When Jesus the Master speaks, we need to listen. Regardless of the topic, what He says matters. In fact, if He really is the Lord of our lives, then we should stand ready to comply with what He says . . . all of it (Luke 6:46).

In that same sixth chapter of Luke, we read that Jesus was instructing His disciples (Luke 6:20). The portion of His teaching on that instance which we want to highlight is found in Luke 6:31- 36. Hear the Master:

(31) And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. (32) But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (33) And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. (34) And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to your? For even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much back. (35) But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. (36) Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.

Pretty amazing stuff, right? Yes, and downright challenging to carry out consistently. Before proceeding, let us be clear about two matters. First, the instructions of Jesus about proper conduct for His disciples were not suggestions, nor were they optional. They were (and are) requirements. Second, what He taught His followers applied to every single one of them. If I profess to be a follower of His, then these instructions apply to me.

Jesus holds His followers to a high standard of conduct, one that is far above what we commonly see practiced in society. According to our Lord, there are sinners in this world with whom we will have to deal. He also said there are people who are unthankful and evil (6:35). But choices of sinners/ evil ones are not wicked one hundred per cent of the time. Jesus said that such people demonstrate love (6:32), goodness (6:33), and generosity (6:34).

Well, what is it that Jesus wants you and me to do? He wants us to treat others like we would want them to treat us (6:31). What if they are rude? Treat them the way we would want them to treat us (with courtesy). What if they are immoral? Treat them the way we would want them to treat us (with common decency). What if they attack our character and spread false rumors about us? Treat them the way we would want them to treat us (with a smile and restrained tongue). It is easy to be nice to nice people, smile at those who smile back at us, and be kind to kind folks. The super- sized challenge is to be courteous, kind, decent, and restrain our tongue consistently, across the board, in all situations. We recognize that for each one of us, our behavior is “a work in progress.” That does not, however, give us a free pass to treat other people in an unkind manner. Our Lord’s “Golden Rule” applies every day, in every relationship, in every scenario.

What else did Jesus say? He wants us to do good, but not just to those who do good to us. Even sinners do that (6:32). The Christ calls us to do good to others, not taking into account whether or not they will treat us in the same manner. God’s people are to be ready to do good to all, especially to those of God’s family (Galatians 6:10).

Again, as we show generosity to others, we are to do so without any expectation about what they might do in return (6:34). In all of these matters, Jesus wants us to act like our heavenly Father. When we imitate Him and demonstrate His character traits in our life, we will be known as “sons of the Most High” (6:35).

Is our heavenly Father merciful? That is, does He show pity/compassion? Certainly (6:36). Jesus basically taught, “Be like God. He is merciful, so you need to be that kind of person in the way you deal with others.” Is it easy to show compassion when others are belligerent, arrogant, self- centered, or ungrateful? No. The attitude of such folks is disgusting and rubs us the wrong way. We must not, however, allow their undesirable traits to cause us to shut off the valve to our goodness, love, kindness, generosity, and mercy.

We might label the message of Luke 6:31-36 as “everyday Christianity in action.” Let us embrace the teaching of that passage with the same eagerness we embrace the words of Mark 16:16. May we learn to face each new day of life with a renewed commitment to be the type of thoughtful, loving, merciful person that our Lord wants us to be.

— Roger D. Campbell