Summary: Who knows why someone chooses to be our enemy? And how do you respond to them when they do? The tendency is to strike back.

Love That’s Tough to Do

Matthew 5:43-48

Sermon by Pastor John Stensrud

Immanuel Baptist Church

Elgin, IL

Delivered on February 18, 2001

Mat 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, ’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In some ways, there isn’t a whole lot of difference between the basic human nature among fellow human beings. For example, we’re all driven by similar desires. One strong desire that is common to all of us is the desire to be liked. I don’t know about you but I want to be liked and appreciated.

And most of us generally try to be likable. Whether we’re on our jobs, around our neighborhoods, or at church, we try to be friendly and make an honest attempt to treat people in such a way that they have positive feelings towards us.

Now there are those who are anti-social and arrogant – socio-paths who do everything in their power to be disliked. But apart from these exceptions, most of us do sincerely try to get along with others. While this is true, it is also true that sometimes it just doesn’t work.

Unfortunately, there are those times when people decide that they really don’t like us. Even though we have made an attempt to be kind to them, and are wonderful people ourselves, they, nonetheless, resolve to be hostile towards us. This is a disturbing reality of life. It can be very disappointing. It can also hurt.

It has happened to me many times – and what especially hurts is when someone in your own family chooses to reject us.

The reason that I chose to give a message on this passage is that someone close to me – no one in this church – leveled untrue accusations against me and is not on speaking terms with me. I was hurt by all this and my first instinct is to become like a hockey player and check my adversary into the boards. I thank God that to this point, I have not responded back with vengence.

Who knows why someone chooses to be our enemy? And how do you respond to them when they do? The tendency is to strike back. It has been called the "plan and pounce" strategy - the "don’t get even, get ahead" method. But what does this way of retaliating at people for their behavior really produce? It produces further animosity and more bad feelings. It makes the hostile person even more hostile, and leaves us feeling worse instead of better.

Jesus said that there was a better way. As a matter of fact, He gives us a radical solution to this ancient problem. Instead of retaliating against your enemy, you should love him by doing good to him!

"Love him! You have got to be kidding!" you may be saying about now. "How can we be expected to love those who are treating us harshly and unfairly? Surely, no one could do that, or would even want to. Even Christians have their limits, don’t they?"

There is no doubt that Christians do have limits. But when it comes to love, the limits far exceed what we may think. The confusion comes when we adopt the thinking of the world. The world’s way is to return evil for evil. Remember, the only problem with "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" is that everyone would soon be blind and toothless.

I used to be a hockey fan when I was a boy. But one thing I noticed was that most players were missing teeth. They say that a hockey game broke out after a fight started. Hockey is often a game of retaliation where players slam an opponent into the boards after a hefty cross check. There must not only be a team doctor for hockey teams but team dentists. Fist fights are part and parcel of the game. So are dentures and partials.

There was an old Amos and Andy radio show routine where Andy was particularly exasperated over a certain fellow on the street who, as Andy walked by him on his way to work each morning, would slap Andy on the chest and say hello. It used to drive Andy crazy. He hated being slapped on the chest. Andy complained to Amos about the situation and told him that he had resolved to do something about it. He said that on the next morning he would strap some dynamite to his chest and when the annoying fellow slapped it, he would blow his hand off!

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