“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 evil” (Luke 6:35, ESV).
I’m sure that none of us look back on our lives before Christ and think, “Wow, I was really ungrateful and evil.” Yet this gem from one of Jesus’ sermons makes me wonder. These verses come at the end of a section about loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you, turning the other cheek, etc. But the way that He ends it seems to encourage us to look back with a more critical eye.
The little word for is used here as a conjunction, meaning because or since, so it points us back to that which came before it. In this case, it is all about how we treat others—more specifically, how we are to put others before ourselves.
When someone hates us, we are to actively do good to them. When they curse us, we pray for them. Jesus never minces His words. He never made the commitment to follow Him sound easy. Rather, He pointed the way to a difficult path where our lives would be fraught with danger and difficult choices.
When we have been wounded, we are not to retaliate, but rather we are to allow ourselves to be wounded again if necessary. When someone steals your Xbox, give them your 55” flatscreen also. Give to those who beg, loan with no expectation of repayment.
“For he is kind to the ungrateful and evil” (emphasis mine). While I am not a Greek scholar, I see three possibilities here. Either we are to treat others in the manner suggested because they are ungrateful and evil, and God shows His kindness to them. Or we do so because we were ungrateful and evil until God showed us His kindness and mercy. Or it could be both of the above.
My inclination is toward the third option. Before our salvation, even if we thought we were pretty good people, we were ungrateful and evil. I know some might cringe at that statement, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Separated from God, we looked to our own interests. Even when we did acts of charity and acted in apparent self-sacrifice we were motivated, at the core level, by our self-interests and self-preservation. We were hard-wired to do so; our sin nature meant that we could do no less. So God showed us kindness.
Since we came to Christ we recognize more clearly the sin nature in others. And we have been called to demonstrate the love and kindness of Jesus, the same love and kindness that He demonstrated to us.
Do you see it? As the Body of Christ we are to give ourselves do showing a lost world the same exact love and kindness that God showed us. “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 ESV). And, “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1 ESV).
We don’t like to think of ourselves using the words ungrateful and evil, no one does. But sometimes we need to look back and remember from whence we came. Martin Luther once said, “We are hungry beggars showing other hungry beggars where to find food.” Christ’s sacrificial and atoning death, were the greatest kindnesses anyone could give; and that made it possible for us to live lives of gratitude and… kindness.