Jesus—His Life and Message: Jesus on Love (Part 2)
July 3, 2018
by Peter Amsterdam
Jesus—His Life and Message: Jesus on Love (Part 2)
In part one, we saw that Jesus taught His disciples the principle of loving one’s enemies. He gave examples of behavior which would put this principle into action:
Do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you, from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either, give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back.1
Jesus went on to say, As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.2 There are other ancient Jewish writings which convey this concept, such as:
What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor for that is the whole Torah; What you hate, do to no one; None should do to his neighbor what he does not like for himself.
While these sayings are similar to Jesus’ statement, they are expressed in the sense of avoiding unfair treatment of others that one wouldn’t wish for oneself. As one author wrote about Jesus’ expression of this concept:
It is not simply a command to avoid unfair treatment that one might not wish for oneself. Rather it is a command to give the same sensitive consideration to others that one might want others to give.3
Jesus used three examples to show how the love He expected of His disciples was to surpass the average norms of love. With each illustration of love, He starts by asking what is so special about His disciples doing things that anyone, even sinners, would do to show love. He then challenges them to love in a greater way.
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.4
The King James translation says, For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? and the NAS translation states, If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Jesus makes the point that most people love those who love them—that’s normal and natural behavior. But Jesus was calling His disciples to go further, similar to how He had said earlier to “love the one who strikes you, the one who steals your cloak.”
In the ancient world, it was expected conduct to treat others as you would have them treat you, as it remains today. The principle Jesus put forward, however, is to love not only those who love you, but to go so far as to love those who hate you, who steal from you, who curse and mistreat you. In Luke, Jesus said, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you;5 in Matthew’s Gospel, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.6
Jesus raised the standard of love beyond the norm of this world.
If you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.7
Like the previous verse, Jesus points out that love which only does good to those who do good in return is no different from the love that most people give—it’s normal love. There is nothing out of the ordinary in such love. Jesus is calling for love that goes further, that surpasses the natural love and kindness that people have for one another, that is extraordinary.
If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.8
Here is another call to love in a way that is greater than what others normally do. He was referring to no-interest loans, as according to the Mosaic Law, loans made to the poor were to be interest-free.
If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor, you shall not be like a moneylender to him, and you shall not exact interest from him.9
If your brother becomes poor and cannot maintain himself with you, you shall support him as though he were a stranger and a sojourner, and he shall live with you. Take no interest from him or profit, but fear your God, that your brother may live beside you. You shall not lend him your money at interest, nor give him your food for profit.10
Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.11
Here Jesus summarized His teaching on love in verses 27–34 where He expressed the qualities and character of those who follow Him.
The loving behavior He outlined is evidence that one is a child of God. This concept is also expressed elsewhere in the New Testament:
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.12
Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. … Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.13
In the process of teaching His followers the true dimensions of God’s supernatural love, Jesus made reference to the loving character of the Most High. He stated that His Father is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. The Father shows love to those who spurn Him, ignore Him, are thankless, disobedient, and iniquitous. Jesus’ call to His followers is to emulate the Father, to love others in the manner that His Father loves. The apostle Paul made the same point when he wrote, Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.14 When Christians love in the manner Jesus described, they reflect the character of God—for gracious love is an attribute of God the Father.
Jesus ends this segment of His teaching by telling His followers that they should emulate the Father in His mercy.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.15
Throughout the Old Testament, we read of the mercy of God. When God revealed Himself to Moses, He spoke of His mercy and love:
The LORD passed before [Moses] and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”16
Elsewhere in the Old Testament, we read of God’s loving mercy.
For the LORD your God is a merciful God.17
Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful.18
David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great.”19
Jesus taught His disciples that the character of God was to be the model for their character.
Jesus directed His disciples to emulate the Father with mercy and kindness. He taught that His followers should love others, including their enemies; should be generous without expectation of return; should do good to all. These actions imitate God and reflect His love. By doing these things, Jesus said those who follow Him would be sons of the Most High.20 As Christians, we are called to conduct our lives in a manner which glorifies and reflects God.
* * *
For your interest, following are Scriptures that speak of some of God’s other attributes which, as His children, we should reflect in our daily lives. God is:
The LORD sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.21
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed.22
Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.23
My people shall be satisfied with my goodness, declares the LORD.24
They shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD.25
In your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.26
Let your saints rejoice in your goodness.27
Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God?28
There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you.29
Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.30
I the LORD speak the truth; I declare what is right.31
I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs.32
The LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations.33
The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.34
I will sing of the steadfast love of the LORD, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.35
The LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.36
Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.37
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.38
The LORD is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.39
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true.40
Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?41
Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Bailey, Kenneth E. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2008.
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Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1994.
Bock, Darrell L. Luke Volume 2: 9:51–24:53. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1996.
Brown, Raymond E. The Birth of the Messiah. New York: Doubleday, 1993.
Brown, Raymond E. The Death of the Messiah. 2 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1994.
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Jeremias, Joachim. Jesus and the Message of the New Testament. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.
Jeremias, Joachim. New Testament Theology. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1971.
Jeremias, Joachim. The Prayers of Jesus. Norwich: SCM Press, 1977.
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Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1957.
Manson, T. W. The Teaching of Jesus. Cambridge: University Press, 1967.
McKnight, Scot. Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013.
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Milne, Bruce. The Message of John. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
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Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to Matthew. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1992.
Ott, Ludwig. Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. Rockford: Tan Books and Publishers, Inc., 1960.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Words & Works of Jesus Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
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1 Luke 6:27–30.
2 Luke 6:31.
3 Bock, Luke Volume 1: 1:1–9:50, 596.
4 Luke 6:32.
5 Luke 6:27.
6 Matthew 5:44.
7 Luke 6:33.
8 Luke 6:34.
9 Exodus 22:25.
10 Leviticus 25:35–37.
11 Luke 6:35.
12 1 John 3:1.
13 1 John 4:7–8, 11–12.
14 Ephesians 5:1.
15 Luke 6:36.
16 Exodus 34:6.
17 Deuteronomy 4:31.
18 Joel 2:13.
19 2 Samuel 24:14.
20 Luke 6:35.
21 Psalm 9:7–8.
22 Psalm 10:17–18.
23 Psalm 89:14.
24 Jeremiah 31:14.
25 Jeremiah 31:12.
26 Psalm 68:10.
27 2 Chronicles 6:41.
28 Psalm 77:13.
29 1 Samuel 2:2.
30 Leviticus 19:2.
31 Isaiah 45:19.
32 Romans 15:8.
33 Deuteronomy 7:9.
34 Deuteronomy 32:4.
35 Psalm 89:1.
36 Exodus 34:6.
37 Psalm 36:5.
38 1 John 4:16.
39 Psalm 145:17.
40 Psalm 119:142.
41 Psalm 71:19.