Summary: How true Disciples are to handle difficult people.
A Study of the Book of Luke
Sermon # 13
“Love Your Enemies”
I have another children’s book to share with you, and no, it not the only kind of book I read. I seem to find a lot of wisdom in them. In the children’s book entitled, "I’ll Fix Anthony," the younger brother complains about the way his older brother Anthony treats him: "My brother Anthony can read books now, but he won’t read any books to me. He plays checkers with Bruce from his school. But when I want to play he says, "Go away or I’ll clobber you." I let him wear my Snoopy sweatshirt, but he never lets me borrow his sword. Mother says deep down in his heart Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep down in his heart he thinks I stink. Mother says deep deep down in his heart, where he doesn’t even know it, Anthony loves me. Anthony says deep deep down in his heart he still thinks I stink. When I’m six I’ll fix Anthony …. Anthony is chasing me out of the playroom. He says I stink. He says he is going to clobber me. I have to run now, but I won’t have to run when I’m six. When I’m six, I’ll fix Anthony. [Judith Viorst, I’ll Fix Anthony. as quoted in www.christianglobe.com/ illustrations = revenge]
The truth is that we as a society think often about revenge. Sometimes bumper stickers display what our real philosophy of life such as
Do unto others before they can do unto you.
I don’t get mad I get even.
Keep honking I am reloading.
Caution I brake for tailgaters.
Please Tailgate I need the money.
To err is human, to forgive is out of the question.
Last week we noted how Jesus had come down to a level place and began giving the greatest sermon of all time. He looked directly at the disciples and began giving them the principles that would distinguish those who follow him. He gives a profile of what a disciple is to be. Those who follow Jesus must operate under a set of values opposite that of the world. The Lord explained that a blessed life was not found in “getting” or from “doing” but from “being.” Now he continues with a much more radical counsel about how we are to respond to our enemies.
This message will have application to everyone present today because, difficult people are problem for everyone. It does matter how old you are or what gender, or your personality type because we all meet with difficult people. Certainly you cannot avoid them. When I say “difficult people” I am referring to those people who mistreat us, speak evil about us or who do us harm.
1. True Disciples Are to Love Their Enemies
(vv. 27-28, 32-35)
Looking his disciples right in the eye he declared in verses twenty-seven and twenty-eight, “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, (28) bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you.
Jesus begins verse twenty-seven by saying “But I say to you who hear,” now to who is he referring. Of course everyone present could hear him. But this phrase is properly understood when rendered “But if you are willing to listen” as in the New Living Translation. The translation called “The Message” paraphrases this verse, “To you who are ready for the truth I say this.” It is obvious that Jesus is clearly indicating that what he is about to say about dealing with difficult people will be difficult to accept.
There are several words for love in the Greek language in which the New Testament is written. Jesus declared a new and radical way of life. Jesus did not command (storge) – natural affection. He did not command (eros) – romantic love. He demanded agape love. The same word used to translate John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Agape love is not motivated by the merit of the one who is loved.
Jesus says that for a believer to refrain from hating his enemy is not enough. It is not enough for a believer to simply put up with his enemies, ignore them, even to refuse to retaliate but Jesus calls us to demonstrate love toward our enemies. Paul summarized this spiritual principle in Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil ... (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. (20) Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink…. (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” In these verses Jesus sets out three practical outward ways of going about loving our enemies. The first thing Jesus says is to “do good to those who hate you” (v. 27). This may mean, mowing the lawn of your hateful neighbor, volunteering to fill in for a mean-spirited fellow employee who wants a day off, or stopping to help someone who had always been rude to you who’s car is broken down on the side of the road.