Tuesday 12th March – Luke 6:32-36 ‘As your Father is merciful’

Luke 6:32-36

We all want to be like someone.  When I was a child, I wanted to be like John Robertson.  John was a skilful winger who played for my favourite team.  For my 6th birthday I got my very first team kit – a visual feast of red nylon, for those who pine for the heady days of the late 1970s – and I would practice in the garden for hours, trying to be like John.  Even though I was right-footed, I even forced myself to play with my left foot as much as my right, because John Robertson was left-footed, and I wanted to glide past defenders like he did.  Not that I ever did, obviously.

The point is, we become what we worship.  Our lives and our behaviour change to copy the people we aim to be.  The stakes were pretty low for me as a child – if I failed to kick as well with my left foot as with my right, my life wouldn’t be much affected.  But it’s much more important in the spiritual life.  Who do we want to copy, to emulate, to be like?

Jesus’ teaching today is that our ultimate goal is to be like our heavenly father.  This is not the serpent’s lie of Genesis 3, designed to give us a false view of ourselves: ‘Then you will be like God…’ Rather, it’s the reverse: we were made in the image of God, so of course our ultimate goal is to be like God – as he really is, not as the serpent painted him to be. 

This God is generous and merciful, and kindness is at the very core of his being.  Therefore, this is the rationale for Jesus’ extraordinary teaching of the last few days: why should we love our enemies, be generous to our persecutors, give sacrificially?  Because that’s what God is like: ‘he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’ (vv35-36)

It’s also why it’s not enough just to be nice to people who are nice to us; as Jesus says, everyone does that!  It’s the classic human temptation of setting our moral bar low, and patting ourselves on the back for doing just enough to achieve it.  No, true divine love goes beyond: it loves and gives and blesses people who may not be nice to us, who don’t deserve our giving or blessing.

The implications are uncomfortable, not just for us as individuals but for our world.  If we want to take Jesus at his word, it means that we pray for both sides in a conflict – including those we might consider to be the aggressor or the ‘enemy’.  It means we welcome and care for those crossing the channel in boats, regardless of whether they ‘deserve’ it (and in 2022 three-quarters of UK asylum claimants were granted refugee status, so the vast majority do, in fact, deserve it).  It also means that we embrace and respect those who disagree with us, because our common humanity – as those made in God’s image – trumps our divisions.

This is what it means to be a child of the Most High.  I, for one, am profoundly grateful that Jesus promises his Spirit to help us live like this – because none of us can do this in our own strength.  Lord, transform me from the inside out.  Grant me grace to be merciful, as you are merciful.  Amen.