Summary: Lessons from David and Saul on some causes of hateful behavior and loving responses to unlovely actions.
Loving Your Enemy
In Luke 6 Jesus said, "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ’sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ’sinners’ do that. . . . But love your enemies, do good to them. . .
Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."
F.F. Bruce has a book called Hard sayings of Jesus, where he lists some of the things Jesus told us to do that we have the most difficult time obeying. This one is number 16. Now I don’t know how he decided on the order to put them in, but if I had written that book, this would be at the top of the list. And even though I didn’t particularly pick this topic, I’m glad I got this one, because It’s something I’m struggling with right now.
Now I’m hesitant to mention it, because the last time I stood up here and made a public admission of something I scared some of you to death. Based on what you told me after the sermon, before I got it out that I was admitting to buying a minivan, about a third of you thought I was resigning, about a third of you thought I was getting ready to admit a devastating moral failure, and about a third of you were just holding your breath not sure what I was going to admit.
So I’m naturally hesitant to admit anything else, but this is something I’m seriously struggling with right now.
Some of you know that the man running the company Christi and I had our health insurance with for about a year, stole thousands of dollars of my premiums and stuck me with thousands of dollars of medical bills the company was supposed to pay. He lied to me, he promised me he had sent payment to the doctors and instead he pocketed both my money and that of hundreds of other ministers, all the while using the name "Christian"
in his business name.
And I tell you that to let you know that I have struggled to find love for him and to forgive him (not that he’s asked, but forgiveness often isn’t as much for their benefit, as it is for our benefit). But with God’s help I’m getting there.
And I know that all of us go through things like this—people who hurt us, who cheat us, who rob us, who stab us in the back—doing everything they possibly can to make themselves our enemies. And here’s Jesus telling us to love them—not just tolerate them; not just to "live and let live," but to LOVE them.
Now before we start to think that’s impossible, we have to remember that the love Jesus is telling us to show isn’t that emotional, mushy feeling that the world associates with "love." It’s a volitional act of doing good for someone. And the reason it’s so important for us to be able to love our enemies is what Jesus said in the passage we just read—that even the sinners do that. But the way they’ll see a difference in our life—something that stands out from the world—is if we can learn to respond to enemies with love.
And I want us to look at an example of this from the Old Testament to help us deal with those who try to make enemies of us.
The story is about David and King Saul. After David killed Goliath, Saul brought him to his house and 1 Samuel 18 says that David excelled in everything Saul gave him to do. And because of that Saul gave him a command in his army. But it didn’t take long for Saul to start looking differently at David. And the things that led him to feel differently about David are some of the same things that cause people to cross us today.
The first was jealousy. When it was announced that David had been given a high rank in the army, everyone was happy. As David and some of his men were returning home one time, the people came out and honored David. It was the equivalent of a ticker-tape parade. They sang songs about how Saul had killed thousands, but David had killed tens of thousands. And 1 Samuel 18 records Saul’s thoughts:
"‘They have credited David with tens of thousands,’ he thought, ‘but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?"’And from that time on Saul kept a
jealous eye on David."
So many times people act hatefully toward us because they’re jealous. They envy something in our life that they don’t think they can have, and that frustration and jealousy comes out in hateful actions toward us.