Summary: Loving my enemy is a way to show I belong to God.
May 27, 2001
Relationships in the Kingdom – Part 6
Before the reunification of Germany, each of Uwe Holmer’s eight children tried to enroll at the University of East Berlin, and each one was rejected. The East German Ministry of Education wasn’t in the habit of giving reasons for its rejection of applicants, but in this case the reason wasn’t hard to guess. You see, Uwe Holmer, the father of those eight applicants was the pastor of a church in East Berlin. And for 26 years the Ministry of Education had been headed by Margot Honecker, wife of Erich Honecker, East Germany’s Communist premier.
But then in the fall of 1989, the Berlin Wall came down. The same wall Erich Honecker had been in charge of building in 1961. Honecker and his wife were unceremoniously dismissed from office, and indicted for several criminal activities during his tenure as premier.
They were speedily evicted from their luxurious palace in the exclusive suburb of Vandlitz which was reserved the VIPs of the Communist party. Suddenly they found themselves friendless, without resources and no place to go. None of their former comrades showed them any of the humanitarianism their party had boasted about. No one wanted to identify with the Honeckers…
Except, Pastor Uwe Holmer. Despite the unfair treatment his family had received because of their Christian faith, Pastor Holmer extended an invitation to the Honeckers to stay with his family in the church parsonage.
Having nowhere else to go, the Honeckers accepted the invitation before eventually moving to the Chile. Though Mr. and Mrs. Honecker were outspoken atheists, Pastor Holmer reported the former premier and his wife were folding their hands and bowing their heads at the Holmer family prayer times.
That is not a natural course of action. Most people who had been wronged by the Honeckers and caused to suffer under their Communist dictates would probably rather have seen the former premier and his wife die in the streets. But to invite these enemies into your home? To show them love and compassion? That’s a pretty radical thing to do.
But Jesus tells us…
Loving my enemy is a way to show I belong to God.
TRANSITION: To really show we belong to God, to truly give evidence He’s changing our lives, Jesus would want each of us to realize, for starters…
I. I MUST LOVE INSTEAD OF HATE (v. 43-44)
He tells the crowd on the mountainside in Matthew 5:43…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Sounds like decent advice, doesn’t it? Trouble is the Bible never says such a thing.
The command “Love your neighbor” is found in Levitcus 19:18, but no OT Scripture says “hate your enemy.”
Those in Jesus’ day defined a “neighbor” as somoeone of my own people – in other words one of your same class or ethnic background. So, they figured, if the rule says love people like me…it must be taken as a permission, even an injunction, to then hate my enemy.
I suppose this rationalization could convince those who wanted to be convinced, but it’s certainly not what God intended. In fact Proverbs 25:21 says, If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty give him water to drink…and the Lord will reward you.
But the religious leaders conveniently overlooked those words and taught people to love only those of their own ethnic background.
One writer says the phrase, “hate your enemy” was a “parasitical growth” on God’s law.
To prove it, Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan where a man is robbed and left half dead along the road. Those of his own ethnicity walked on by, and yet a hated Samaritan stopped to offer assistance and transported him to an inn where he paid all his expenses. Jesus ends this story with a question: “Which was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
Obviously it’s the one who prior to Jesus, was never considered to be a neighbor.
So, a “neighbor” is not necessarily a member of my own race/ethnic background, someone from my own country, someone of my own religion, or even my own church.
“Neighbor” in the vocabulary of God includes our enemy.
Or, to put it quite simply, if you have an enemy, God says, “He’s your neighbor too!”
ILLUS – Chuck Jones cartoon for Warner Brothers - Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf – in a very literal sense, they are enemies and next door neighbors and at the same time. Morning, Sam. Morning, Ralph. Walk past their mailboxes at the end of their sidewalks on the way to the pasture where they take their punch cards and clock in. The morning whistle blows and Ralph gets down low to the ground to go about his wolfly business of stealing sheep. And Sam, whose Sheepdog hair has grown over his eyes sits Stoicly guarding the flock. Ralph begins by carrying off what he thinks is a sheep only to discover it’s Sam in zip up sheep disguise. Sam pounds Ralph into the ground. Of course there’s the requisite Warner Brothers dynamite scene where Ralph attempts to blow up Sam only to have the dynamite explode near him – a scene where Ralph tries to vault Sam off a tall cliff only to launch himself off the cliff where he lands at the bottom in a cloud of dust. At the end of the cartoon, Ralph Wolf is severely injured and punches out at the time clock with Sam who says, “See you tomorrow, Ralph.” As they both head home.