Study Guide

Gospel of Luke Love

Love

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. (NRSV 6:27-30)

But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also. Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away any goods ask them not again. (KJV 6:27-30)

Here it is, Jesus's super difficult command that has inspired two of history's greatest non-violent resisters: Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. For more on this, check out our discussion of "Current Hot-Button Issues and Cultural Debates."

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. (NRSV 6:32-35)

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. (KJV 6:32-35)

Here it is again. Hey, why not reiterate for emphasis? But pay attention to the specifics of what actions love entails: doing good and loaning money to people who might not pay you back. Does that mean our bank teller doesn't actually have a crush on us?

[…] for he loves our people, and it is he who built our synagogue for us. (NRSV 7:5)

For he loveth our nation, and he hath built us a synagogue. (KJV 7:5)

The person in question here is a non-Jewish centurion or higher-ranking soldier. His "love" for the Jews takes the form of a benefaction. Translation: he funded the construction of their local synagogue. Not bad.

A certain creditor had two debtors; one owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he canceled the debts for both of them. Now which of them will love him more? […] Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which were many, have been forgiven; hence she has shown great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven, loves little. (NRSV 7:41-42, 47)

There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? […] Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. (KJV 7:41-42, 47)

Jesus loves him some rhetorical questions. That means the answer is easy. Less easy is to explain what this little anecdote means in light of the context, where a Pharisee is whining because Jesus is allowing a woman described as a "sinner" to fondle his feet. Ready, set, explain!

Just then a lawyer stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he said, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? What do you read there?" He answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." (NRSV 10:25-28)

And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said to him, "You have given the right answer; do this, and you will live." (KJV 10:25-28)

No vampire bites needed. Following these two commands is apparently the recipe for living forever. They both require "love" and come from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love to have the seat of honor in the synagogues and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces. (NRSV 11:42-43)

But woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye tithe mint and rue and all manner of herbs, and pass over judgment and the love of God: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets. (KJV 11:42-43)

It's definitely possible to love the <em>wrong</em> things, and doing so probably won't end well.

No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. (16:13 NRSV)

No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (16:13 KJV)

If you love money, you can't love God. This is bad news for, um, everyone? How do we reconcile this in a world so entrenched in economic exchange?

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