Sermon on the Mount
We are to the sixth illustration of what our righteousness should be like, each of them incredibly demanding, each impossible in our own strength. Almost every line of the Sermon taken to heart will flatten us. Frankly, last week’s truth on showing kindness to those who persecute us, and this week’s truth of supernatural love are probably the hardest to practice.
We come to the final illustration, showing what the Christian’s love should be like. Our love to other people in our daily relationships should reflect the great commandment. To love one’s enemy is a love that can only come from God. It is not natural in us so that is why we are calling it supernatural. This supernatural love is the only type of love that a true Christian should practice. Unfortunately, this ideal is almost never met. In this section of scripture we will see three truths concerning supernatural love.
I. Non-Christians Do Not Possess Supernatural Love
Again, as He has for the last five illustrations, Jesus begins with the traditional teaching of the day. Just as in the other five illustrations, this teaching is inadequate and perverting of the God’s teaching. There are two problems with the rabbis teaching the phrase “Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.” The problem is that it is only a partial quote of Leviticus 19:18 “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:” One more time we are confronted by the fact that the rabbis were not teaching the complete truth of the OT. Man naturally possesses an intense self-love. To love another person as myself would mean that I really had a lot of love for another person. The standard of love that God gave to man was supernatural, so man naturally chafed under such instruction. His chafing included only teaching part of the truth.
The second problem comes with the line: “and hate thine enemy.” No where in scripture was man taught to hate an enemy. In fact the opposite teaching was prevalent in the Old Testament. Old Testament passages taught that one was to be kind to their enemies. Exodus 23:4-5, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 5If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” Also consider Proverbs 25:21-22, “If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: 22For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.”
By the time that Jesus was ministering on earth, hatred for foreigners was so institutionalized that people actually thought that they were honoring God by hating their enemies.
ILL: Two shopkeepers were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other’s business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?" The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"
II. Christians Are Ordered to Possess Supernatural Love
”Love your enemies” is in an imperative tense. We are ordered to possess a love that doesn’t naturally become us. To love one’s enemies is opposite of our fallen human nature. To the man on the streets the mere idea of loving ones enemy is absurd, offensive and beyond his capabilities. It offends our natural sense of right and wrong. So if this love is so hard, so absurd and almost impossible for us to obtain, why would Jesus desire that we gain it?
Jesus gives two reasons that we are to possess this supernatural love.
A. Because it makes us like God
Jesus gives us the reason in verse 45, “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” The phrase, “That ye may be children of your Father which is in heaven:” literally in the Greek reads “That ye may prove to be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” This is our proof of citizenship. God never discriminates when he blesses people with good.
He gives his love to evil and good people. He blesses those who hate Him as well as those who don’t. If you are going to be like your heavenly Father, then your love needs to be as indiscriminate as His. Psalm 145:15-16, “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. 16Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.” There is no good thing – physical, intellectual, emotional, moral, spiritual or of any other sort – that anyone possesses or experiences that does not come from the hand of God. If God does that for everyone, His children should reflect that some generosity.
In fact, if it weren’t for Jesus loving His enemies, we would never have been saved. God chose to love us when we were at enmity with Him.
There is another reason Jesus gave for us to possess a supernatural love.
B. Because it distinguishes us from the world
Jesus gave a negative example to support His point. Look at verse 46, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” Fallen man is not incapable of loving. The doctrine of total depravity does not mean that original sin has rendered men incapable of doing any good at all, but rather that every good they do is tainted to some degree by evil. Unredeemed sinners can love. Parental love, conjugal love, love of friends - all these we know very well, are the regular experience of men and women outside Christ.
But all human love, even the highest the noblest and the best is contaminated to some degree by the impurities of self-interest. We Christians are specifically called to love our enemies (a type of love in which there is no self-interest), and this is impossible without the supernatural grace of God. If we love only those who love us, we are no better than the swindling tax collectors.
Not only do Christians not naturally possess supernatural love, and not only are they ordered to practice supernatural love, but:
III. Christians are Told How to Practice Supernatural Love
Look back at verse 44 again, “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
A. Love our enemies
What does this mean? The great Martin-Lloyd Jones said it this way, “The first thing, of necessity, is that our treatment of others must never depend upon what they are, who they are or upon what they do to us. It must be entirely controlled and governed by our view of them and of their condition.” To love our enemies is to make no distinction between them and those friends of ours that we love.
The human tendency is to base love upon the desirability of the object or our love. We love people who are attractive, hobbies that are enjoyable, a house or car because it looks nice and pleases us, and so on. But true love is need-oriented. The Good Samaritan demonstrated great love because he sacrificed his own convenience, safety, and resources to meet another’s desperate need.
ILL: There was a Baptist pastor, named Peter Miller, who lived in Ephrata, PA, and enjoyed the friendship of George Washington. In Ephrata also lived Michael Wittman, an evil-minded sort who did all he could to humiliate and opposed the pastor.
One day Michael Wittman was arrested for treason and sentenced to die. Peter Miller traveled seventy miles on foot to Philadelphia to plead for the life of the traitor. “No, Peter,” General Washington said, “I cannot grant you the life of your friend.” “My friend!” exclaimed the old preacher. “He’s the bitterest enemy I have.”
”What ?” cried Washington. “You’ve walked seventy miles to save the life of an enemy? That puts the matter in a different light. I’ll grant your pardon.” And he did. Peter Miller took Michael Wittman back home to Ephrata – no longer an enemy, but a friend.
B. Pray for your persecutors
Throughout history the worst persecutions have been religious. They have been the strongest against God’s people. Because persecution is so often the world’s response to God’s truth, the Lord assures us that, just as he was persecuted, so will we be. Therefore His command for us to pray for our persecutors is a command that every faithful believer may in some way have opportunity to obey.
Our persecutors may not always be unbelievers. Christians can cause other Christians great trouble, and the first step toward healing those broken relationships is also prayer. Whoever persecutes us, in whatever way and in whatever degree, should be on our prayer list.
Jesus also practiced what He preached. Do you remember that when he was being crucified, even as the nails were being driven into His hands, he prayed repeatedly, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor who suffered and eventually was killed in Nazi Germany, wrote of Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:44, “This is the supreme demand. Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God.”
C. Do good to them who hate you
When someone has been really spiteful and cruel to us we must not be the same to them. Rather we must respond with actions of benevolence. This is what God does for the farmer who may hate him. He gives the farmer rain and sun to nourish his crops .
ILL: -- Some time back, I read a story about a burly platoon sergeant who had at one time lived a life of drinking, cursing, swearing, and sexual immorality. He could be arrogant and rude to his soldiers. However, he had become Christian and turned his life around. When asked about what made the difference, he told about a private in his platoon that was courageously Christian in his outlook and behavior.
This private was frequently harassed by other but was faithful to Christ. One night the private came into the barracks quite late. It was a very rainy night. Before getting
into his bunk, he knelt, as was his custom, to pray. The sergeant in a foul mood picked up one of his own boots, which was heavy with wet mud, threw it across the room and hit the private in the side of the head. The private said nothing. He wiped the mud from his face and crawled into bed.
The next morning, however, when the sergeant woke up, he found his muddy boots cleaned and polished by his bedside. He said: “It broke my heart.”
Conclusion: It is not ours to hate our enemies, because we are to be like God who never hated us when we were His enemies. It is not ours to hate our enemies, because there is no distinction then between us and the world.
I have a question for you. Who can you not stand? Who is it that you think does not deserve your love? God commands you to love your enemies. Anything less, is disobedient rebellion to Him. Your life would have so much more peace, if you would let go of that hatred animosity and strife, then confess to Christ that the only way you can love this person is through His power.