Summary: This message is the second in a series that deals with some of the difficult sayings of Jesus. This message deals with Jesus’ call to love your enemies.
Sometimes we hear something that sounds so unreasonable our response is, “You have got to be kidding.” I believe in our text we encounter Jesus saying something that really sounds unreasonable. In fact this statement goes against what we consider to be reasonable. This statement goes against everything that we have been taught and all the messages that are being sent by our culture. Come on, “How are we supposed to love those who use and abuse us?” We want justice…We want vindication!!! Common sense tells us that warming up to these people will only make us more vulnerable to being abused. Reflect on all those mean people in your life? Those individuals who picked on you growing up, all those who have abused you and those who have taken advantage of you in adulthood. Every one of us can think of a list of people that we find to be very hard to love. In fact we would prefer that these people would just stay out of our space. I’m sorry but thinking about them just doesn’t give you that warm fuzzy feeling. In, fact we are more prone to accept the first statement in our text to love our neighbors and hate our enemies. The truth is, regardless of how difficult it is Jesus does call His followers to live by a higher standard than the rest of the world. He does say that people will recognize His followers by the way they love. I know, “aren’t there exceptions to the rule?” According to Jesus there are no exceptions, we are to love everyone. Today our goal is to discover how Jesus wants us to make this unconditional love for everyone a reality in our lives.
I. A teaching that is totally counter-cultural.
A. Jesus begins this teaching with apparently what was a popular Jewish teaching.
1. Jesus is not quoting a particular Old Testament passage here. In fact, this concept will not be found in any of those thirty-nine books.
2. This conclusion was more than likely arrived at by rabbis who later interpreted the Law for the people.
3. This interpretation was arrived at by defining a neighbor quite narrowly, as being a fellow Israelite. That would make any non-Jew the enemy.
4. This was a popular teaching that was practiced by many pious Jews.
5. In some circles an enemy could have been defined as those who are non-believers or hostile to God.
6. Regardless of the original definition, we have little difficulty warming up to this idea.
7. Apparently the same was true of Jesus’ first century listeners.
B. This teaching was counter cultural in Jesus’ day just as it is here in the twenty-first century.
2. That’s not too bad to deal with. We can help someone and not like it.
3. In Greek thought it was sometimes encouraged to hurt your enemies more than they had hurt you. Many Greek philosophers would answer their critics in an extremely harsh manner.
4. To an oppressed people such as the Jews, this new teaching was quite difficult to deal with.
5. To a people living in a “dog eat dog world” such as ours this teaching isn’t any easier.
6. Jesus is taking the teaching to help your enemies to a higher level. A level that not only helps but loves those who mistreat you.
7. As if the command to love isn’t difficult enough, He asks us to pray for these enemies as well.
II. A teaching that calls us to treat others as God has treated us.
A. When you examine Jesus’ teaching you see that it was quite common for Him to call His followers to go beyond what was commonly expected.
1. So living a life pleasing to God was more than just simply avoiding the extreme sins. Consider these two examples from earlier in chapter 5.
a. To avoid murder was more than just not killing. It meant to avoid hatred and anger.
b. To avoid adultery was more than just not having an affair. It meant to avoid looking lustfully at someone of the opposite sex.
2. Jesus is building a fence around the law of love in order to help His listeners understand God’s original intent.
3. With this teaching Jesus is calling His followers to a love that knows no ethnic, social or economic boundaries. It is a love that seeks the eternal best for the other person regardless of the personal cost.
4. This teaching requires that we abandon the common philosophy of promoting self-interest.
B. To fully understand Jesus’ command we need to better understand Jesus’ concept of love.
1. Nowhere in Jewish culture or in our culture was there such a radical definition of love that even extended to enemies.