The extra thing
31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you.
32 If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!
33 And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much!
34 And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return.
35 Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.
36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.
Comparing ourselves to others seems part of our human DNA. It makes a lot of sense. It helps us to determine if we are fitting in, doing well, and find out where we stand in the pecking order. Comparing ourselves with others may often boost our self-esteem, it is not always in our best interest.
The Father’s standard for His children is not being just as good as everyone else, or even a little bit better. The bar that He sets for His family is to be much better than ordinary or normal in our actions, thoughts, and moral values. The Father’s ethical and moral code involves “the extra thing” (Stanley).
The Lord Jesus Christ, “described the common ways of sensible conduct and then dismissed them with the question, ‘What special grace is in that?’ [Or more colloquially, ‘why should you get credit for that?’] So often people claim to be just as good as their neighbors. Very likely they are. But the question of Jesus is, ‘How much better are you than the ordinary person?’” (Barclay)
What is the standard by which our conduct is to be judged? “It is not our neighbors with whom we must compare ourselves; we may well stand that comparison very adequately; it is God with whom we must compare ourselves; and in that comparison we are all in default” (Barclay).
The question each of us must ask ourselves is tough. How do I measure up to the Father and what He is truly like? There is never really any contest when He is our standard is there? The Father is always perfect in all of His ways, thoughts, emotions, and actions. We, on the other hand, not so much.
Why is the standard so high for the children of the King? The Father dreams that each of His children aspire to and grow to spiritual maturity, and become like Him wherever possible. We are to take on His character and communicable attributes: love, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and mercy just to name a few.
We are to love our enemies and seek their highest good. That is exactly what the Father did for us.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
The golden rule goes far beyond reciprocity. Even sinful, wicked, “normal,” people practice reciprocity to some degree or another.
REFLECT & PRAY
We are most like the Father when we act like the Father. We are to reflect the deep heartfelt transformation that is always underway within our minds and spirits.
Father thank You that You are kind and merciful. You chose not to give me what I deserve. But instead, You showered me with grace and provided me with things I could never ever have earned or obtained by my own effort.
The kind of love that the Father requires of His children is selfless love. We are to love those that hate us, spurn us, despise us, use us, and seek to do us harm. Many of us were just like that with regards to the Father, before we met Him and were adopted into His Forever Family. Many of us hated the very thought of God and wanted to stay as far away from Him as possible.
Mercy is not simply feeling pity; it means acting with compassion. Instead of just sympathizing with us, the Father did something about our desperate condition. He sent His Son to save us from sin and its horrendous consequences. We are to demonstrate the Father’s kindness to others despite their treatment of us (Barclay).
How is it possible for us to even begin imagining trying to live like this? Without the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit within, it is impossible. The Scriptures do not teach that living out our faith is hard. Rather, it is impossible without supernatural enablement.
Being merciful to those who do not deserve it, is contrary to our natural inclinations. It is possible only through the power of God’s Spirit within us. What we naturally want is justice. To extend mercy seems to say the offense against us was not very bad – but this is a misunderstanding of the meaning of the word mercy. Because, where no wrong has been committed, there is no need for mercy.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.
The essence of mercy is not merely refraining from giving people what they have coming to them. Rather it is, doing good to or for them.
When you are merciful, you are giving to others what the Father has given to you. And aren’t you glad that He does not immediately deal out retribution for every sin you commit? So remember, the Father wants you to trust Him with all your hurts. And He also wants you to treat others (even your enemies) as you want to be treated – with mercy (Stanley).
Charles Stanley, whom I greatly admire, has often said “Look your best, do your best, be your best” (Stanley). That is very hard. But in light of Luke 6:31-36, what the Father is asking is even harder. “Look His best, do His best, be His best.”
Luke 6:36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.