance, we’re called to do good to those who oppose us.
See, down in verse 33, it’s nothing out of the ordinary if you do good to people who are good to you! what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that
Everyone does that.
These 3, applications, we could say, of what loving your enemies looks like, they’re not feelings, are they? They’re actions.
When Jesus calls us to love our enemies, he’s not asking us to feel something particular towards them, but to act towards them in a particular way.
Maybe our feelings about those who mistreat us will change as our actions towards them change. Often in dealing with marriages what are struggling, we might say to the husband, for example, “act in a loving way towards your wife”, and that might help you as you try and feel loving towards her.
So maybe, you will end up feeling something different about your enemies, But Jesus isn’t commanding you to feel a certain way.
And in fact there may be other feelings that will never be taken away, that will never change.
You might be afraid of someone who mistreats you.
You may fear for your life in their presence. And I know there are people here for whom this is the reality.
Jesus isn’t saying that feeling needs to change.
Don’t be unwise,
But this is how Jesus calls on you to act towards them, even if you can’t be in the same room as them.
Bless-ing is usually about words, isn’t it? When I do chapel at St Mark’s school here in Mount Barker, the very last part of the chapel service every Friday morning is called the “blessing” and it’s words that are said.
And so this should make us think about our words to others and about others.
Jesus wants us to speak in a way that is good for our enemies.
Use our words to build them up,
To speak positively to them, and to other people about them.
But it’s also possible to be a blessing.
We saw last week that to be blessed is to be fortunate because of your circumstances.
bless those who curse you, act towards the people who curse you, in such a way that they consider themselves fortunate because of you!
The way I treat someone who really has it in for me, should be such that they consider themselves fortunate, blessed by God, because of me,
And other people should think that when they hear me speak about my enemy.
Of course, to love like this, to bless those who curse you doesn’t mean what we might call, blessing a particular lifestyle or behaviour.
To be a blessing to someone is by no means the same thing as blessing the choices that they’ve made. Let’s not confuse this.
That’s what our world tried to do with the idea of tolerance isn’t it?
To say, “it doesn’t matter what you believe, or what you want to do. We’ll support you in your desire to do whatever your heart feels like.”
There was no room for calling out error,
Or speaking a warning!
Well, remember Jesus doesn’t call us to tolerate, he calls us to love.
And in order to love your enemies, in order to be a blessing to those who curse you, that might actually mean speaking words of correction,
Holding out the hope of the gospel.
I yelled, at 2 of my kids the other day.
Top of my voice.
I yelled at them to stop doing what they were doing. And to stop right now.
‘cause they’d stepped out onto the road without looking!
Sometimes to act in love, means to warn people.
Another part of being active for the good of our enemies, is to pray for those who mistreat you.
I remember in my youth group days people used to joke about this. If someone really annoyed them, they’d say, “You’re on the top of my prayer list.” And that sounds great, and kind!
And then as they turned away they’d say under their breath, “The list of people I’m praying that God will strike down!”
73 years ago this week, Corrie Ten Boom was arrested in her family home in the Netherlands, along with 29 others, and sent off to a Nazi concentration camp. She was imprisoned with her sister Betsie until Betsie’s death, later that year.
At one point during their time in the extermination camp, Corrie and Betsie witnessed a female guard beating another prisoner.
Corrie exclaimed, “Oh, the poor woman.”
Betsie responded, “Yes. May God forgive her.”
And if you read Corrie’s book, The Hiding Place, you see how that was characteristic of Betsie, she prayed regularly for her enemies.
And, well, enemies scarcely come more ugly or less deserving than the Nazis, do they?
This is not a natural, human, response.
And if you’re starting to wonder how on earth this can all be possible! Then good! ‘Cause we’re getting to that!
But first Jesus illustrates what this kind of love is like,
And these 4 little illustrations demonstrate how costly this kind of love is, and how vastly it is to, how everyone else acts, in 32 to 35.
And I imagine the way to love your enemies, the way to be a blessing to the person who opposes you and makes life hard for you, well, it will probably be different in each different circumstance represented by each different person here.
But perhaps from Jesus’ illustrations, we can see how to apply those commands from the opening couple of verses into our lives.
You can spot a Christian because their love is costly (v 29 – 30)
Verse 29, 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also.
Probably the focus here is more on insult rather than injury. A slap on the face in the ancient world was an insult,
An act of defiance,
A way of showing someone who’s boss.
In more recent centuries a slap on the face was how you communicated to someone that they had affronted you, that you demanded satisfaction,
And it would be pistols at 20 paces at dawn.
But a follower of Jesus, will accept that insult, because of remember, the Son of Man,
A Christian will choose not to defend their right,
And their honour,
The follower of Jesus will be willing to forgive,
And then actually be willing to come back a second time, to be hated, and excluded, and insulted.
If standing up as a disciple of Jesus,
If doing what you know to be right because the Scriptures command it,
If showing Christ’s love and compassion for others,
And telling the good news of Jesus to others,
If that gets you slapped down in your workplace, or social circle, or classroom, or sporting team,
Then turning the other cheek means standing up and doing it all over again,
Think back to the last time you got shut down because of your faith,
The last time someone told you they didn’t want to hear what you have to say about Jesus,
The last time somebody rolled your eyes at you,
Or when 2 of your friends shared a smirk at your decision not to join in with them in some behaviour, because of Jesus.
Turn the other cheek, and keep at it, Jesus says.
That’s how you can love those people who treat you so appallingly. Or maybe they mostly treat you well, but in this one aspect, they don’t respect you, or they insult you,
Turn to them the other cheek also.
That’s going to cost, isn’t it?
It’s going to cost your pride;,
Opening yourself up for that kind of opposition and attack and ridicule again,
It might cost you friends,
It might cost you relationships, as others join in the mocking and opposition.
It might cost you selection, or promotion.
As you choose not to defend yourself and set the record straight but to love your enemy, and seek their good, it might cost you your reputation,
People won’t know that actually you were in the right in the first place
But no one knows more about incurring this cost than Jesus.
He’s not asking something of us that he himself hasn’t gone through to the Nth degree.
Second illustration of costly love, If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.
Loving your enemy means being willing to incur a real, material cost.
You may have heard that a Hobart man won internet fame a couple of weeks ago, when a thief stole one shoe from out of his ute;, his left hiking boot. And the thief left the other one behind! So now there are 2 people with only one shoe each!
So this guy, Marcus, left a note for the thief presenting 2 options;, the thief could either return the one shoe in return for a 6 pack of beer which Marcus left by his front gate, or alternatively, Marcus also left his one remaining shoe by the gate, the thief could take that, and then at least one of them, would have a complete pair.
Sure enough, a few hours later, the missing shoe was returned, although I was unable to find out whether the bounty of Coopers Pale Ale was collected.
Is that what Jesus is talking about? Find the thief and offer them more of your stuff?
No, I think the point is that we’re not to seek revenge, but we are to keep offering ourselves, even to the point of inconvenience, cost, and vulnerability.
Think about Jesus sending out a whole group of his followers in a few chapters time. They’re to go into the towns and villages sharing the good news of Jesus, in an age when walking from town to town was a dangerous prospect. The parable of the Good Samaritan tells us that no one bats an eyelid when someone gets jumped on the highway.
If you’re on Jesus’ business, if you’re proclaiming the kingdom of God, and you get attacked, you might be tempted to think, “Well, there’s a sign form God that I’m not supposed to be doing this any more!”
No, Jesus says, don’t let your love for the stuff that you have, get in the way of living the kind of life Jesus calls you to.
In the Old Testament, your coat was your most personal entitlement. It could never be taken from you, legally.
Jesus says, “If someone comes after the thing you think you’re entitled to, give them the shirt off your back, too.”
There’s plenty that we’re likely to think we’re entitled to, isn’t there?
“I’m entitled to set the record straight, and have people know when I’m in the right and when I’ve been wronged.”
“If someone comes after the thing you think you’re entitled to, give them the shirt off your back, too.”
Don’t let your love for others fall down at the point where it costs you something.
Don’t back off from your allegiance to Jesus, because the tally of what it costs you is starting to add up.
Thirdly and fourthly, 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.
Again, the focus is on the material cost of loving someone, who doesn’t treat you or your belongings properly.
We know this experience, don’t we? The gaps on my bookshelf, are a testament to this, people take stuff, and they don’t return it.
Does Jesus want me to not have any books? No, that’s not the point here, is it?
The point here is that we’re called to give,
And to give,
And to give,
Even when it costs,
Even when we’ve already given.
It’s easy to be generous to some people, isn’t it?
Verse 34, 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
There’s nothing at all special about giving your stuff to people, either who you like, or who you think are going to give it back to you.
But Jesus emphasis is on the “all”, give to everyone who asks you.
I knew people in Darwin who used to loan their car to complete strangers. I mean, Darwin was a strange place in the early 80s, but this family, they ran a shop, and if someone came into the shop and needed to get somewhere else, these folk would say, “Here are the keys, help yourself.” Which is, generous isn’t it?
But if my kids 10, 7 and 5, ask if they can drive my car, I don’t give to everyone who asks, do I?
We’re not called to be foolish,
But just like the one about your coat, Jesus is warning us, not to let our love for stuff get in the way of loving other people.
If what you’re doing is loving people, the fact that it costs you, is no reason to stop.
You can spot a Christian because their love surpasses that of the world (v 31 – 35)
And so Jesus summarizes what he’s been saying in that little phrase in verse 31 that’s now known as The Golden Rule, Do to others as you would have them do to you.
The negative version of this, “Don’t do to someone else, what you wouldn’t want them to do to you”, had been around for centuries in Jesus’ day. It was known among the Jews, as well as in other cultures, archaeologists finding written record of it almost back to the time of Abraham.
Jesus, it seems, was the first person ever to put it in positive terms;, Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Because, remember, love for Jesus is all about being active.
It’s not enough for a Christian to say, “Well, I didn’t send angry emails about him,
I didn’t talk about her behind her back,
I didn’t try and turn friends or family against them”,
Or whatever it might be.
“I decided not to do all the bad stuff they were doing.”
That’s the negative version,
That’s what had been around forever.
But Jesus’ command for us is even higher.
Don’t just, not treat people badly,
But treat them well.
Those other statements in verse 32 and following which we looked at with those earlier illustrations, that’s what they show us, isn’t it?
I once heard a teenager say that he lived by the golden rule, which he recited as “Do unto others, before they have a chance to do it to you!”
Well, not quite what Jesus had in mind, is it?
Jesus is telling us that our response to unkindness, and hatred, and opposition, in whatever form it takes, is that regardless of how people treat us, we treat them lovingly,
We treat them the way we would like them to treat us.
Actually, what it means is, we treat people the way we have been treated.
Not by them, we know how our enemies treat us.
But Jesus call us who are his followers, to treat those who abuse us, in exactly the same kind of manner that we have been treated, by Jesus,
And by our Father, who is merciful, verse 36.
This is where we started. Do you have the characteristics of your Father?
I think that we read through these verses, and we think how on earth can we do this?
How can I love, that person in my family who has hurt me so badly, like this, costly, active, love.
How can I turn the other cheek, to that person who has a daily habit of insulting me, or ridiculing me for my Christian faith? How on earth am I supposed to love them, by fronting up once more, demonstrating and sharing the good news of Jesus to them?
How can I pray, how is it physically possible to get the words out of my mouth, or to form the sentences in my head, to pray for someone who mistreats me, or abuses me?
How is it possible?
Well it’s only possible, when we remember that we already know this love.
This is the love of Jesus,
This is the love that’s been poured out on us,
This is the love that drove Jesus to the cross, in your place and in my place.
Our compassionate father in heaven doesn’t just say, “Well, I’ll just refrain from treating Clayton like he’s treated me.”
Our compassionate father in heaven, willed together with the Son, that he should die in my place.
We have our example,
We see exactly what it looks like to love like this,
We’re shown exactly how much it might cost. Everything.
And by the grace of God at work in us, he enables us, bit by bit, to deliberately show the love that we have known and experienced, to others.
You can’t love like this, unless you understand that you have been loved, like this.
I mentioned Corrie Ten Boom earlier.
In 1947, 3 years after her release, by accident, a clerical error, from the concentration camp in which her entire cohort were murdered, Corrie was speaking at a church in Munich.
After the service she saw a man coming towards her, and she recognised him as a guard from the Ravensbrück camp where her sister and so many others had been killed, and where she had been so inhumanely treated.
She says, “I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt.
It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors, and my blood seemed to freeze.”
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he said, “I was a guard in there.” But since that time I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but, will you forgive me?”
Eventually, Corrie cried, “I forgive you, brother! With all my heart!”
We’ve moved into forgiveness, but what enabled Corrie Ten Boom to love in such a way that she could forgive?
That she could bless those who cursed here,
Praying for those who mistreated her?
She says that as she stood there, looking into the eyes of this man who had abused her so brutally, she could only think of the love that she had been shown by God, and not just once, but daily.
Every day she knew what it was to experience a love like this.
And as she reached out to embrace this former guard, she said “I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then.”
This is God’s own love, that he calls us to show, in active, costly ways, even to our enemies.