• Tony Birkhead

Love



To LOVE like Christ, we must ask the Holy Spirit to change our heart to one AFTER Christ!

INTRODUCTION

As your group time begins, use this section to introduce the topic of discussion.

With which group of people in your life do you have the hardest time showing forgiveness—family, friends, coworkers, employees, church family, or another? Why do you think that is?

Do you think forgiveness is easier to give or receive? Why? Why is forgiveness an important practice for the follower of Christ?

Jesus often taught on the importance of forgiveness. He called His followers to forgive others, because they know the forgiveness of God. This forgiveness isn’t just for those closest to us, but should extend even to those we might consider our enemies. In this, we look to Jesus who showed us what it looked like to live a life of forgiveness even as He went to the cross.

UNDERSTANDING

ASK A VOLUNTEER TO READ MATTHEW 6:12.

What did Jesus say should motivate us to forgive? Is that different from your common motivation to forgive? If so, how?

What is the condition for forgiveness of sins, according to verse 12? How can this change the way you pray?

Sin is a debt owed to God. When we ask God to forgive us our debts, we understand that He is willing to forgive us our wrongs. But Jesus clearly attached the condition of forgiveness of others when asking forgiveness from God—as we also have forgiven our debtors.

ASK A VOLUNTEER TO READ LUKE 6:27-31.

Jesus focused much of His earthly ministry on offering practical guidance to help His followers live like Him. Jesus called His followers to love and forgive their enemies.

Why is it so hard for us to love our “enemies”?

What actions of an enemy are found in these verses? On the other hand, what are the commands for Christ-followers?

How does this description of love challenge you? How do we see Jesus put it into practice in His life, prior to His crucifixion?

As followers of Jesus today, what do we communicate to the world when they see us loving unlovable people?

Being able to forgive others and love well is rooted in our character as children of God. Only in God’s strength can we act in love toward those who hate and reject us because of our commitment to Christ. We show our gratitude for God’s kindness by loving our enemies, thus demonstrating that we are children of God. Jesus Himself was not exempt from being the target of hatred, but He set the ultimate example for us when He showed love to His enemies by forgiving those who crucified Him.

ASK A VOLUNTEER TO READ LUKE 23:32-37.

What was the focus of the taunts directed at Jesus by the leaders who wanted Him crucified?

Why do you think the people were saying these things? Why were they being so cruel to someone who had shown them such kindness through healing and teaching?

How do you typically respond, both internally and externally, when people make fun of you? What allowed Jesus to keep focused on the task at hand?

How do people today similarly reflect the profound misunderstanding expressed in verse 35? How do these verses impact your desire to put your faith in Christ?

Jesus’ desire to forgive those responsible for crucifying Him provides assurance that He will also forgive us. His prayer of forgiveness for His tormentors (v. 34) vividly characterizes this salvation. What greater demonstration of grace could there be than for Jesus to ask His Father to forgive those crucifying an innocent man? With this intercessory prayer on the cross, Jesus practiced what He preached when He told us to love our enemies.

MOVING FORWARD

Let’s identify how these verses can apply directly to our lives…

  • Describe a time in your life when your awareness of/appreciation for the gospel compelled you to forgive someone.

  • Have someone read Ephesians 1:4-8. What additional insight do these verses give us into forgiveness?

  • What are the benefits of relying on God’s power when it comes to forgiving others and accepting His forgiveness?

  • Why do you think God values forgiveness so highly?

COMMENTARY

MATTHEW 6:12

6:12. We also are to ask for forgiveness. Debts are sins viewed as obligations to the Father. The Greek grammar indicates that the disciple prays for forgiveness from God only after having first expressed forgiveness to others. We dare not take lightly the rest of the verse: as we also have forgiven our debtors (see also vv. 14-15). At least two biblical teachings about salvation seem in conflict with the words forgive us . . . as we also have forgiven (v. 12; see also vv. 14-15; 18:21-35). (1) Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-10). That rules out earning forgiveness by forgiving. (2) Faith in Christ brings forgiveness and eternal security (John 10:27-29).

LUKE 6:27-37

6:27-30. Christ’s disciples are to be characterized by actions of love (loving enemies, doing good to those who hate you, blessing those who curse you, praying for those who mistreat you, not retaliating against violence) and generosity (lit “giving the shirt off your back,” lending and not expecting repayment).

6:31. This verse is usually referred to as the Golden Rule. This is apparently a restatement of the second commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

22:32. As Jesus trudged toward the site of crucifixion, two other victims accompanied Him (v. 32). Luke identified them as criminals—literally, “evildoers.” Luke didn’t name the nature of their crimes. Other Gospel writers used a different Greek term for these two that can mean either “robbers” or “revolutionaries” (see Matt. 27:38; Mark 15:27). Appropriately, Jesus spent His last hours in the midst of sinners, the very people for whom He came to die.

22:33. Luke provided few details of the elements of crucifixion. He preferred an emphasis on Jesus’ spiritual battle. During a typical crucifixion, death came slowly. The victim could live as long as two days. The soldiers suspended the victim from the cross using ropes and nails. Usually they stripped the person of clothing. Death came from exposure, blood loss, and dehydration. Crucifixion was a painful, humiliating death.

22:34. From the cross Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”. Jesus’ prayer probably was a reference to those present who were responsible for this event—soldiers and religious leaders. He held out hope for a spirit of repentance from them. They sinned out of ignorance. This emphasized the supernatural nature of a God who could forgive even the most heinous sin. According to custom, the soldiers divided His clothes and cast lots. They gambled away the last of Jesus’ possessions. This final insult pictures Jesus giving everything He had in death. Jesus demonstrated the ultimate in forgiveness.

22:35. Certain people stood watching as the scene unfolded. A crucifixion often attracted curious onlookers. Luke offered no record of their thoughts at this point. The leaders, however, responded in character. They kept scoffing at Jesus. These religious leaders insisted on Jesus’ death and got it. But they kept on the attack even as Jesus died. The scoffing alluded to Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah. In His ministry, Jesus performed miracles that saved people from demons, illness, and death. In the view of the leaders, then, if He truly was God’s Messiah, the Chosen One, why did He not save Himself? They mocked what appeared to be true—the helplessness of Jesus. They looked for a Messiah who represented physical power. They failed to realize that they spoke the truth. He could have rescued Himself from the cross. He refused, however, to use His divine power for selfish reasons. Instead Jesus chose to obey God’s call to a different purpose—to give His life in sacrifice.

22:36-37. The mob mentality around the cross dominated. Roman soldiers carried out the execution on behalf of the government. They too mocked Him. They offered Jesus sour wine. This cheap drink possibly came as a kindness to the condemned. More likely, however, the soldiers scornfully gave a supposed drink of kings to Jesus, who came to be a King. The inscription tacked to the cross above Jesus possibly spurred their actions (see 23:38). Then the soldiers took up the taunt of the leaders, “If You are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” . As He did with the leaders, Jesus made no response to this abuse. He let His actions speak for themselves.

#love #forgiveness

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