Loving Even Your Enemies

Loving Even Your Enemies

Matthew 5, we finished our short series looking at applying the golden rule in an age of unkindness, and we finish with the hardest challenge yet that Jesus gives to us. So we look to the reading of God’s word if you please join me in prayer. Christ our God, we do ask that you would set our hearts and fire with love through Your Word. Teach us, Father, to love you with all of our hearts, with all of our minds, with all of our strength, and our neighbors as ourselves. So that by keeping Your commandments, we would glorify you who are the giver of every good and perfect gift. This we pray through Jesus, our Lord. Amen. Beginning in verse 43, You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecution you, so you may be sons of your father who’s in heaven, for he makes his son rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?

Do not even in tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. The word of the Lord, we please be seated. Something we all want for ourselves and will never find in other religions or other cultures of the world is the idea of love for your enemies. In a time of war, if you happen to be captured by your enemies, you would not want them to shoot you and throw you in a ditch. You would want them to provide you food, water, and shelter. You would not want to be tortured or abused. Now, what that establishes is that you and I want the golden rule applied to ourselves fairly universal. Be nice to me. Everybody wants that. Be nice to me. Where outside of the words of Jesus do you find anyone advocating for love of enemies? Some would go, Well, what about the Red Cross and the Geneva Convention? Okay. They were founded by a devout Christian, Swiss businessman, John Henry, do not. So a Christian applying the teaching to Jesus just gives credit to Jesus.

What Jesus is advocating is a love that does not depend on anything. It’s not looking for a return. Some have ridiculed this as just so much pie in the sky, a utopia that will never work in the real world. And others have put it on heavens distant shore. Wouldn’t it be nice one day? One day, that’ll be great. But Jesus brings it to the front and center now, a love that is self-giving, even to our enemies. This is the righteousness of God’s kingdom, the perfection of the Father. And because Jesus pursued good of those who crucified Him, you and I are to pursue the good of those who would despise us as well. What people say to us or do to us, we often think we have a right to go tit for tat, blow for blow, word for word, insult for insult, bumper sticker for bumper sticker. But to not retaliate shows that you are a bigger man or a bigger woman. Yet Jesus takes it further. To do good to your enemy is what righteousness looks like in His kingdom. To return good for evil is what reciprocity looks like in His kingdom.

So looking at this kingdom, righteousness, it begins in verse 43, You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. ‘ Now, the first part of what Jesus is saying comes from scripture, you shall love your neighbor. It comes right out of Levitius, 1918. The full context there we read, You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am the Lord. So who exactly is saying hate your enemy? Now, there were those who took love your neighbor as love only your neighbor, only your people, your friends, your family, other Jewish people. And they’re also from an eternal perspective. We do see both in the Old and New Testament statements about the enemies of God being destroyed, of justice being upheld. But in our daily lives, Jesus made clear who our neighbor is. The Good Samaritan was the exact opposite of who the Jews wanted him to be. Jesus broadened that definition of a neighbor far beyond just your fellow countrymen and even the people who like you.

The whole point of the Samaritan was that the Jews and the Samaritans didn’t like one another. And more than that, the Romans were also enemies of the Jews. And Jesus had already said, if a Roman soldier forces you to go one mile carrying his burdens, you’re to go two. That’s what kingdom righteousness looks like. It’s large, it’s lavish, it’s extravagant, it knows no borders. And he goes on, verse 44, But I say to you, ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecution you so that you may be sons of your father who is in heaven. ‘ Jesus is speaking of an inner attitude as much as an outer action. As you know, love is not simply a feeling. It includes our affections, to be sure, but it is a choice. It is an action. You may not feel like loving someone, but the feeling is not what drives the action. No same person loves changing a messy diaper, and you don’t wait around until the feeling falls upon you until you’re going to do it. You just don’t feel like it right now. You change the diaper because you love the child. The action is there of love.

And to not retaliate when you are insulted is only half of what Jesus is calling us to do, or also to pursue the good of our enemies. Immediately, someone goes, Well, how is that humanly possible? I’ve mentioned this a few weeks ago from New Testament scholar, Yokeim Yoramias, he said, The gospel precedes the demand. The gospel precedes the demand. Every word of the sermon of the Mount was preceded by something else. It was preceded by the preaching of the kingdom of God. It was preceded by the granting of sonship to the disciples. It was preceded by Jesus’ witness to himself in word and indeed. Paul furthers that rationale in Romans 5. There he writes, For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die. But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. We hear it in that very common verse we see all over the place, John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only son that whoever would believe in Him would not perish but have eternal life.

The initiative is all on what God has already done. The righteousness of the kingdom includes doing good to those who don’t want to do good to us because we didn’t want to do good to God. And while we were sinners, Jesus died for us. Now, last week, I covered the nuance of this, that certain occupations makes us, as a word, have a foot in two worlds. People like judges or policeman, military members are all examples of this. Upholding a law in the civil sphere is different than your private sphere. As well, all of us are called to defend the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. But Jesus is speaking to his disciples in the context of what happens personally to you, not an application of civil laws, when it’s you who are being insulted. What do you do with this? This call to prayer then is also an aid for us, for our own hearts. It’s hard to dislike someone that you’re praying for. Simply saying their name and asking that the Lord would grant them mercy and saving faith goes a long ways to soften your own heart. It’s hard, but it softens you.

You struggle to find words. You struggle to want to think of them well, but simply pray the scriptures over them. Just start there, praying God’s scriptures over them, blessing for your enemies, God’s goodness to come to those who don’t like you. And your heart changes in the process. Now, this love does not give up justice. We think, Well, you’re just throwing justice out the window. No, it’s highlighting justice by showing the cost that is not exacted, that you are not going to claim from them the price that is owed to you. It reminds us and brings back around what Paul has told us, For while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His son. The gospel precedes the demand. That’s the righteousness of the kingdom. What we also see at work here then is that this righteousness also shows us a kingdom reciprocity, a kingdom exchange. Another way that we look at this, we talk about common grace, God’s universal and undeserved goodness to all people. Verse 45, For he, God, makes his son rise on the evil and on the good, sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

Both are blessed by God. If this is the case for all of us, our own reciprocity is to look like gods. The world’s way of doing business is we all know, you do good to me, I do good to you. You scratch my back, I scratch your back. That’s the world’s way of doing business. But the Lord calls on us to do something far higher and greater. He says in verse 46, If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Another way of saying, What accommodation should you get? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? Now, they were at the very bottom of the barrel when it came to good Jewish people. Jesus is using this prejudice to show those who think of themselves as good have only arrived at that level. But he takes it even further. And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than to others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same. The only ones lower than tax collectors were non-Jews, Gentiles. Jesus is saying, Congratulations, you righteous people. You have made it to the lowest rung. They’re thinking they’ve done something really great.

Congratulations. Are you ready to step up? Because even the Gentiles can do that. Then Jesus does the mic drop. You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Done. One commentator put it like this. He said, To return evil for good, demonic. To return good for good, human. To return good for evil, that’s divine. To love as God loves is a moral perfection. That’s what Jesus is calling us to. Because God is the major stick for us, not the other way around. This word perfection includes the idea of a wholeness, a completedness. It’s something that’s fully developed. That question comes to us, how are you pursuing the Lord so as to make His perfection the goal of your own life? And know that just because you do this, it doesn’t mean that your enemy is going to repent and start liking you. That could happen, and we hope that it does, but it may not. It’s not the reason that you love, because otherwise, you’re still loving for a return. I mentioned the Red Cross was founded by John Henry, De Norte. De Norte got four other people on the board of his newly founded group.

And one of them, another fellow Christian, Gustav Moiner, ended up sticking him in the back. One historian put it this way, he said, Gustav Maynir did not want to be better thought of than do not, nor is he simply jealous or envious. Rather, he wanted all the fame and the honor, which was due to Henry, as the sole founder that I trust to be his. Moiner spent his life fighting the truth, never once feeling a sense of shame, fear, or guilt. For many years, Moiner tried to cut off all the relationships that Dunat had with friends who wanted to help him. He even sent out circulars, out flyers to everyone he thought that Do-Not was in contact with, with the objective to alienate him from public life. Good Christian friend on the board. In the midst of doing good, Do-Not went bankrupt and he actually had to leave the city of Geneva, even at times sleeping on park benches in Paris. For 30 years, Henry Dunant was obscured from public attention, and he never rose above the experience of his bankruptcy and the personal assaults of Gustave Mointier. He did win the very first Nobel Prize in 1901, but he was never able to get around this other man’s damage done to him.

Now, our movies are filled with stories of people overcoming great injustice, and in the end, they get the car, the girl, the trip to Hawaii. Life works out well for them. We like to watch those movies. They make us feel good. But we also know that that’s just reciprocity thinking. If I do this hard thing, then I will get this good thing. You may, but you may not. That’s not the reason you do the hard thing. You do the hard thing because it’s what God would do. Often I hear this just with believers. It’s, If I’m willing to do the hard thing, no, there’s a difference there. I didn’t do it. I’m just willing to do the hard thing, then God won’t actually make me go through the hard thing. We’re trying to sight God out. Okay, God, I’m really willing. Cross fingers. He can see that. He knows. But God at times causes you to go through that because you’re His son or His daughter for His purposes. We don’t know. The good thing that you will get is being like your father in heaven. That’s the end result. You will be like God, who is your father.

Some of you may remember Ernest Gordin, his book to end all wars. He tells of his three years in a Japanese prison camp during World War II. He himself would have died if it hadn’t been for the help of two committed Christians who nurse him back to health. It was their faith and support that sparked his own spiritual renewal. Dusty Miller was one of them. He was just a simple gardener from London who wanted to get back home and and work with flowers with his dad. And Gordon said that Dusty never responded in anger to the cruelty he received from his captors, and they were very cruel. He shared his food selflessly. He helped others. He bore with patience, even Ernest Gordon’s own agnosticism. With only two weeks before the end of the war, two weeks to the end, one of the guards became so angry with Dusty for his calm repose in the face of hostility that he crucified him to a tree. Never made it back home for being Christ-like. No idea what happened to the guard. You see, this is not pie in the sky ethics. This is here in now ethics.

We’ve been given a new heart through a new spiritual birth. That’s now our heritage. Christ’s love for us is displayed on the cross. That is the measure of God’s love for us. That’s the measure that you and I now are to use. You go, Well, what are we to do with this? I put this in your bulletin, but I appreciate New Testament scholar, Michael Wilkins, he has this conversation about what he calls restful dissatisfaction. There he said, I rest content with what Christ has done in my life and with the growth that has occurred. Yet at the same time, I balance that contentment with a desire to move on. Restless satisfaction. Restful dissatisfaction. Contentment, but a longing for more. Wanting and appreciating all that Christ has done, but it causes a double pursuit. I can rest fully in the full work of Jesus in my life and be grateful and thankful. And it is this very contentment that fuels my desire to be more like Jesus. Now, we will not fully arrive at perfection this side of glory, but we can push forward. It’s the here and not yet aspect of the kingdom. Paul tells us in second Corinthians 3, he says, Behold, the glory of the Lord, we are being transformed into the image of Christ from one degree of glory to the next.

There’s movement. Then 1 John 3:2, beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed or has not yet appeared. But we know that when it appears, we shall be like Him because we will see Him as He is. That which is to be, that which we are moving towards, both of those are a reality, a restful dissatisfaction. If you try to be totally perfect now, it’ll paralyze you. You either won’t be able to move or you will be some of the most self-righteous Pharisees ever on the planet. If you refuse to grow, if you refuse to step towards what Christ has done, you will be stunted, unfruitful, and a heart probably filled with very little gratitude. The perfection of Jesus and of His love, it calls on us to repentance for our failure to love as He’s love, and it fills our heart with a new desire to follow after Him to love in the same way. Only Jesus can do that. That we can be so thankful and satisfied in what He has done, and that actually move us and drive us to see more happen, that He would be glorified, that the kingdom would be present now.

That we would do to others of what He has done to us. That’s the golden rule. We all want people to be nice to us. And Jesus is saying, I want you to treat others the way that I have treated you. And no one’s exempt. No excuse will work, no justification. To do to them as I have done to you because you have received my love. Go then and give this self-giving love to others with no expectation of return. Because in doing so, you will be sons and daughters of your Father in heaven who has loved you this way. And it will bring glory to Jesus. As we live out this kingdom, ethic, and righteousness in a world that doesn’t know what to do with this, you’re giving me something with nothing in return. You’re being kind to me, even though I’ve been a jerk to you. How is that possible? It’s possible because of the righteous one who lay down his life for His enemies so that we would be embraced and reconciled to the Father. Due to others, what Christ has done to you, pray with me. Father, indeed, we are thankful and grateful for all that you have given to us through Jesus.

And Father, at the same time, we do want to repent. Lord, we are so governed by giving in order to receive. And Father, we pray that you would root that out of us, Lord, that we would be able to love others as you have loved us selflessly. And Father, we pray for those moments of difficulty. It is really hard to do. And we ask, Father, that Your Spirit would continue to enable us to live out the righteousness of Your kingdom. Father, we pray that Your son would indeed be given all honor and praise and glory through the lives of Your people. We pray and ask this in His mighty name, Amen. Please stand together as we sing, We are not overcome.

Fesh will fail and bones will break. Thieves will steal, the earth willtake, the earth will take, the earth will take. Night will fall, the light will fade. The Lord will give and take away. Because of his grace, Lord, we are not overcome. Because of his grace, Lord, we are not overcome. Because of his grace, Lord, we are not overcome. We are, we are not overcome. Put no trust in the earth, in the sun you stand upon flowers, faith into the dust. The Lord will make a place for us. Because of his grace, of we are notovercome. Because of his grace and love, we are not overcome. Offer up your shoes and shirts, turn your cheek, turn your cheek. Bear the yoke of love and trust. The Lord will give all life and death because of his grace and love. May not overcome. Because of his grace and love. Love. We are not overcome. Because of his grace and love. We are not overcome. Because of his great love, we are not overcome. Because of his great love, we are not overcome.

He’ll please be seated. We come week by week to receive from the Lord what he has freely given to us. And they’re not one of us who are worthy of receiving from Him. He calls and we respond. For some of the things that have been done to us, the thought of loving our enemies seems so far beyond our grasp. And typically that’s not all done in a moment. It’s God working with us over time, changing our hearts. And other times, they’re just people we just don’t like. They’re hard to love and we don’t like them. And we come to the table to receive from a good God who likes us. And we release those people to Him in prayerfulness of wanting His love to be upon them that they would experience that same grace and goodness. Jesus changes everything. He undoes the world’s way of doing business. And the table speaks to the generosity of Christ to a whole new economy, a whole new business model. Go low to go high, give away to get, die to live. That’s what we’ve been invited to, so that we would be sons and daughters of our Father in heaven.

Those who are helping the suffer come forward, please join me in prayer. Father Almighty, we are so grateful that you have loved us so well in the beloved. Father, thank you for your promises. Thank you for uniting us to Christ who is at your right-hand. And Lord, through bread and wine, we partake of these food items. Lord, we partake of Jesus, the living bread, the living wine. Father, thank you for the blessings that you have bestowed upon us. And we pray that you would continue to change our hearts that they would be more and more like our savior, Jesus. In this, we pray in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Spirit, Amen. Lord Jesus, on the night he’s betrayed everything. He took bread and he broke it. He said, This is my body, broken for you. Take and eat. Later, he took the cup and he said, This is the cup of my blood and the new covenant, poured out through forgiveness of sin to take and drink. Ministering his name, I’d ask then that you would also take the body and the blood of Lord Jesus as well, to eat and to drink, proclaiming his death until He comes.

The table is for all those who profess faith in Christ have been baptized in his triune name. You are sharing the supper with us. You are saying that you belong to Jesus, that you have been saved by His grace and His mercy. If not, if you’re not sure of these things, let the plates pass you by. There is a judgment that comes by taking into yourself that which you do not hold by faith. For brothers and sisters, for you who belong to Jesus, allow the suffer to continue to fuel a dissatisfied contentment that this would drive you to more, drive you deeper to be like Jesus, to not accept where you are, to move towards that distant horizon, which is here present now in the person of work with Jesus.

Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription