Summary: Jesus said we should love our enemies. But I don't even like them, why should I even want to show them love?

OPEN: I’ve always loved limericks, and years ago I ran across this one:

“There once were 2 cats from Kilkenny

Each thought there was one cat too many

They fought and they spit, and they clawed and they bit.

Till instead of two cats (pause) there weren't any.”

(Pulpit Helps 3/97 p. 8)

Now that strikes us as funny because we can picture cats doing that. Have you ever heard a couple cats going at it in the back yard or in the alley? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. In fact, cats as so well known for this that when two women get in a fight, do know what it’s called? (CAT FIGHT)

Cats are cats… and cats act like that.

But Christians … would we behave like that?

Well… yeah we would

ILLUS: There’s a church in Ohio called the Bethlehem Church of Christ. Their church building was built back around 1840 and in their history book (from the time of the Civil War) you could read this: “We had fighting right here at home. The Democrats and Republicans were so bitter against one another, it broke the church up.”

On the same page in the booklet we’re told of a fist fight that took place on church property: “Two of our best men fought to a finish. One wanted to know if the other had enough. He said he had, so he let him up.”

(Tom Claibourne, Restoration Herald. Sept. 07)

Unlike the two cats from Kilkenny… that’s not nearly as funny. And why isn’t it funny? Because Christians aren’t supposed to behave like that. Christians are supposed to be a people of love and peace. (PAUSE) But too often Christians aren’t. They aren’t always loving and peaceful.

Jesus knew that was going to happen so He left us explicit instructions: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Now, why would Jesus have to tell us that? Well, there’s a couple of reasons I can think of:

First Jesus didn’t save us because we were nice people. Jesus saved us because we were sinners. As Romans 3:23 tells us “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That means you were a sinner when Jesus saved you, and so was I. And when we became Christians God called us to leave our sinful lifestyle that Paul described this way: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, PASSING OUR DAYS IN MALICE AND ENVY, hated by others and HATING ONE ANOTHER. Titus 3:3

The problem is that when Christians misbehave, they’re just doing what they learned to do before God saved them. It’s kind of a flashback moment. Now, that doesn’t make it right… it just explains WHY it happens.

Secondly, Jesus commanded us to love our enemies because that kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to us. In fact, Jesus’ command doesn’t even seem to make any sense. Did you notice WHO Jesus commanded us to love? (ENEMIES)

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.”

Now, why on earth would I want to love my enemies? There’s a reason they’re my enemies… I DON’T LIKE THEM!!! I mean, if I liked them, they wouldn’t be my enemies, now would they? AND if I don’t LIKE them … I’m certainly going to have a hard time LOVING them!

So inherently, Jesus’ command seems illogical. It’s irrational. It doesn’t make sense. And people struggle with it because it doesn’t seem normal. Why would Jesus tell us to love people who are our enemies?

Well, first – because that’s what our God does. Jesus said: “… love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be SONS OF THE MOST HIGH, for HE IS KIND to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as YOUR FATHER IS MERCIFUL. Luke 6:35-36

In other words when we love our enemies, we show the world what our Father is like. God loved His enemies. And that’s a good thing because – you and I were once His enemies. Colossians 1:21-22 tells us “Once YOU were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has RECONCILED you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight”

Ephesians says pretty much the same thing. It says that we had been “by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) (Ephesians 2:3b-5)

Now that truth leads us to another reason why we should love our enemies. When God loved us He had something in mind. He had an endgame. God’s love for us resulted in Him doing something for us. What was the result of God’s love for us (His enemies)?

Well, Colossians says His loving us led to us being RECONCILED. His love for us (His enemies) led to us being saved. God loved us and others (who were HIS enemies) so we would be saved. That was His endgame!!!!

And now - now that we’ve become God’s children - God tells us that wants us to love our enemies. If God’s love for us led to our salvation, what do you think His objective is in having us love OUR enemies? Of course - to bring them (our enemies) to salvation.

God has saved us. And NOW He has enlisted us to love the unlovable so that they might be reconciled. So that our enemies might be saved. In essence – God TRUSTS YOU. He BELIEVES in you. And so, He has enlisted you to be His missionary to the lost.

ILLUS: I read an article that compared the cost of killing an enemy on the battlefield to the cost of saving them by sending a missionary overseas: They noted that the average price to kill ONE enemy soldier in WW II was $200,000. More recently, the average price to take a SINGLE life in Vietnam was $500,000. By contrast, the average cost to save a soul overseas was only $654!

That’s a pretty good bargain – don’t you think??? How much better it would be to convert our nation’s enemies to Christ than to shoot them down in the heat of battle. If they became our Christian brothers and sisters they’d be less likely to engage in war with our nation!

BUT, if you are God’s missionary HERE in your family, neighborhood, factory or wherever, the cost to you is nothing (zip, zero, nada). Can you think of an enemy you have in your neighborhood? In your family? In the place where you work? How many of you can think of such an enemy? (I asked for a show of hands). Can you see the genius of God in this? It costs nothing for YOU to be His missionary to those people you don’t like!

Well… that’s not entirely true. It won’t cost you nothing. You risk a lot in doing this. You risk being ridiculed, insulted and maybe even hurt by these folks. That’s the cost for you being willing to rescue someone who is your enemy. But God loved US while WE were His enemy so that He could save US. And now God calls you and I to love our enemies so that He might save them from Hell.

But HOW do I go about doing this love for my enemies thing? How could I possibly show them love when I don’t even like them? Well, Jesus gives us an insight to His battle plan right here in this passage. He tells us “… as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.” Luke 6:31

Do you know what that’s called? That’s right. It’s the “Golden Rule” and all kinds of people realize the power of that advice from Jesus. In fact, there’s a lot of folks who think that Jesus didn’t even come up with that proverb on His own. They think He borrowed it from wise men who lived before Him.

ILLUS: I remember walking into a chiropractor’s office one time and seeing a poster on the wall that compared Jesus’ “Golden Rule” with the wise sayings of those who lived before Him.

• Confucius (some 500 years before Jesus) said: "Do NOT unto others what you would not wish done to yourself."

• The Buddhists have a saying, "Putting oneself in the place of others, kill NOT, nor cause to kill."

• Hinduism – (Mahabharata, 5, 1517) "… do NAUGHT unto others which could cause you pain if done to you."

Well there you have it! Incontrovertible proof that others said the same thing Jesus did, hundreds of years before He did!

(PAUSE) Or is it?

Well, of course, it’s not. Notice the word I capitalized in each of those ancient proverbs: “Do NOT”. By contrast Jesus said “DO!” Those ancients were all saying something like “if you don’t want to have someone hurt you… don’t hurt them. Leave them alone and others will leave you alone.” By contrast Jesus was saying “Don’t leave them alone. Deliberately DO things for them.”

But there’s one more thing we need to know about the “Golden Rule”. It isn’t just great advice from Jesus on how we should live our lives, it’s our BATTLE CRY! This “Golden Rule” was intended by God to be our battle plan on how we could show love to our enemies.

Garrison Keillor “The Keillor Reader” said it this way (“The Keillor Reader”)

“Do unto others who don’t like you as you would have them do unto you, but you know they won’t. Do this before they can do the devious deed to you and that they would do if given the chance. Shame them with goodness. Kill them with kindness. Cut their throats with courtesy.”

In other words… do what THEY would NOT do for you. Why? Because that’s the last thing they expect. They expect you to play the same game they’re playing, but by doing good for them – you throw them off their game.

ILLUS: Let me tell you story about that. Years ago, I preached in a church where the minister (we’ll call him Harry) who’d preached there 2 preachers before me was an angry man. When Harry retired the church hired the next man for a larger salary than he had had. That embittered him to the new preacher (even though the church had bought Harry a car when he retired). Then when the church hired me, they payed me even more money than that other preacher… and that angered Harry at me.

In addition, the church had made Harry an Elder… which they never should have done. Harry had a nasty habit of blowing up in Board meetings when he couldn’t get his way. He’d cry and literally rush from the room. With that kind of temperament it was only a matter of time before Harry would blow up at me. Sur enough, one Sunday after church, he blew up about something I’d announced. Unfortunately for him, the leadership was meeting the next night to re-up their Eldership (they had a 3 year rotation) and Harry lost his eldership. Harry blamed that on me (I should have been guilty of it, but I had no hand in the decision) and he left the church for the next 2 months. He meant to show his disdain for me by his absence. When that didn’t seem to work, he and a small cadre of friends would have a grand re-entrance to show that I couldn’t push him out of church (yeah, this was weird).

This decision was telegraphed to the whole church and word of his decision soon was shared with me. Now I liked Harry. I really didn’t want to hurt him (he’d been a faithful preacher of the gospel for years), but this was not a healthy situation and I sensed I had to deal with it somehow. I spent time in prayer, asking God for guidance on what to do… and I swear I got nudged. Into my mind came a Scripture. THIS Scripture: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

And I thought to myself “what would I want Harry to do for me?” Well, I would have wanted him to come up to me and shake my hand and tell me everything was OK. So, that’s what I decided to do for him. That Sunday I was up on the stage making last minute corrections to things when I saw Harry and his friends enter the sanctuary and take a pew about 2/3’s of the way back on my left. So I came down off the stage and made my way toward them. They saw me coming, and as one man they rose from their seats and moved all the way across the sanctuary. And you know what I did? I followed them. In fact, I’d have followed them all the way out into the parking lot if I’d had to. But I caught up with them just as they got sat down – I stuck out my hand (to his credit he took my hand) and shook his hand and told him how glad he was there that Sunday. Then I turned and went to take care of other things.

Now I’d love to tell you that this reflected some great wisdom on y part. But it didn’t. It reflected the wisdom of God When I obeyed God by doing for Harry what I’d have wanted done for me, God defused that situation. God took control and made my “enemy” at peace with me, at least for that day.

But the main point here is that Jesus has asked us to love our enemies so that we can bring them to Christ.

CLOSE: I read the story years ago about a family that learned this truth. They had been doing their morning devotions and had just read "If your enemy is hungry, feed him" (Romans 12:20 RSV).

Their sons, 7 and 10 at the time, were especially puzzled. "Why should you feed your enemy?" they wondered. Their parents wondered too, but the only answer the husband could think of to give the boys was, “We're supposed to because God says so."

A few days later they learned why God said so. It seems that for several weeks, their 10 yr. old, John Jr. would come home from school complaining about a classmate who sat behind him in 5th grade. “Bob keeps jabbing me when Miss Smith isn't looking. One of these days, when we're out on the playground, and I'm going to jab him back”

This happened day after day until finally, the mother was ready to go down to school and jab Bob herself. She said she remembered thinking: “Obviously the boy was a brat. Besides, why wasn't Miss Smith doing a better job with her kids? I'd better give her an oral jab, too, at the same time!"

She was still fuming when her 7 year old said: "Maybe he should feed his enemy."

This startled everybody. None of them was sure about this "enemy" business. It didn't seem that an enemy would be in the 5th grade. An enemy was someone who was way off... well, somewhere.

At this point everybody looked to the dad. Since he was the head of the family, he should come up with the solution. But the only answer he could offer was the same one he had given before: "I guess we should because God said so."

The mother sighed and turned to John Jr. and asked “Well, do you know what Bob likes to eat? If you're going to feed him, you may as well get something he likes."

The boy almost shouted "Jelly beans, Bob just loves jelly beans." So they bought a bag of jelly beans for him to take to school the next day and decided that the next time Bob jabbed him, John Jr. was simply to turn around and deposit the bag on his "enemy's" desk. We would see whether or not this enemy feeding worked.

The next afternoon, the boys rushed home from the school bus and John Jr. called ahead, "It worked, Mom! It worked." And their mom asked: "What did Bob do? What did he say?"

"He was so surprised he didn't say anything - he just took the jelly beans. But he didn't jab me the rest of the day!" In time, John Jr. and Bob became the best of friends – all because of a little bag of Jelly Beans.

The mom shared in the article that eventually both of the boys grew up and became missionaries on foreign fields. And their way of showing friendship with any "enemies" of the faith was to invite the inhabitants of those countries into their own homes to share food with them around their own tables. She noted: “It seems ‘enemies’ are always hungry. Maybe that's why God said to feed them.”

“… love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35-36

One last thought. The way God showed love to us was that same way. We were His enemies and John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that He GAVE…” Loving our enemies involves “GIVING” them something. Something that they need or would like to have. God gave us (who were His enemies) His son. What will you give to your enemy?

And that brings me to an assignment I want to give you this week: Do you remember that enemy you realized you had when you raised your hand earlier in the sermon? I want you to pray for the opportunity to show that person love this week. You assignment is to find a way to give them something that they’d appreciate. I’ll even give you an idea of something you could do. Since Romans says to feed your enemy… find out where they like to eat and buy them a gift card for that restaurant.

But you can’t effectively love you enemy the way Jesus wants us to until you first belong to Him.