September 17, 2020 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Luke 6:27 (NRSV)
“But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.”
You can read the gospels. You can study the biblical text. You can hear what Jesus said. But are you willing to listen to Jesus, to pay close attention, to open your heart and your life to his word? Jesus wants to speak to your deepest needs. He wants to guide your life. Are you ready to listen?
Today’s devotion is part of the series Following Jesus Today.
The first part of Luke 6:27 might seems like a rhetorical flourish and nothing more. Jesus said, “But I say to you that listen . . . .” Of course he was speaking to those who were listening to him. Isn’t that rather obvious? But there’s reason to believe more is going on in the beginning of verse 27.
For one thing, Jesus was just about to speak a whopper. I don’t mean he was going to say something untrue. Not that kind of whopper. Rather, Jesus was getting ready to say one of the most unexpected and outrageous things ever spoken. “But I say to you that listen” was Jesus’s way of getting his audience to pay close attention. A preacher today might say, “Okay. Listen up, folks. This is really big.”
Also, the Greek verb translated in our passage as “listen” had a connotation that suggests more than merely hearing the sounds Jesus was making. It’s rather like if you’re in a heated argument with someone who says with frustration, “You’re not listening to me!” That person doesn’t mean that your ear and your brain aren’t registering the sounds they’re making. Rather, the problem is that you’re not really hearing, really attending, really taking in what the other person is saying. The CEB translation of Luke 6:27 conveys Jesus’s meaning by adding a word: “But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies.”
I’m sure you know the difference between mere listening and really hearing. In one case, the words “go in one ear and out the other,” as my mother used to say. Your body is registering sounds but your mind and heart are somewhere else. In the other case, you are paying close attention. You want to hear, not just the sounds, but the meaning. You’re eager to understand what the person who is talking really wants to convey.
So, are you willing to listen to Jesus? Since you’re reading this devotion, I expect your answer has to be “Yes,” at least to a point. You wouldn’t be doing this if you didn’t want to hear what Jesus intends to say to you. But I find that I can be willing to hear Jesus while at the same time being ready to defend the status quo of my life. I want to listen, but I don’t necessarily want the disruption that really hearing from Jesus will bring. More to the point, I’m quite fond of the idea of loving our enemies. But, in reality, I’m not quite sure I want to actually have to love those I consider my enemies.
I know I’m not alone in this. Just this week a Christian brother confessed to me how much he hates a particular political candidate. My friend doesn’t just oppose this person’s views. He hates the man. My friend admitted that he finds Jesus’s commandment to love our enemies to be about the last thing he wants to hear. Yet he is struggling to be faithful, to learn what it means to love someone he feels to be his enemy.
Admittedly, I’m jumping ahead a bit, talking about love of enemies when my real question is about really listening to Jesus. But, knowing what’s coming next makes the question before us all the more challenging. Since Jesus is about to talk about loving your enemies, are you willing, really willing, to listen to Jesus?
What helps you to be willing to listen to Jesus?
What makes it hard for you to be willing to listen to Jesus?
Talk honestly with the Lord about your answers to the questions above. You may also wish to talk with your small group or a wise Christian friend about this.
Lord Jesus, I do want to listen to you. Or, perhaps more honestly, I do want to be willing to listen to you. Sometimes I can do this without much effort. Yet, at other times, Lord, when what you’re saying is hard, I admit I don’t really want to hear you. Or I want to hear you, but only so I can find a way to avoid the implications of what you’re saying.
Help me, I pray, to want to listen to you. Help me to listen well, attentively, openly, with a heart ready to obey. When what you say troubles me, help me to hang in there with you, to press toward deeper understanding, to open my life to transformation. Your word is truth, Lord. Sanctify me by your truth! Amen.
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Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Conflict Resolution (Matthew 18:15-35)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.