Summary: Jesus taught us to forgive our enemies... but I’d just as soon not, thank you. Why is it so important for me to forgive people who have worked so hard at being my enemies?
OPEN: Clarence Darrow, the famed criminal lawyer once joked: "Everyone is a potential murderer. I have not killed anyone - but I frequently get satisfaction out of obituary notices."
APPLY: Now, why would we find that humorous? We find it funny because it comes so close to the truth.
Of all the things Jesus commanded, loving our enemies is perhaps the most difficult.
· I MAY NOT love God like I should, but I’m determined to get a handle on it.
· I many not love my wife the way I should, but I intend to work at it.
· I may not love my neighbor as I should - but I have nothing against trying.
BUT, love my enemy?
How many of you have had enemies?
How many of you would find it difficult to love them?
OF COURSE YOU have difficulty loving them… they’re your enemies!! If you could love them, they wouldn’t be your enemies anymore, now would they?
· They’ve hurt you
· They’ve spoken out against you
· They’ve threatened your self worth, your standing in community, your finances, your job
· They’ve subjected you to mental cruelty and perhaps even caused you bodily harm
I don’t want to love these people…
AND YET, Jesus says… "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you."(vs 27-28)
I. Now I have to admit, my favorite way of thinking about my enemies is summed up in Romans 12:19 "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord."
In Deuteronomy 32:35 God tells us: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them."
OR as II Thess 1:6 so quaintly puts it: "God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you.
I LIKE THAT! But, now, let’s be honest… that’s not really “loving my enemy” is it?
SO, why should I love my enemy??? Jesus gives us 3 reasons:
1st - verse 35 tells me that when we are willing to do that "Great is your reward."
Jesus doesn’t expand on this here but this a promise. A promise from Jesus Himself. Jesus is essentially saying: "If you will honor me enough to do the tough things in life, I’ll reward you properly.
ILLUS: Acts tells us the story of the death of Stephen, the 1st Christian to die for his faith. As he lay dying, we’re told that his last words were: "Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing." What is Jesus doing during this travesty? Stephen says: "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (Acts 7:56).
Knowing Stephen’s desire to forgive his enemies even as he is dying, Jesus is standing in heaven. But Hebrews 1:3 tells us that, when Jesus ascended into heaven, "he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven."
So, why would Jesus be standing now? My suspicion is, that it is the same as any other time people stand: at a concert, in the presence of an honored individual, at the presentation of our nation’s flag - it’s a mark of respect and honor. Jesus - knowing that Stephen had determined to forgive his killers - took this opportunity to show him and us that this is the type of attitude He honors.
ILLUS: I once was told the true story about a man who had embezzled $27,000 from a partnership he had with a Christian couple. The Christians became embittered, couldn’t sleep well at night and were so troubled that they approached their minister asking what they should do. Their preacher advised that they find a way to "invest" in their former partner. After prayer and discussion, they decided that they would find a financial need that he had and meet it. Learning that he had to move and needed $3000 to do so, they gave that sum to him. Almost immediately, the wife began to sleep better and the bitterness left them. They relate that they believe that God has begun compensating them financially because of their faithfulness in this.
2nd (vs. 35) "You will be Sons of the Most High"
Now, if you’re not sons of the most High… whose sons would you be? (Satan’s…)
Hatred is a tool of Satan
Hebrews 12:15 tells me that bitterness can rob me of salvation.
Romans 12:21 advises me "Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good."
The reason that this is so crucial is that bitterness & hatred warp can me on the inside.