Because He Is Our Father? or That We May Be Sons?
But 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 selfish.
Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
1) The two phrases in bold type point to a deep truth in the Christian life. “Be merciful as your Father is merciful” implies clearly that Jesus is treating his disciples as children of God. God is their Father. They are his children. So they should be merciful because they have a Father who is merciful.
2) But what about the words, “Love your enemies . . . and you will be sons of the Most High”? This sounds like loving your enemies is the condition of being the sons of God rather than the result. It’s as if Jesus says on the one hand: “Love your enemies because that’s the way your Father is;” and on the other hand: “Love your enemies in order that he might be your Father.”
3) There is a similar problem in John 15:8. “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” He says this even though he has just said that he is the vine and they are the branches (verse 5). And: “You are already clean by the word which I have spoken to you.” So the point is not that we become disciples for the first time by bearing fruit, but that we “become” disciples in the sense of living out what we really are. We become in action and practice what we are by our calling and by our faith.
4) That is what I think Jesus means in Luke too. “Love your enemies . . . and you will be sons of the Most High,” means: “When you act this way you prove to be chips off the Old Block.” That is the way your Father is. So you show that you are born of God. You have his nature. You prove to be his children. So again: what you are by calling and adoption (verse 36) is the ground of what you are becoming in action (verse 35)—namely, people who love their enemies.
5) What then if we don’t love our enemies? There is a very sober implication. In that case we do not prove to be “sons of the Most High”. This is very serious. Jesus reckons with the real possibility that some of those who hear his commandment to love will not do it and will be like the man who built his house on sand and lost everything in the flood of judgment (Luke 6:49).
6) But this does not mean that loving our enemies is what makes God our Father. Having the facial features of your earthly father does not make you his child. It shows you are his child. So it is with love. It does not make us children of God. Love is the way people act who are born of God. Be merciful as your Father is merciful.
7) So let us be children of God. How? First, by trusting God as our Father to take care of us in all the risks of love. “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8). And second, by loving our enemies and being merciful the way our Father is.
Longing to be like Jesus,
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