Summary: This is the seventh sermon in my SURVIVOR series, focusing upon Jesus’ formula for bringing peace to interpersonal conflict (10-27-02).
There were once two men who lived in a small village. They got into a terrible dispute that they could not resolve. So they decided to talk to the town sage … the wise man. The first man went to the home of the old, wise one and told his version of what happened. When he finished, the old sage said, “You’re absolutely right.” The next night, the second man came and told his side of the story. The old man responded, “You’re absolutely right.”
After the second man left, the old sage’s wife scolded her husband. “Those men told you two different stories and you told them they were absolutely right. That’s impossible—they can’t both be absolutely right.”
The old man turned to his wife, looked deep into her eyes, and said … “You’re absolutely right!”
(From sermonillustrations.com, key word “conflict.”)
Debrief: That old man was wiser than many of you might think. He knew that there are rarely any winners in human conflict. There were probably elements of right and wrong on the part of both of those men … but neither of them would ever be convinced of their wrong. So, there was no point joining in the fray.
So, why is it that we are so prone to conflict? We all deal with it in almost every area of our lives. We have conflict at home, at school, and on the job. We humans just seem to have a knack for not getting along … for making enemies over sometimes stupid stuff that we just can’t seem to let go of.
And you know we can argue about anything. I mean anything! I want you to watch this video clip from this week’s episode of SURVIVOR. See how people can have conflict over something as stupid as … a banana! (Hold a banana up in the air.)
*Show banana fight from the October 24 episode of SURVIVOR.
Now that was comical! Just watching that on the screen makes me about how we can fight over some of the dumbest things. We certainly are prone to conflict.
I have to confess that I don’t deal with conflict very well. That’s just who I am. I try to put as much distance between myself and conflict as I possibly can. I am pretty even-keeled and difficult to anger … but when I do get hurt, or offended, or attacked … I can come out fighting. We all can.
The problem is … that’s the attitude of the world coming out in us. But as followers of Christ, we have to remember that we are not of this world. We have a higher standard … a higher calling to live by.
Today, we are going to look at some words from Jesus to understand His teachings on dealing with conflict … specifically, dealing with our personal enemies.
This passage is part of what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” The verses that we are going to look at make up one of six illustrations that Jesus uses to contrast the false righteousness of the religious leaders of the day with the true righteousness of God. I believe that as we study this contrast, we can see a model for our own behavior in times of conflict that Jesus desires and expects believers to follow.
So, let’s look at this passage together and see what Jesus has to teach us.
Look at verse 43. It says, “You have heard it said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
That is the Rabbinic tradition of Jesus’ day. That’s what the religious leaders … the scribes and Pharisees … taught the people of Israel. Seriously … that was their teaching. They encouraged the people to love their neighbor and hate their enemy. Of course, their definition of neighbor was very narrow. It left out anyone who wasn’t a Jew. And for the scribes and Pharisees, it left out pretty much all of the common people. So, that narrowed things down to a pretty small list of neighbors.
What’s really interesting is how they perverted the Old Testament teaching in a couple of ways. You see, Leviticus 19:18 requires that, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” That command is repeated throughout Scripture.
But look at what the scribes and Pharisees have done. First … they left something out … the part that says “as yourself.” That must have sounded absurd to them. They were so totally in love with themselves, their supposed perfection, and their religious supremacy. It would have been impossible to love anyone else that much. So, they left that little part off.
But look at what else is there. They added something. They didn’t just leave something off … they added something to God’s teaching – “hate your enemy.” That goes against everything in the heart and Word of God. Look at the words of Proverbs 25:21 (show on screen).