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)