The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50
3. The signs of the Messiah, 4:31-6:11
ii] Promises and principles of the coming kingdom. 6:17-49
b) Love for enemiesSynopsis
Jesus continues with the Great Sermon, expounding the law in the terms of love.
The Great Sermon / covenant renewal statement, now focuses on the Law, particularly the command to love our neighbor, even our enemy. Jesus explains that the central demand of neighborly law is that we love unreasonably. As with the Sinai covenant, the demands of the Law expose our need for a righteousness that is given as a gift of grace rather than a righteousness earned by obedience. There is a sense where the demands of the law guide the life of a child of God, but above all they force a reliance on the fundamental truth of the covenant, as revealed to Abraham, that its blessings are realized through faith. So in fulfilling / completing the Law, Jesus expounds the law of love in the terms of an ideal, an ideal which exposes sin and thus drives the hearer to rest in faith on God's mercy.
i] Context: See 6:17-26.
ii] Structure: This passage, Jesus' teaching on love and mercy, presents as follows:
The command to perfect love, v27-28;
"love your enemies ....."
Four illustrations of perfect love, v29-30;
The golden rule, v31;
"do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
Three examples of imperfect love, v32-34;
Sayings on divine reward for perfect love, v35-38:
"love your enemies, ... then your reward will be great...."
"be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."
"judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not ...."
"give and it will be given to you ......."
Jesus preached numerous sermons, and in the memory of the disciples there was a particular Great Sermon, the sermon on the mount / plain. There is little doubt that this sermon adopted the form of a covenant renewal statement in the tradition of the book of Deuteronomy, summarized in the poorly named Ten Commmandments. By focusing on the ten words we miss the fundamental statement of grace "I am the Lord you God you brought you out of the land of slavery." That the sermon began with the beatitudes is a fact likely to be engraved on the disciples memory, so also the command to love, and the profound ending found in v47-49, similarly used in Matthew's record of the sermon. The content of the sermon from that point on obviously became part of the saying tradition preserved by the early believers and verified by the apostles. Luke crafts the sermon by stitching together a series of these independent sayings under the head of perfect love, along with a number of appropriate parables. This selection of sayings on perfect love provides the content of the passage before us. Matthew, of course, draws together an even wider selection of material to give weight to the sermon.
As already indicated in the Introductory Notes on the Great Sermon, Jesus uses the commands to love in much the same way as the ten commandments are used in the Sinai covenant. At one level, Jesus' sayings on love give direction to the Christian life - faith produces the fruit of love. Yet, on another level they establish that we are without excuse in the sight of God for who is there that can love with such love? Just as the ten commandments force the child of God to rely, not on their own righteousness, but on the faith of Abraham, a faith in the mercy of God, so Jesus' teachings on love drive us to seek divine acceptance apart from our own righteousness. It is the poor in spirit who is blessed, for theirs is the kingdom of God. It is only in the perfect love of Christ that we are able to stand approved in the sight of God, by grace through faith.
iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 6:27
The central demand of the Law - Love unreasonably, v27-38: i] Love, rather than curse, v27-28. In the Qumran commune that existed beside the Dead Sea in Jesus' day, the members were taught to "hate all the sons of darkness." Jesus, on the other hand, demands nothing less than perfect divine love. Rather than loving the lovely one, Jesus calls on us to love the unlovely one.
alla "but" - Possibly adversative as NIV, so Bock, although more likely a transitional marker here and therefore best left untranslated.
toiV akouousin (akouw) dat. pres. dat. "who hear / who are listening" - to the ones listening. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "you", dative in agreement with the indirect object uJmin, "to you", of legw, "I say." Jesus now addresses, not just the disciples, but all who hear him, so Nolland. "I tell you my hearers", Moffatt. Although it is possible that Jesus is still addressing the disciples, "you to whom I am talking", TH.; "to you who are ready for the truth", Peterson; "but to you whose ear I have", Rieu.
agapate (agapaw) pres. imp. "love" - compassion. The present tense indicating durative (ongoing) action.
uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.
touV ecqrouV (oV) "enemies" - Most likely the critical, judgmental, self-righteous brother, and certainly in NT. times, a fellow Jew opposed to Jesus.
kalwV adv. "[do] good" - Adverb of manner; "act kindly." Note the parallelism in the four clauses found in v27-28. Doing good exegetes the type of love required by God as does "bless" and "pray", both of which are highly personal inward acts toward another; it is an active love, it involves "the active pursuance of the enemies good", Nolland. "Behave kindly towards", TH.
toiV misousin (misew) dat. pres. part. "to those who hate" - to the ones hating. The participle functions as a substantive, dative of indirect object. As for the "enemies", see above.
eulogeite (eulogew) pres. imp. "bless" - The present tense is durative; a call for habitual action. Probably not in the sense that we do the blessing, but rather seeking God's blessing for them; "call down blessings on those that curse you", Rieu.
touV katarwmenouV (kataraomai) pres. part. "those who curse [you]" - the ones cursing [you]. The participle functions as a substantive.
peri + gen. "[pray] for" - Expressing reference, "with reference to, concerning", or as NIV, advantage, "on behalf of, for."
twn ephreazontwn "those who mistreat" - the ones mistreating, abusing. Participle functioning as a substantive. "Pray for everyone who is cruel to you", CEV.
ii] Four illustrations of perfect love, v29-30: Without promoting passivity, nor excluding self-defense, Jesus gives four examples of limitless love offered toward an enemy in the face of their hostility. The enemy is probably someone within the "household of God", a self-righteous believer, or particularly for the New Testament church, a Jew. For the New Testament church the enemy may possibly be a persecutor of the faith, but is probably not a criminal, or corrupt government official. The slap on the cheek is most likely the ritual slap given to a Christian heretic in a synagogue. Jesus calls on the disciples to break the nexus of retaliation in the face of insult or persecution. What he doesn't do is give ground-rules for self-defense, or the restraint of evil, in a corrupt society. Jesus is dealing with ideals, not practical ethics.
tw/ tuptonti (tuptw) pres. part. dat. "if someone strikes" - to the one hitting. The participle functions as a substantive. Dative of indirect object or interest, advantage of the imperative verb parece, "turn/offer"; "offer the other also to the one hitting you on the cheek." Probably the ceremonial slap administered to a sinner/heretic at a synagogue/church, although the word seems to convey something stronger, eg. "strike, hit, beat", possibly a "violent blow", rather than a "slap", NJB.
epi "on [one cheek]" - upon [the cheek]. Spacial.
kai "[the other] also" - Adjunctive, as NIV.
tou airontoV (airw) gen. pres. part. "if someone takes [your] coat" - [from] the one taking the coat [of you]. The participle serves as a substantive, genitive after apo, "from".
to iJmation (on) "cloak" - outer garment. As with the "slap/blow", if the taking of a person's cloak is in the context of the Christian fellowship, then the allusion is to a brother who's cloak is taken as surety for a loan, but is not returned at night as required by the law. For the poor, their outer garment serves as a blanket at night. The debtor is to give their undergarment as well, giving both to their unjust brother. Suspiciously like the heaping of coals, although more properly the returning of good for evil, as opposed to passivity, or worse, revenge. This interpretation seems slightly stretched and so extortion may be all that is intended.
mh kwlushV (kwlew) aor. subj. "do not stop" - do not refuse. Subjunctive of prohibition, forbidding the initiation of an action. A turn of speech where the doubled negated action of "do not" and "withhold" stands for the positive, so "do not refuse" = "offer." "If anyone takes your coat, let him have your shirt as well", REB.
didou (didwmi) pres. imp. "give" - Possibly iterative, repeated action; "keep on giving." The practice of perfect love involves giving to those who request something. No limits are placed on the request. Again, one suspects that the operation of this idealized love is within the Christian fellowship, but even so, it is impossible love.
aitounti (aitew) dat. pres. part. "[everyone] who asks" - asking, requesting. The participle, with its modifying adjective, "everyone", serves as a substantive, dative of indirect object.
apo toiu airontoV "if anyone take [what belongs to you]" - from the one taking away [the things of you]. As above.
mh apaitei (apaitew) pres. imp. "do not demand [it] back" - do not ask / demand back. The negated present imperative possibly prohibits habitual asking back, but it is more likely any asking back, since Jesus is addressing an ideal. In fact, the illustration in v29 makes the point that rather than asking back, one should give more; "if someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it", Peterson.
iii] The golden rule, v31. Many claim to live by this rule-of-thumb, but it is only on rare occasions we rise to the challenge. The reciprocal ethic of returning good for good has a long history in the Greco-Roman world. Jesus, on the other hand, demands the returning of good as if good is given.
Note the variant, "you do to others", probably a scribal adjustment to Matthew. Again, it is likely that we have an independent saying of Jesus placed here by Luke to further emphasize the ideal of love. Although secular equivalents exist, most are reciprocal - treat others as they treat you, or even, do good to others so that they will do good to you. A scriptural origin is more likely - we are to love our neighbor as we love ourself, Lev.19:18.
kai "-" - and. Possibly "and in short", Plummer, or better, "and further", TH, so coordinative.
oJmoiwV adv. "-" - likewise, similarly [do to them]. Comparative adverb; "as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them", ESV.
poieite (poiew) imp. "do [to others]" - do [to them] Note the interpretation of Dihle, referred to by Nolland, where the verb is taken as indicative and the verse treated as if a summary of secular thought which is then critically examined in the following verses. An interesting approach, but is likely? "Treat others as you would wish them to treat you", Barclay.
kaqwV adv. "as" - as, just as. Comparative adverb; expressing a strong correspondence; "treat men (people) exactly as you would like them to treat you", Phillips.
qelete (qelw) pres. "you would" - you want, wish, will. Acting toward another as we wished others would act toward us, continues to pursue the ideal of love for it demands a sensitive consideration of the other person's needs well beyond our limited capabilities. It is interesting how so many commentators argue that such consideration is possible. Only rarely do we act selflessly, and this usually in a moment of exaggerated emotion, eg. bravery in war. Thankfully, there is one who has acted selflessly on our behalf, and in his selflessness we stand. "As you wish to be treated with sensitivity to your preferences, so treat others with sensitivity to their preferences", Bock.
iJna + subj. "[have them do]" - that [they may do]. Forming an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what "you want/will", namely "that men do good things to you." Such dependent statements are often formed by an accusative infinitive construction, but hina clauses were beginning to replace such infinitival constructions. Yet, an infinitive with a verb expressing desire, intention, .... a verb of thinking, is usually classified as complementary and so the hina clause here may also be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the verb qelete, "you want/will."
uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - to, for you. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage. Note the move back to 2nd person plural.
iv] The nature of love is further reinforced by a series of rhetorical questions concerning reciprocal love, v32-34. The shape of a love that loves enemies has little in common with the love of this age. Jew's cared for those within their own religious community. For a secular Roman, kindness was reciprocal, self-serving. Similarly, the love of caring friends is reciprocal, it provides mutual support and kindness. Yet, the love Jesus calls for is not an investment in the future, but rather a gracious kindness free from any expected return.
kai "-" - and. As above, connective; "and further."
ei + ind. "if" - if [you love]. Conditional sentence 1st class, where the condition stated in the protasis (the "if" clause) is assumed a reality; "if, as is the case, .... then ...."
touV agapwntaV (agapaw) pres. part. "those who love [you]" - the ones loving. The participle functions as a substantive.
poia "what" - what kind of, sort of [credit is to you].
cariV (iV ewV) "credit" - grace, favour. Here with the sense of "reward", either from man or God, but primarily from God. Possibly, "what thanks do you get", presumably again from God. "If you love only someone who loves you, will God praise you for that?", CEV. "What favor does this bring you before God?", Bock.
uJmin dat. pro. "to you" - Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage,
kai gar "even" - for even. Causal; "for even sinners."
oi aJmartwloi (oV) "sinners" - Matthew has "tax collectors." In the world reciprocity is the ethical norm.
touV agapwntaV (agapaw) pres. part. "those who love [them]" - the ones loving [them]. The participle serves as a substantive.
gar "-" - for. This variant causal conjunction is best not read.
kai "and" - Coordinative, as NIV.
ean + subj. "if" - if [you may do good]. "Good" in the sense of "any kind of practical benefit", Nolland. Conditional sentence, 3rd class, where the stated condition will probably eventuate; "if, as may be the case, .... then ...." "What credit is it if you are kind to people who are kind to you", Barclay.
touV agaqopoiountaV (agaqopoiew) pres. part. "those who are good" - the ones doing good. The participle functions as a substantive.
kai "and" - Coordinative, as NIV.
ean + subj. "if" - Introducing a conditional sentence, 3rd. class, as above.
danishte (daneizw) aor. subj. "you lend to those" - may lend, borrow. Usually of lending money. Interest is not considered here, but rather the lending and repayment in full of a principal amount, by/to a friend, a fellow Jew. Such cannot expect divine favor.
para + gen. "from [whom]" - Expressing source; "from beside."
labein (lambanw) aor. inf. "[you expect] repayment" - [you hope] to receive. The infinitive here would normally be classified as complementary, completing the sense of the cognitive verb "hope". It can also be taken to form an object clause / dependent statement of perception expressing what is hoped, "what you expect"; "you hope that you might receive back what was borrowed."
kai "even [sinners]" - Ascensive, as NIV.
aJmartwloiV (oV) dat. "to sinners" - Dative of indirect object.
iJna + subj. "[expecting to be repaid]" - that [they may receive]. Possibly introducing a purpose clause, "in order that"; "Even bad men lend to their fellows so as to receive back an equal amount", Weymouth. Of course, a person doesn't lend money so as to / in order to get the same sum back, but a person may lend money in order that the same favor may be returned to them. "I lend so that I might get a loan in the future", Bock. Most commentators favor this interpretation as it continues the reciprocal ethics line. Yet, the construction may be appositional where the type of lending is explained, namely a lending where there is an expectation of repayment in full. Even sinners are willing to get into this type of lending. "Even sinners lend to sinners, when they are sure they will get it back", Barclay.
ta isa "in full" - the same amount. "The same sum", MM; "similar services in return", Marshall.
iv] Sayings on divine reward for perfect love, v35-38. First, in v35-36 we have two independent sayings of Jesus stitched together by Luke under the sermon title of perfect love. Some commentators argue that these two verses end the section, but the section most likely includes the two sayings on reciprocation where we are reminded that under the law of love, how we treat others determines how God treats us. Under such a principle, is there anyone who would dare suggest that their salvation is assured on the basis of their works?
plhn "but" - nevertheless, but, however, in any case. It seems likely that this conjunction is being used as nothing more than a stitching device. "You must love your enemies, you must be kind to them", Barclay.
apelpizonteV (apelpizw) pres. part. "[without] expecting to get anything back" - [nothing] expecting in return. The participle is adverbial, modal, expressing the manner in which the action of the verb takes place. Interestingly, for NT Gk. the word usually means "to despair", so "despairing / disappointing nothing" prompting the variant, "despairing of no one", NRSV footnote. Only in later Greek is their evidence of the word meaning "to expect in return", "hope" for something "back", but obviously this is the sense here.
kai "and [you will be sons of the Most High]" - It seems likely that the following clause defines the "reward". The reward is achievable if we could indeed love our enemies, but of course we can't and therefore stand with "the ungrateful and wicked" in need of God's kindness. "You will have a rich reward: you will be sons of the Most High", REB.
uJyistou gen. adj. "[sons] of the Most High" - The adjective serves as a substantive, while the genitive is adjectival, relational. "Sons of your Father in heaven", Matt.5:45. Possibly, "you will be like the Most High", Barclay, in the sense of acting in a God-like way, practicing conduct typical of the Father, but more likely defining the "reward", namely, a declaration of a person's positive standing before God / their being in a relationship with God.
oJti "because" - for. Here expressing cause/reason introducing a causal clause explaining why we should show grace to the ungrateful, namely, because God shows grace to the ungrateful. Why would God demand that we love our enemies? He demands it of we humans, created in his image, because he is that way himself. "For he is kind himself to the thankless and to evil men", Rieu.
epi + acc. "[he is kind] to" - This preposition, which is usually static, spacial, is used here instead of say eiV, of movement "to, toward", because the direction is "down upon." Culy notes BDAG which identifies that the preposition is sometimes used of "feelings directed toward."
This saying further summarizes the command to love and is parallel to Matthew's "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect", none-the-less, some commentators argue that Luke uses it to introduce the following exhortation.
ginesqe (ginomai) pres. imp. "be [merciful]" - The present tense suggesting an ongoing attitude of mercy, as are also judging, condemning and forgiving in v37.
oiktrmoneV adj. "merciful" - compassionate. "Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate", REB.
Second, in v37-38 the true nature of love is further refined by comparing condemnation with forgiveness. Although admonition and moral discrimination are necessary tools for those in authority in an evil world, God's law of love calls for non judgemental generosity. If God prefers to act mercifully, then so should we; to act otherwise is to invite his condemnation. To invite God to condemn another person is to invite a similar condemnation on our own failings, and who can claim to be free of sin? In the next saying, v38, Jesus underlines the notion that God will deal with us as we choose to deal with others. As such, the saying draws out the obvious consequence of God's demand for "unreasonable compassion". In truth, we are not "merciful, just as our Father is merciful" and therefore we are in dire need of his mercy.
mh krinete (krinw) pres. imp. "do not judge" - The present tense is durative; "do not make a habit of judging other people", Barclay. It is interesting how many commentators fall into the trap of reductionism here, ie., where the impact of the law's demand is reduced so that we can actually keep it. So for example, to judge another is to employ "a judgmental and censorious perspective toward others that holds them down in guilt and never seeks to encourage them toward God", Bock. If I could only bring myself to accept this definition then I might be able to override the suspicion that I am guilty of "the human tendency to criticize and find fault with my neighbor", Fitzmyer!
ou mh kriqhte (krinw) aor. subj. "you will not be judged" - A subjunctive of emphatic negation serving to reinforce the truth; "you will by no means be judged yourself."
ou mh katadikasqhte (katadikazw) aor. pas. subj. "you will not be condemned" - by no means may a verdict of guilty be rendered against you. Subjunctive of emphatic negation. The statement has a legal background and strongly denies that condemnation, as with judgment, will happen, if..... The passive voice probably serves as a divine passive identifying God as the agent of the condemning, as with the judging, and forgiving. Again, we are tempted to reduce the law's demand such that we can keep it; define "condemned" in heinous terms. Best to broaden its reach; "don't be hard on others and God won't be hard on you", CEV.
apoluete (apoluw) pres. imp. "forgive" - release, let go = forgive. The present tense is durative; "show forgiveness toward others", Cassirer. The word "love" is somewhat ethereal. "Compassion" has more substance to it although lacks practical direction. "Forgiveness", probably more than any other concept, encapsulates what it means to love. This fact is reinforced by Jesus constant references to forgiveness / acceptance of a brother. Where reciprocity is emphasized, of divine forgiveness being dependent on our forgiveness of others, it is likely that at this point Jesus is using forgiveness as an ultimate law which is beyond our ability to keep it, a law which serves to expose sin and the need for divine grace. Yet, it is important to note that the linkage of divine forgiveness with our forgiveness is not always reciprocal, eg. the Lord's Prayer where a how much more line is intended - if we can forgive, albeit imperfectly, imagine how much more God can forgive! Forgiveness is within our remit, more so with God.
uJmin dat. pro. "[it will be given] to you" - Dative of indirect object.
kalon adj. "a good [measure]" - The adjective describes a generous, overfull quantity of product in the container "given to you." The container, metron, refers to a vessel used to measure a particular volume of product, such as wheat or corn. What is given in return for a person's compassion is an overflowing measure of compassion from God. The reward is a full serve, "close packed, and shaken down, brimming over", Barclay.
uJperekcunnomenon (uJperekcunnw) pres. pas. part. "running over" - This participle, as with the two preceding, "having been pressed down" and "have been shaken", is adjectival, attributive, describing what constitutes "a good measure." Effort has been applied to make sure that all air pockets have been removed so that the measure contains a full serving of the product. The move from the perfect tense of "pressed down" and "shaken together" to the present tense of "running over" indicates ongoing action; the grain is still being poured into the container and is now overflowing. As the next clause images, the grain is overflowing into the person's lap and they are catching it in their long robes.
ton kolpon (on) "lap" - [will be put into] the lap, bosom, chest. Also possibly of the fold in a person's robes formed over their belt.
gar "for" - Possibly expressing cause or reason, so NIV, although better taken as a stitching device, in which case this clause, introduced by gar, serves as an independent saying summarizing the whole section, rather than just verse 38a. The sentence images the situation where the measure used to purchase the product is also used at delivery (a good practice! - although some local milkos were known to top up their quart measure with water from the garden tap before pouring the full measure into their customers milk can!!). If we obey the command to love then God will love us with the same generosity, but here lies the problem, we love little and thus we can only expect little in return. Given our sad state, we need someone who has loved much and in whose reciprocal abundance we can hide. "So here is the sum of it, you will get in return exactly the proportion you give" - not good news!!!
w|/ dat. pro. "with [the measure]" - by what [measure]. The dative is instrumental; "by what measure you use (you measure), it will be measured back to you."