Summary: Loving a neighbour can be hard enough, but loving an enemy? What was Jesus thinking? How do we respond when people treat us poorly, insult us, ridicule us, or set themselves up against us in our homes, our schools, our places of work and our communities
Jesus, You Want Me To Do What? – Matthew 5:43-48 - February 12, 2012
Series: Kingdom Life – A World Turned Upside Down #17
Picture this: Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?" The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!" (Attributed to Thomas Lindberg, as quoted in The Power of Love by Gerald Flury, www.sermoncentral.com)
And while that’s just a story it does a good job of exposing the attitudes of our hearts towards those we consider to be our enemies. There are times when we would spite ourselves simply in order to bring an enemy to grief. That being said I’m going to ask you to open your Bibles with me please to the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew and we’ll begin reading in verse 43. Over the last several weeks we have been looking at the Sermon on the Mount, verse by verse, and in these last few weeks in particular we’ve been discovering what Jesus teaches us about the righteousness that is expected of the Christian. This morning’s verses are no different yet they are a tremendous challenge because they call us to love those we consider to be, unlovable. Listen closely as we begin in verse 43 …
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ Now that’s something that the people of Jesus’ day – and let’s face it – that the people of our day – can get on board with. There is just something in us that wants to see those who have wronged us, or set their hearts against us, get what we believe they deserve. We want them to hurt for the hurt that they have caused to us, we want them to struggle as they have made us to struggle, we want them to feel the pain, the frustration, the despair that their actions have lead us to feel and that’s what the religious leaders of the day had taught – love those who are close to you and hate your enemies.
The “love your neighbor” part came from the book of Leviticus. Leviticus 19:18 says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18, NIV) The “hate your enemy” part did not come from the word of God – it came from the heart of man. The teachers reasoned something like this, “If I only have to love my neighbor – someone from my own people – that leaves me free to hate anyone else who might be considered as my enemy. I can treat them poorly, I can talk badly about them, I can abuse them and mock them and scorn them because they are not my neighbor.” They wanted to divide the world up into those they had to love and those they had the freedom to despise. But if you remember the parable of the Good Samaritan you’ll see that the people weren’t even good at loving their neighbors. They couldn’t even live out the Word of God they had received through Moses and yet this was the righteousness that they were holding to – they only had to show love to one who was close to them.
But Jesus says, verse 44, I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48, NIV)
We hear those words and everything in us cries out, “Jesus, you want me to do what? You want me to love my enemy? Are you crazy? Don’t you know what she’s done to me? Don’t you know the misery he’s brought into my life? I can’t even look at them without getting all twisted up inside and sick to my stomach and you want me to love them? You’re out of your mind.” And if we could see Jesus, standing there before us in those moments, perhaps He would point to the stripes on His back, the puncture marks on His hands and feet, the spit on His cheek, the crown of thorns on His head, the wound in His side, and the bruising on His flesh and say unto us, “My child, I’m not asking you to do anything that I’ve not already done. I understand your pain and your suffering and your hurt. Not one bit of it has escaped my notice. I know the hardship you have experienced and the sorrow you have had to live with because of how these people have treated you, and yet I’ve come to show you a better way. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”