As Edward read today’s passage. Today’s passage is such a hard one. I can think of two major reasons why this passage is so hard for me. First of all, this passage is about love. Love is not easy. When we were young, we would like to think that love is easy, but we are getting older. We realize love is not an easy thing. We find ourselves here and there in our life not being able to love others, especially the more we know about true love and about our true self. We confess that it is so difficult to simply love. Secondly, it is such a hard passage because it asks us to love our enemies, not those who deserve our love. No, not those who may not deserve our love, but not posing any threat to us. No, but those who directly inflict harm upon us.
This is why today’s passage is so difficult and challenging. Someone said to me that even though today’s passage is hard, we as believers should try to love our enemies. I understand where that saying is coming from, but my question is what do we want to achieve or prove by doing that and who will benefit from it? The love Jesus talking about in today’s passage is shaking the ground of our belief system. In verse 27 Jesus says, do good to those who hate you. In verse 28 bless those who curse you. Pray for those who abuse you. And in verse 29 if anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also and from anyone who takes away your coat. Do not withhold even your shirt.
The way we have learned from this world is totally opposite. We would hate back to those who hate us. We would co curse those who curse us first. We will not pray, but raise our voice and swear at those who abuse us. If anyone strikes us, we would strike back harder and get even with them, we think this is how we should live. And we take this as the wisdom of life. It is so hard for us to understand Jesus’ words on loving your enemies. We are preconditioned and almost disarmed, not being able to love others. I had to wonder why Jesus said such words and I had to struggle with Jesus’ words. In the meantime, I came to understand just a little bit. It’s like an opening. The love Jesus is talking about is different than the love we know and we practice. Those two are very different in a different dimension. Our love is very much conditional. In other words, we treat well to those who treat us well, we love back to those who love us first. It’s almost like a business give and takes. The transaction is happening in the name of love. It’s like one hand washes the other. If I get something from you, I will love you.
That’s why they love we’d know and practice is conditional and limited. Such attitude reminds me of the concept we learned from the previous KSM happiness seminar. Actually ESM at the summer retreat we learn and meditate on this relationship. It was about the relationship based on Martin Bubas book. I endow. There are different kinds of relationships we have with others. For example. First of all, it is called its relationship. Some of you may remember this, what this relationship is we view and treat the other as far as the relationship will provide benefits for us. We maintain that relationship just for that purpose. If other treats me well, then I will treat that person well. If the other person does not treat me well, I do not go more or less with that person. Whereas there’s another relationship called I thou. The word thou is a respectful way to call you a long time ago.
I don’t think nowadays people use that word anymore. This thou relationship exists. Not for my benefit but for the other person and for the relationship itself. When we have this kind of relationship with others, our lives will be totally different. Our life will become abundant. We’ll be able to see things from that relationship. We understand other people much better where we value the other person, respect the other person and the relationship itself where we have the kind of attitude, our life will be totally different. The love Jesus is talking about is totally different than the love we know and practice in our life. Look at how Jesus exposes our limited and calculative love that is in interaction with others. For example, verses 32 to 34 days, if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you for even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you even seen as lend to sinners to receive as much again. Our love is conditional and so limited, but Jesus is teaching us the love that is unconditional, unlimited and not holding back. The love in today’s text is in Greek. You know this word very much, agape. This love doesn’t mean romantic love, liking or even friendship. What it does mean is a whole-hearted, unreserved, unconditional desire for the wellbeing of the other. That is what agape means. If our love is self-serving, the love Jesus is presenting is self-giving. That is emptying oneself for others. Isn’t that what our God’s love is?
As our praise team sang that song, God gave his only son to us. This is the love that God has for us and for this humanity. The world we are living is teaching us the self-obsession itself. Love is the only way, so at most, we take care of our immediate family and close friends, but that’s about it. To those who we do not know, we tend to treat them as enemies automatically being overly defensive. We are more than ready to strike back if anybody would strike us. When we look around the world, we see so many conflicts and hostility and revenge and retaliation become common phenomena. But my friends do not realize very important truth in all this. If we keep building the walls in the name of protection and naming the others as enemies, we will all fall into destruction, racism, elitism, and nationalism and so on will not save very few winners. That’s illusion and delusion. The whole world will crumble down knowing our reality and condition. God gave us agape to save us. Apostle Paul discovered God’s love, this love through Jesus Christ, and he said this, for if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life? Love your enemies. Why? Because God loves us who were enemies to God before.
And today’s verse 35 further reflects our God whose love knows no limits but love your enemies. Do good and lend expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great and you’ll be children of the highest for he’s kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. God is so kind to even the ungrateful and the wicked. God’s love is so radical beyond our understanding. Oh God, please set us free from the bondage, misunderstanding, and selfishness, and enlighten us to see things clearly. We pray. When I was meditating today’s passage, one verse caught my eyes. Until now we think love is action. Love is a verb word, but now I understand that it is deeply rooted in our existence and identity. Verse 36 says, be merciful just as your father is merciful.
Now we understand. We used to think love is all about actions and that’s why we haven’t experienced our true love. Our love is always conditional and limited. We love others just for our own sake. But when we realize that the ability to love is rooted in existence, who we are before God, we will bring our life towards the journey to become a person of love. We can start this journey of becoming a loving person a new. In God who is love and God who is the source of everything will change us and from that changed person, the love will overflow touching the souls of people on his ways. There are no barriers. There are no limits because it’s God’s love overflowing from that changed person. Last Sunday we had YF retreat in the Hamilton area, six young families with little ones. I don’t know how many babies, so many babies attended and with the help from pastor Sunny, April, Hannah Lee, Megan Park, and Caitlin Chung, we were able to have meaningful time without, you know, taking care of the babies. We can fully engage in sharing and discussion and just open up our hearts during the group discussion time. One member in our group share that he’s desperately in need of personal journey, spiritual journey with two little ones. His life is out of tune with reality and he doesn’t even know what his wife is going through and how she would feel about the current life situation and so on.
So I shared with him this, when we become a stranger to ourselves, we will not be able to understand others. And I drew this diagram and further explained what we all need to do when we take this personal journey to God daily and have a genuine relationship with God, not conceptually. We will discover oneself in God’s heart and at that very moment, we will be able to understand others as well and build a meaningful relationship with others. If you want to have a genuine relationship with others, do not ignore the relationship with God.
First God and then the others will follow. That is the spiritual principle and I believe love works in the same way. Love works in the same way. Love as activities has limits and it’s superficial and inconsistent, but those who walk towards God in their personal journey will become the person of love. God’s love will change that person. God’s love will go into that person and filled with God’s love and from that point on they will experience how true love works in their life. And I want you to experience that. Create a time and space just for God, just for God. You have to have that selfish moment for yourself and bring yourself to God in prayer or by meditating daily inner voice, it may seem not much, but my friends, everything begins in that small step. You will definitely change you and me.
Let us become a merciful person. The answer lies not in doing but in becoming. Let us become a loving person by teaching personal journey ever closer to God. When we are closer to God, who is love, God will make us personal love. Only then will we live out the love in our life, such love. We’ll make our relationship beautiful. Such love will build up, build up our family. Don’t worry. Give yourself to God and walk that journey to God will empower you. God will set you free. God will fill love in us, and finally, such love will save us all. Thanks be our God who loves us unconditionally. Amen. Let us sing.