“Being Like The Teacher”
Luke 6:40 [Jesus said], “A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit
In today’s Gospel Jesus said, “With the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.” That sounds pretty fair, doesn’t it? We often say the same thing in different ways. “You reap what you sow.” “You get what you deserve.” “What goes around comes around.” What you dish out to others, that is what God will dish back to you.
But such a statement, while it may be eminently fair, is also absolutely terrifying. Think about it: God is going to do to you as you have done to others. Unless you are dishonest with yourself, that does not sound comforting but threatening. For we know that sometimes we have treated others with disrespect or even hostility by our words and actions. We know how it is to prefer taking over giving. We know what it is like when we have been wronged and not to want to show mercy but to get revenge. What we have been measuring out, even if only in our hearts, is not always good.
And the good we dish out does not always have pure motives attached to it. People often do good because it makes them feel good about themselves, or because they have some sort of self-interest in the matter, or because they hope to put somebody in their debt, or because they hope to get something in return.
This is the “love” of the hypocrite about which Jesus speaks. It is a love that sustains itself as long as the other person is responding in the right way. But as soon as the other person fails to reciprocate, then it is quick to judge and condemn. “After all I’ve done for you, this is the thanks I get?” It sees others’ specks of sawdust and misses its own 2 x 4’s. It easily identifies the neighbor’s flaws but is unable to recognize its own inherent lovelessness. It is a truism of humanity that we tend to project our shortcomings onto others. We tend to recognize most easily in others the evil that we ourselves are all too familiar with personally.
In the verses just before today’s Gospel Jesus tells us the depth of what is required of us, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. . . If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High.”
Such words must crush us. For we have no strength whatsoever to keep or fulfill them. We have no power of ourselves to be sons of the Most High. But if such words do crush us, then that is good. For our heavenly Father is One who crushes us so that He might put us back together; He accuses us so that He might forgive us; He strikes us dead so that He might raise us up. It’s not that God is pleased when we are brought low, but God is like a good surgeon who does not hesitate to cut into us so that He might heal us. He brings us to nothing in order that He might recreate us in Christ.
That is why our heavenly Father sent His Son into our flesh. For Jesus came not merely to show us how we should be, not to give us a standard to live up to, but in order to bear our sin and redeem us. So our Lord took our human flesh and blood into Himself. He suffered the judgment we deserved so that He might give us His mercy and take us out from under judgment. Our Lord Jesus came not to demand that we get better but to give us His betterment, to do what we are unable to do, to live and die and rise again so that He Himself might live and arise daily within us.
There is the mercy of our heavenly Father toward us. Although He does not have to be, He is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He has lived and done it all for us in Christ. And He plants it within us fully and freely through preaching and the sacraments. Our Father put to death His Son and raised Him again so that we might be forgiven and restored to Him, so that we might have a new life in Him, and so that the Son of God Himself might live and breathe and do His works within us and through us.
Only in Christ, then, are the words of the Gospel fulfilled. For Jesus is first and foremost the Son of the Most High. Baptized into His body, living in Him by faith, we then become sons of the Most High. Apart from Christ God is not our Father. In Christ, however, we truly are children of God.
And so with this understanding, the words of Jesus are no longer accusing demands but simply a description of our life in Him – a statement of fact. Love for the enemy is simply the way of those who are baptized because it is the way of Christ who makes us one in Him. Blessing those who curse you is the way of those who are Jesus’ disciples, for He said on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use us, because that is the way of faith. It requires faith to believe that God will carry out His justice in the end on those who do evil against us. It requires faith to let go of your desire for vengeance, to forgive, and to entrust the whole situation to God, holding to His words, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord (Rom. 12:19). It requires faith to believe that your enemy is also a candidate for God’s mercy just like you, that Christ bore your enemy’s sins on the cross, too.
Therefore, it is written, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head” (Rom. 12:20). Show mercy, do good to your enemy. Perhaps his heart will be turned by your kindness, and he will no longer be your enemy. But even if that does not happen, his punishment will only be intensified for rejecting the mercy you show, which is none other than the very mercy of Christ who dwells in you.
This, dear friends, is exactly how our heavenly Father acts toward the world. Scripture says, “He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35). And again, “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). God our Father gives His earthly blessings freely to all, regardless of their worthiness. He does not let His goodness dry up because of mankind’s depravity. The unthankful will indeed ultimately get what is coming to them. But in the meantime the wickedness of man will never reach the point where God lets the well of his goodness and care dry up.
That is also how it is to be for you who in Christ are children of the Father’s household. Do not be so filled with anger that you draw back the hand of blessing, as the world does, and say, “Everything I do for that degenerate is lost!” That is not for you to say. You may rebuke him and point out his wrongdoing and sin; nowhere does Jesus forbid that. You may, if the case warrants it, refer the matter to the civil authorities whom God has given the responsibility of judging and punishing. You, however, should not withdraw your helping hand, but rather say, “This person may have offended me; I may never get any thanks from him. But in spite of his ingratitude I will not cease from doing good to him. Because I know that evil will not go unpunished, I will retain a gentle, compassionate heart, ready to assist and help.”
Granted, the world in which we live seems weak and foolish. It appears to be the defeat of good and the triumph of evil, especially with two extremely upsetting decisions by the Supreme Court this past week, one regarding the funding of Obamacare, and the other heinous and godless decision to legitimize same-sex marriages in every state.
Regarding the latter, how do we respond to the travesty of nation-wide requirement to accept same-sex marriages? I DO NOT agree with the decision on Friday; no Christian should. God’s word in both the Old and New Testament says that homosexuality is sinful, and marriage is ONLY between one man and one woman. We are bound to God’s Word.
That doesn’t mean we don’t love the person caught in their confusion and rebellion. We still love, and keep on loving. That’s what Jesus did. At the same time He never excused or accepted sin of any kind. He forgave it, but he didn’t make it OK and never condoned it or championed its cause all over social media.
Jesus loves sinners of all kinds. I know, because He loves me. You know, because He loves you. Look at that cross and see how intensely and completely He loved you and me. He doesn’t want us to keep on sinning because He knows how much it will hurt not only us but everyone around us. He forgives us when we do sin and He will always forgive us, but He will never love or accept our sin, nor will He ever say that it’s OK to engage in it or support it.
This world cannot see things from God’s eternal perspective, nor can it grasp the way of the cross. It is written, “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. . . God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (I Cor. 1:18-19).
On the cross our Lord appeared to suffer His worst and most utter defeat. The powers of darkness seemed to have won the day. And yet in that moment of perfect weakness Christ demonstrated His greatest power. There in that ultimate demonstration of love Christ won an eternal victory, triumphing forever over sin and death and the devil for us. His is a love that the world can neither understand nor produce, a self-sacrificing love, a love marked by forgiveness and generosity to the undeserving.
Living in Christ and in that reality of His cross, we repay no one evil for evil, but overcome evil with good, with forgiveness, with generosity, with a willingness to suffer. For Jesus Himself said (Mt. 10:24), “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.”
The Teacher, Jesus, has given Himself to us completely so that we may be like Him, and so that these words of His might be fulfilled for us: “Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom.” Such is the abounding love of God. It is beyond measure. It is always spilling over. And it is here for you today in the grain which is His body and in the cup that runs over with His mercy, His holy blood poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.