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Loving My Enemies

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Introduction

Final sermon in mini series that flowed out of verses 17-20 about a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees. Jesus gave six examples of this greater righteousness.
In them He explains that disciples of Jesus (people of His Kingdom) are people who are being transformed at the heart level and away from a robotic, outward adherence to the law.
The section we’re looking at this morning is simultaneously part B of last week’s section on a Radical response to those who wish to do evil to you. Even in the midst of being insulted, ripped off, voluntold, and wrongfully used, a disciple cultivates a predisposition that prevents even rightful retaliation.
Last week I told the first half of the story of Operation Auca… the five missionary families that were called to the Amazon jungle of Ecuador to bring the gospel to the Huaorani Indians. And after several attempts to shower gifts on the people to show they were coming in peace, the men decided it was time to go and meet the people. They were ambushed and all five men were speared to death, and their bodies thrown in to the river. A tragic event and from an observers perspective, it was a pointless tragedy.

Tension: The oil diggers and the missionaries

In the sermon “Radical Response” I paralleled the response of the oil workers to the attacks of the Auca’s and the response of the armed missionaries. The missionaries from everyone’s else’s perspective should have responded to the attackers in kind, but they didn’t. Why didn’t they?
In a testimony given by Rachel Saint (Nate Saint’s sister) the reason the men didn’t shoot is because they predetermined that no matter what happened that day, they would not shoot the people that God had called them to reach. In other words, self-preservation was not their calling, but sacrifice.
I wonder where they got that idea from? They were called to greatness.
Matthew 20:26–28 ESV
It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:28 ESV
even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 20:27–28 ESV
and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Matthew 10:38–39 ESV
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.” -Jim Elliot
So what became of the Auca’s? The men’s wives and families that were left behind?
First, as Nate Saint’s son (Steve) explains, his mom led her children to pray for God to save the one’s who killed her husband and his friends. And night after night they would pray for the salvation of the Huaorani, just like dad led them to do when he was alive.
The wives and families of the others began to do the same until one of the women (Elisabeth Elliot) and Rachel Saint (Nate’s sister) decided that they would carry on the mission that God had called them to and go back and be the salt and light of Jesus to that same tribe in that same village.
What happened next can only be described as a miraculous outpouring of the life transforming grace of God. As those two ladies brought the Scriptures to the people and showed them what it looked like to forgive and love, many of the tribe began to see their sin and came to know Jesus.
The first thing that Rachel did after leading many of these men to Christ was to train up preachers who would become the elders of the church in the Amazon. The men who speared those missionaries to death were now studying God’s Word and teaching it to each other.
Years later one of the daughters of the missionaries was baptized in the same spot her father had been speared to death by the very men who threw the spears.
The grandchildren of the missionaries consider their grandpa’s killers, their very own grandpa.
What happened is that those families lived out what Jesus speaks of in the passage this morning. What happened is that they followed Jesus’ teaching to “Love My Enemies.”
And before we shrug off their story as disconnected from our own, we must know that these families were not super Christians. They were ordinary, sinful people who were following Jesus, before transformed at the heart level by the Holy Spirit, and passionate for the mission of God for the world. That’s all.

Teaching

I think it needs to be said and I’ll say it again, Christian maturity is not measured by how much of the Bible you’ve read, or memorized, how much time you spend in prayer, how much theological knowledge you have. I believe that the main point Jesus is making in this second section of the sermon is that:

Christian maturity is measured by how well we love those we can tolerate the least and have hurt us the most

Matthew 5:43–48 ESV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Matthew 5:38–42 ESV
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
Matt 5:
All throughout the sermon, Jesus has been deepening the meaning of several Mosaic laws and correcting the interpretations of many of those laws.
So, we’re very familiar with the way Jesus has been teaching about the people of the Kingdom and the way those people relate to God, each other, and the rest of the world around them.
He begins by quoting the Torah,
Leviticus 19:18 ESV
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:18 ESV
You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
I think it’s pretty clear who “neighbor” is from this passage, but let’s broaden the context to make sure:
Leviticus 19:9–17 ESV
“When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God. “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another. You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord. “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired worker shall not remain with you all night until the morning. You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the Lord. “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.
If I’m a Jew in the first century, I know who my neighbor is, it’s my brother’s and sisters in the Jewish race. If I flip the page, I’m to include another group of people, the immigrant:
Leviticus 19:33–34 ESV
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
But it had become an increasingly popular belief especially leading up to the first century that it was not only permissible, but god-like to hate your enemies.
The Community Rule (also known as the Manual of Discipline), which dates from around 100 B.C., regulated the life of a Jewish sect at Qumran. According to Dr. Marvin Wilson, "The people of Qumran had withdrawn to the wilderness to await the end of the age. They were the `sons of light,' equipping themselves through intense discipline, rituals of purity, and scriptural study to overcome their enemy, the `sons of darkness.' "1 The Community Rule begins by saying that members of the community should be taught to seek God and obey Moses and the Prophets so that "they may love all the sons of light, each according to his lot in God's design, and hate all the sons of darkness, each according to his guilt in God's vengeance."
I want you to imagine for a moment that we are living in a moderately friendly country to belief in one God, but the regime only allowed belief and practice in that God if you adhered to the demands of the regime. To make matters worse, our pastors and seminary professors were very involved in politics and seemed to care more about keeping the relationship with those politicians in good standing than caring for the people. And not only were most of the religious leaders compromised, but the wealthy of the community knew that if they wanted to keep their wealth they were going to have to work for the regime and offer kickbacks just so they could keep their wealth and stranding in the society.
During the weekly gatherings those pastors would get up and lead worship, teaching that they must keep their relationships tight with the government or we would all lose our freedom to worship. Those pastors would speak distantly of the day when the Messiah would come to crush the regime and make all that was wrong, right.
In that setting Jesus said, “I know that it’s popular to believe that we should love each other and hate our enemies, but the deepest sense of God’s law is not that. It is to love your enemies. It is to love those who hate you, those who persecute you, those that have turned their backs on the Jewish community for status and wealth. Love your enemies.

Love them and pray for them

What does Jesus mean, love them?
We talked about love earlier this year, so I won’t spend too much time with the meaning of the word. But let’s just remember that even though we use the term to reflect emotion, that‘s not what Jesus means.
The love used here is the word agape. Agape very simply carries with it two main ideas:

Love is a heart attitude that leads to prayer

When Jesus says to love your enemy, he means that the heart attitude or the way we think about (in this case) the enemy is to be decidedly good. It’s impossible to have warm fuzzy feelings about someone who is filled with hate. So just as we saw last week, Jesus is serious about His disciples taking the time and the space to think about their offenders in a way that does not imagine harm coming upon them, but good.
We have a handful of examples in Scripture where we see this very thing taking place:
The first is our King as He hung on the cross, exhausted, tortured, forsaken he prayed for his enemies and said,
Luke 23:34 ESV
And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.
The first martyr, Stephen, prayed this prayer as undoubtedly many of the same crowd that cried for the death of Jesus, stoned Stephen
Acts 7:60 ESV
And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
When someone inflicts pain on you, on your family what is your heart attitude? For most of us, it is not this. I’m afraid the prevailing heart attitude is the opposite of the Proverb:
Proverbs 24:17 ESV
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
Proverb 24:17
Love is not only a heart attitude that leads to prayer, but agape love is also

Love is a heart attitude that leads to action

Biblical, agape is not passive. Jesus is not teaching the disciples that the way of the Kingdom people being led by the Spirit as we journey through life is being run over and walked on. No, agape is active.
And every one of the NT writers that wrote about this struggle to be salt and light in dark places understood agape. Agape begins by sacrificing time in our schedules and in our lives to think through our relationships, find the ones where we’re being tested and pursue those relationships with active agape.
When Luke is reflecting on the teaching of Jesus, he doesn’t split the two ideas from each other, but understands them as one in the same:
Luke 6:35–38 ESV
But 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. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
Luke 6:32–35 ESV
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But 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.
When Paul was writing to the church in Rome he said:
Romans 12:14–21 ESV
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The wise king told his son:
Proverbs 25:21–22 ESV
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.
Proverbs 25:21 ESV
If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
You have to imagine yourself in the position of these disciples. Can you imagine how disappointing this would be if we were under the kind of oppression that they were under? And then for the one person who could rescue us from that tyranny shows up and says this?
Jesus doesn’t really owe anyone an explanation, but He paints a beautiful picture to ground his disciples. He gives them a motivation for loving their enemies:
Matthew 5:45 ESV
so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Why should we love our enemy?
Matt 5:
Some have assumed that Jesus is giving an entrance exam in saying (so that), but we have already learned that Jesus is teaching the crowd what people living under the reign of Christ is like, not a legal requirement for entering the Kingdom.
So what does Jesus mean, than?
What Jesus said would be very similar to the way we talk about likeness. My mom does this all the time; she’ll be watching my kids play around and look over at my wife and say, “He is his father’s son.” What does she mean? She means, his daddy used to do the very same thing.
Jesus says so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven is short hand for, so that you can act like your daddy.
How would loving my enemies be a reflection of what God is like?
Jesus tells us two different ways that he’s discovered what God is like - the pattern of weather and the Scriptures
Jesus obviously observed that when he walked up and down Palestine that God did not divide the sun so that it only shined on people who feared and worshiped him, but he made the sun to shine on even those who hated him. He noticed that evil people (cheaters and abusers) had some really nice crops. This was meaningful to Jesus and it should be to us.
Jesus was incredibly God-centered and he saw through God’s general revelation that the weather proved that God was generous to those who didn’t care about him, didn’t ever think about him, and were even just bad people.
God, has chosen to act towards people with love regardless of who they are and what they’ve done. That’s what our Father is like and since the origin of humanity, God’s goal for people created in his image was that they would reflect him.
The second way Jesus knows what God is like is from saturating himself in the Psalms:
Psalm 145:8–9 ESV
The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
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Jesus exposes what we’re like naturally. He says:
Matthew 5:46–47 ESV
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matt 5:
Everybody loves (attitude and action) those who think like them, act like them, we naturally love our family, we naturally love our tribe (sports, political, religious, hobbies, etc…) but Jesus says, look that’s not really that big of a deal because the rest of the world is like this. My Kingdom is different.
Disciples of Jesus participate in godliness when we imitate our Father.
So, Jesus closes out this section with the final answer to what he meant in verse 20 about having a greater righteousness. The greater righteousness is as he’s been saying all along is in reflecting God’s character, so he says:
Matthew 5:48 ESV
You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
As much as you want to tune out and walk out of here in disgust, let’s double check our understanding of perfect. The Greek word is teleios which is close to the English word “goal” but that wouldn’t make much sense. It refers to a completion or a wholeness. The NT writers, especially Paul use it often and interpreters have interpreted the same word with the term “maturity.”
So what Jesus is teaching is not sinless perfection, but a wholeness in character. It’s not about following a set of laws while in our hearts we’re still full of hatred and lust, it’s about being renewed at the heart level and as the Spirit is transforming us, we’re practicing these instructions by grace through faith.

Application

And the world is longing to see this. There is one man in particular in our life time who modeled what it meant to love his enemies. His name is Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. King preached a sermon from this very passage that might be the most convicting message I’ve ever read. There were so many sections I highlighted, but I want to read a couple of them:
“My friends, we have followed the so-called practical way for too long a time now, and it has led inexorably to deeper confusion and chaos. Time is cluttered with the wreckage of communities which surrendered to hatred and violence. For the salvation of our nation and the salvation of mankind, we must follow another way. This does not mean that we abandon our righteous efforts. ”
“With every ounce of our energy we must continue to rid this nation of the incubus of segregation. But we shall not in the process relinquish our privilege and our obligation to love. While abhorring segregation, we shall love the segregationist. This is the only way to create the beloved community.”
Excerpt From: Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King & The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock. “A Gift of Love.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-gift-of-love/id479744228?mt=11
Excerpt From: Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King & The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock. “A Gift of Love.” iBooks. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/a-gift-of-love/id479744228?mt=11
“To our most bitter opponents we say: “We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you. We cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws, because noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good. Throw us in jail, and we shall still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our community at the midnight hour and beat us and leave us half dead, and we shall still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer. One day we shall win freedom, but not only for ourselves. We shall so appeal to your heart and conscience that we shall win you in the process, and our victory will be a double victory.”
Excerpt From: Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott King & The Rev. Dr. Raphael G. Warnock. “A Gift of Love.”

Call

It’s our turn to consider how we will respond to such a message.
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