Summary: A sermon inspired by the book For The Glory by Duncan Hamilton.
Text: Matthew 5:38-47
In Duncan Hamilton’s biography For the Glory, we learn that Scotsman Eric Liddell’s greatest challenge came, not when his convictions about racing on Sunday during the 1924 Olympics were tested, but when he served as a missionary in China amid the Japanese occupation of the 1930s and early 1940s.
After Liddell was assigned to work at the rural mission outpost in Siaochang, China, he frequently came across dead bodies or met men, women, and children who were starved or injured—evidence of the imperial Japanese troops’ brutality. He himself was never injured by the Japanese, but the occupiers relentlessly hassled Liddell and the other missionaries in the course of their work.
Eventually Liddell sent his wife and three daughters away from China to keep them safe. As for himself, he was determined to stay in China, where he felt as strongly as ever that God had called him to work. He would never see his family again.
Then in March 1943 he was ordered by the Japanese officials to report to an internment camp called Weihsien. There, in a space about the size of three football fields that he shared with more than a thousand other internees, he spent the last two years of his life. The man who had once delighted in running free across fields and along the seashore now was confined and restricted.
It was a miserable existence. The internees had too little to eat. Their clothes turned to tatters on their bodies. They had inadequate medical services. And they never knew when guards would slap or strike them.
If ever someone had good reasons to hate another, Liddell had cause for hating the Japanese soldiers. Yet did he let hatred and anger burn in his heart? Did he plot revenge? No. In fact, he began to pray for the very ones who made his life so hard.
Soon Liddell was urging his fellow internees to do what he was already doing. He said, “I’ve begun to pray for the guards and it’s changed my whole attitude toward them. When we hate them we are self-centered.”
Liddell was literally fulfilling the words of Jesus: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
TREAT YOUR ENEMIES LIKE YOUR NEIGHBORS
From a human perspective, loving your enemies is an unnatural choice. It makes perfect sense to us that we should hate our enemies. But if God does good to both the righteous and the wicked, we should too.
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But 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? (Matthew 5:43-47)
Who are your enemies? Pray for their well-being. Pray also for God to give you the supernatural ability to love them as he does.