Summary: Jesus love is raging, it’s extravagant, it’s illogical, it’s over-the-top, it’s revolutionary, it pushes the boundaries of how we define love.
A while back there was a news story on the BBC about a teenage girl in England who had her boyfriend’s nickname tattooed in Chinese on her stomach, symbolic of her “undying love” for him. A tattoo on your stomach?—that’s got to hurt. A little later—and who would have seen this coming—they broke up. That’s bad enough when you’re a high school kid, but worse was when she discovered in a Chinese restaurant that what her tattoo actually said was: supermarket. That’ll screw up your day.
The problem with love is that we all think we know what it is, all of us want it, none of us do it that well, and most of us believe we do it as good as everyone else. So when we think about the love of God, we really don’t have a clue.
But when you run into Jesus in the gospels there’s a kind of love that defies description: it’s raging, it’s extravagant, it’s illogical, it’s over-the-top, it’s revolutionary, it pushes the boundaries of how we define love.
As one of the writers of the accounts of Jesus and the early church, Luke is an educated guy. He’s a physician, historian…and a missionary friend with Paul, once surviving a shipwreck with him…so he’s not just sitting behind a desk in academia. Luke gives an abbreviated account of what is called The Sermon on the Mount, the most complete recording we have of one of Jesus’ talks. It’s three chapters in Matthew, but Luke gives a Reader’s Digest version in chapter six, kind of a Homily on a Hill.
Before we read it, I want you to consider this: when we hear these words, we immediately think about how far we are from actually living this out. I mean, you’ve got to be a bonafide saint to do what He’s talking about here. This really stretches the way we see love.
But instead of seeing how far short we are in living this out, I want you to catch something at the end of this that might reset how you’ve seen this in the past.
Jesus had been preaching for a little while when He suddenly says:
“But if you are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for the happiness of those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give what you have to anyone who asks you for it; and when things are taken away from you, don’t try to get them back. Do for others as you would like them to do for you. Do you think you deserve credit merely for loving those who love you? Even the sinners do that! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, is that so wonderful? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, what good is that? Even sinners will lend to their own kind for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them! Lend to them! And don’t be concerned that they might not repay. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High…
Now catch this:
…for he is kind to the unthankful and to those who are wicked.” Luke 6:27–35 (New Living Translation)
Here’s what I want us to rethink: How many of us have thought of God like that?—Or like all the descriptors that Jesus just gave?—
God gives the shirt off His back to those who hate Him.
God lends to those who will never repay.
God loves those who despise Him.
God gives to anyone who asks Him.
That is a very different picture than most people have of God the Father…and that’s how Jesus is bragging about His Dad. Anybody can get a tattoo of their boyfriend in a moment of blind romantic love. But this is a different kind of love.
Author Frederick Buechner writes: “Romantic love is blind to everything except what is lovable and lovely, but Christ’s love sees us with terrible clarity and sees us whole.”
In Luke’s gospel—and his account alone—is the most famous parable of love of all: the story of the prodigal son. It’s actually about two brothers and a dad. I’ve read this story so many times I can see it all in my head like a movie, like a Broadway show. I call it: “The Idiot Brothers: A Six Act Play”. There are six moments in Jesus’s love story where the plot turns and Jesus is setting us up for a radical picture of how God loves us and inviting us to see ourselves.