Summary: I do not write out sermon manuscripts. This is a brief outline of the first message in the series "Say What? (Some Head-Scratching Statements of Jesus)."
INTRO: It’s Valentine’s Day, so let’s start with a quick survey: Has anyone here every broken-up with someone before Valentine’s Day so you wouldn’t have to buy them a present? (Don’t tell me I’m the only one!). Yes, I have done that. When I was single, if I found myself in a relationship that wasn’t going anywhere, I would break it off before any gift-giving holiday. I did my best to be really, really single from Christmas through Valentine’s Day each year. Guess what? I made a few enemies in those days.
HUMOR: Breaking up… She said: "You'll never find anyone like me again!" I was thinking, "That’s the plan!”
HUMOR (letter to former fiancé asking them to reconsider):
My Dearest Susan,
Sweetie of my heart. I've been so desolate ever since I broke off our engagement. Simply devastated. Won't you please consider coming back to me? You hold a place in my heart no other woman can fill. I can never marry another woman quite like you. I need you so much. Won't you forgive me and let us make a new beginning? I love you so.
Yours Always and Truly,
P.S. Congratulations on your winning the state lottery.
For most people, their EX is their ENEMY.
Our natural response is to hate our enemies… avoid our enemies… bad-mouth our enemies
But Jesus tells us to love our enemies
Luke 6:27-31, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies…”
Background Info: Jesus made this statement at least twice:
In Matthew—Sermon on the Mount
In Luke—Sermon on the Plain
Jesus ministry—traveling, itinerant… no podcasts
These two sermons: very similar… some differences…
Matthew: “You have heard it said…”
• “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy”
o Popular Rabbinical teaching of the day
o Neighbor = Fellow Jews… Enemy = non-Jews… especially the occupying Romans.
o This was POLITICAL
Luke 6:27b-29, “…do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either.
• Roman Soldiers: (Matthew)… turn the other cheek… if they ask for your cloak, give them your tunic… walk the extra mile
• Roman soldiers would make these demands on Jewish young men in hopes of getting resistance… excuse to pummel a Jewish civilian
Luke 6:30-31, Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.”
• Jesus teaching: counter-cultural… counter-intuitive
• BIG QUESTION: Would this work? How would their enemies respond?
Examples from early church history:
In his book, “The Rise of Christianity,” Rodney Stark: How did a tiny and obscure messianic movement from the edge of the Roman Empire dislodge paganism and become the dominant faith of Western Civilization?
EXAMPLE 1: 2nd & 3rd Century: plagues ripped through Roman Empire… one historian: ¼ to 1/3 of Roman population died as a result… it was the Christians who did not flee the cities, but stayed to nurse their families back to health… AND took care of pagan families who had been abandoned by their families…
City of Rome: 5,000 corpses/day
Rodney Stark: tilted population in direction of Christianity
EXAMPLE 2: Pachomius —20 yr. old… forced draft… rounded up… in camp awaiting orders… famine… starving… strangers slipped into camp each night and brought food to starving young men… legion… years later… came back… became a Christian: not because of what they believed… Pachomius the Great
EXAMPLE 3: Constantine (306-337): first emperor to become a Christian
Julian (361-363)… the Apostate—lead back into paganism… rebuilt temples… reestablished priesthood… failed miserably
• Only 6 people signed up for a pagan religion on his website!
Pagan religions: no sense of compassion… Pantheon of gods.. no regard for people… people were pawns.
In response to the failed effort to reinstate paganism, Julian wrote:
• “I think that when the poor happened to be neglected and overlooked by the priests, the impious Galileans observed this and devoted themselves to benevolence.”
• “The impious Galileans support not only their poor, but ours as well. Everyone can see that our people lack aid from us.”
How do we love our enemies? (Jesus: 3 ways 6:27-28)
1. Do Good to Those Who Hate You.
Romans 12:19-21, Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.