I have come to appreciate Eugene Petersons’ Message, a paraphrase of the Bible. It is beneficial after hearing verses and hearing them from your favorite translation for a lifetime. The Message throws open a window that allows you to see it differently. Not different as in twisting it into saying something new or novel, but giving you another way of seeing and hearing the Word.
“I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind. (Luke 6:36-38 The Message)
The challenge is at the heart of Jesus’ teaching in Luke 6: “Love your enemies.” This statement further clarifies it: “Help without expecting a return.” Often a lot of helping in our world operates on reciprocity. Usually, when someone helps us, we feel an inner obligation or desire to return the favor and help them. Jesus said to love your enemies with no expectation whatsoever that we will receive from that person anything. That is not the reason that we are to love our enemies. The reason is when we love others, especially those who do not like us, we are showing the kind of love that God offers not only the world but the kind of love He shows me. This loving does not originate in the human heart. It comes from God. You and I cannot do this without the supernatural assistance of God through the Holy Spirit. It is unnatural; the usual response is revenge, animosity, and hatred. If you do not think this is the usual response, you have not scanned social media or consumed any television. Bitterness, recrimination, accusation, and meanness are the order of the day.
We need a revival of Luke 6:36-38. There is one statement tucked into this passage that I find fascinating. “You’ll never-I promise-regret it.” I will never regret loving my enemies. When in the middle of choosing to love rather than hate, it does seem in the moment to be a choice I will regret; it seems not only foolish but dangerous. Most of my regrets are about things not done rather than things that were done. Yet this has far more meaning. I will not regret this because this is how I live out my faith. I will love because God commands it. I will love everyone because this is how I live out my “God-created identity.” It is unsettling when this is lived out because it shows we have a choice. We do not have to get caught up in the vicious cycle of anger, hatred, and the lust for revenge. We will not always respond this way quickly, nor will it always be our first response. God’s love toward us is generous and gracious! He is generous and gracious not because we are so wonderful and easy to love but because it is His nature to love. He loves us at our worst; He is kind, compassionate, and merciful.
I end this post with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the end of Luke 6:38. Our Father is kind; you be kind!