Summary: How remarkable is God the Father's love toward you and me! Let's see how that changes our hearts toward others, even towards our enemies. A. The Father's love for us while we were still his enemies. B. Our love for others while they're still our enemies.

Text: Matthew 5:38-48

Theme: Love That's out of This World

A. The Father's love for us while we were still his enemies

B. Our love for others while they're still our enemies

Season: Epiphany 7a

Date: February 20, 2011

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word from God through which Jesus speaks to us is Matthew 5.

"You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you not to resist an evil person. Rather, whoever slaps you on the right check, turn to him the other also. And the one who want to take you to court to get your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. To the one who asks, give, and don't turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

"You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy." But I say to you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you show yourselves to be sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the wicked and the good and gives rain to the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing? Don't even the heathen do the same? Therefore, as for you, reach the goal even as your heavenly Father reaches the goal." (Matthew 5:38-48)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

Valentine's Day last Monday, a day of love. Or maybe more precisely: a day of liking. Because isn't that whom we give Valentine's to, isn't it? People whom we like. And contrary to popular opinion, /love/ doesn't necessarily mean to like someone a whole lot. But that's as far as the fallen human heart can go. By nature we only love the people whom we like. There's something about them that draws our friendship or attracts our affections. Maybe it's a natural bond as between parent and child. Maybe it's shared interests or common likes. Maybe we feel good around this person. Their company brightens our day and makes us feel complete. The various shades of love are just different degrees of liking. That's the only love this world knows.

Today, dear friends, let's talk about love that's out of this world. May the Holy Spirit, through the words of Jesus, work that love in us.

A. The Father's love for us while we were still his enemies

1. What's so remarkable about God calling himself our Father?

Jesus describes that love, love for people we don't like. He says, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:44, 45 NIV1984). But before we talk about our love, we gotta rewind. Did you catch those last words of Jesus? "Your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:45 NIV1984). Do you realize how much is in those words? You should. You say the same thought every time you pray: "Our Father who art in heaven ..." Let's think about this.

How would you feel if some sleazy, dirty, smelly despicable character with a horrible reputation around town rang your doorbell and said, "Hey, good buddy, let's hang out together"? I'd be offended and taken back a bit. How much gall does he have not only to ring my doorbell but to think I'm his friend, that I like him?

Now multiply that indignation to the nth degree. Who are we dirty, smelly, despicable sinners to address the holy, pure God, not simply as a friend but as Father? How dare we claim to be his children! The shock of it is lost on us because we each fail to see how repulsive my own sinfulness is. It's hard to smell your own stench. But think of the worst harms a person could inflict on you, pains that rip not only your body but your heart and soul as well. Think of the atrocities of Hitler and Stalin, or Charles Manson and Ted Bundy focused at you and your family, your children. What I've done, what you've done against God, is far, far worse than what any person, even those worst of people, could do to you.

I know that comparison sounds so farfetched, such an overstatement. "We're not that bad of people," we think. But that thought only demonstrates how easily we downplay our own sinfulness. Your sin and mine was rebellion. "[T]he sinful mind is hostile to God" (Romans 8:7 NIV1984). Your pride and mine usurped God's throne. Our sinful words and actions trampled his holy name into the dirt. There was nothing in us for God to like. Everything about us repulsed his holiness. Psalm 5 correctly says to the Lord: "You hate all who do wrong" (Psalm 5:5 NIV1984). How much wrong haven't you and I done? We were under the solemn verdict: "The soul who sins is the one who will die" (Ezekiel 18:4 NIV). Where do we get off calling him our Father?

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