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2006-07-16_Love Your Enemies_Matthew 5.43-48

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Love Your Enemies

Matthew 5:43-48   |   Shaun LePage   |   July 16, 2006

I.  Special Guests: International Friends

A.   We have some special guests with us this morning—Len & Mary Andyshak. Len is going to come up in just a minute and tell us about an organization called International Friends.

B.    Before he does so, I want to remind you of something I’ve shared with you before. In January, when your elder board went on a retreat together, one of the things we specifically prayed about was our desire to reach out to the international students at KU. One of the greatest missions opportunities available to the American church is the hundreds of thousands of students who come to the United States from all over the world and spend 4-8 years on our college campuses. According to the Institute of International Education, there were 565,000 international students enrolled in institutions of higher education in 2005. It’s a tremendous opportunity. Our prayer—specifically—was that God would lead some people to this congregation who would show us how we can participate in reaching international students for Christ. Immediately, God brought two couples into our midst. Warren and Lynda Heikes—who have served as missionaries to Poland in the past—now have a ministry to international students here in Lawrence. We hope to have them share with us soon about their ministry. But the amazing thing to me is they visited CBC the very next Sunday after our retreat. Andrea Senf has been involved with International Friends and recently introduced me to this work. She—along with her husband, Alex—began attending CBC a week or two before the retreat. God answered our prayer before we prayed it! They had to be out of town this weekend, but we’re going to have Andrea come in a couple weeks and share some of her experiences with International Friends.

C.   I share all this because I’m convinced God has spoken. He has answered that prayer that we as a board prayed back in January. God has provided, and now we need to act. We need to let these couples lead us in reaching out to international students. And, I think you’ll find that this is a beautiful ministry opportunity mainly because of its simplicity.

D.   I recently sat down and visited with Len. I trusted Andrea that International Friends was a good organization, but I still felt it was wise to meet the leader of International Friends before I gave any kind of public support for it. I felt I should at least make sure it wasn’t a bunch of Mormons or Moonies. Len is a Presbyterian, but I’ve decided that’s something we can overlook.

E.    Len is a wonderful, Christian brother and I’m excited to welcome him to Community Bible Church this morning. Please come, Len, and introduce us to International Friends.

II.   Len Andyshak

III. Prayer for International Friends and Sermon

IV.Sermon Introduction

A.   If you have been following world events this week, you know that the Middle East has blown up again. This should heighten the relevance of what we’re studying together. In the place where Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount there is revenge and retaliation taking place this morning. There is hatred and war and death in the region where Jesus said…[recite Matthew 5:43-48]

B.    Review:

1.     Obviously this passage is closely related to the verses that come before it—which we looked at last week. We saw that Jesus instructed His disciples not to retaliate for personal insults. He wasn’t addressing the issue of self-defense. He was talking about insults. He wasn’t talking about war or capital punishment. He was talking about having great restraint in personal relationships.

2.     Is it always wrong to “resist an evil person”? No. In fact, there are times when we must—if we are to be obedient to Scripture. But when it comes to personal insults, we are to be extremely patient. Jesus holds His disciples to a higher standard—a standard that should make us uncomfortable. A standard that in one way is impossible.

3.     Matthew 5:43-48 raises that standard even higher.

V.   Body: Matthew 5:43-48.

A.   I. “You have heard…” (v.43)

1.     43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”

a)    “You shall love your neighbor…” is biblical.

(i)   Leviticus 19:18 reads, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”

(ii) This is repeated no less than six times in the New Testament. In Mark 12:30-31 as well as Luke 10, Jesus said the second greatest commandment was to “…love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Jesus said this summarized the entire Old Testament teaching on how we are to relate to our fellow human beings.

b)    The second half of this teaching, “…and hate your enemy” is not biblical.

(i)   It was the distortion of the scribes and Pharisees. In fact, it was apparently one of the most important theological debates of the day. You see, many had twisted the Scriptures to try to justify their hatred. They limited the word “neighbor” to Israelite, so they could justify their hatred for non-Israelites.

(ii)  We see biblical evidence of this in Luke 10. Listen to Luke 10:25-29. “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus answered by telling the story of the Good Samaritan. Jews “hated” the Samaritans. They considered them enemies. But Jesus told a story about a Samaritan who “showed mercy toward” a Jew! Worse yet, two of their own kind—a priest and a Levite—didn’t “show mercy.” They walked on by. Look at vs. 36-37. Jesus destroyed their shallow and wicked Scripture twisting.

c)    The Lie: Hatred can be justified.

B.    “But I say to you…”

1.     44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”

a)    Jesus said that our righteousness—as His disciples—must “surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.” This kind of righteousness should make us very uncomfortable. Kingdom-minded disciples of Jesus Christ must have a love that can only exist as the result of the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

(i)   On our own—without the Spirit—we produce this kind of fruit according to Galatians 5:19-21: “…immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these…”

(ii) But with the Spirit indwelling us and when we are walking in the Spirit—that is, following His lead—we can produce a very different kind of fruit. Notice what is at the beginning of the list—according to Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control…” The point is obvious: With Christ and the Holy Spirit who comes when we put our complete trust in Christ, we can do this! We can love our enemies. Without Christ we cannot. So maybe you’re sitting here say, “I can’t love like that.” Well, apart from Christ you’re right. You can’t. But in Christ, you can.

(iii)    A. Love with supernatural power.

b)    Jesus’ command here assumes we have “enemies.”

(i)   The word “enemy” is echthros which means “to hate.” It refers to those who hate us, are hostile toward us or oppose us (It should go without saying that we should not have enemies by our choice—those we hate). So it’s very general. It’s the same word—by the way—that Paul used in Romans 5:10 to refer to you and me. We were enemies—God haters—before we trusted Christ and were reconciled to God. Again, just two verses earlier in Romans 5:8, we’re told that God “demonstrated His love toward us (His enemies—those who hated Him), in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.” Again, Jesus is the ultimate example. He told us to “love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” and He practiced what He preached.

(ii) So, Jesus spoke generally in the first part of this phrase when He told us to “love your enemies” but then He narrowed it somewhat. He said, “and pray for those who persecute you.” There will be some “enemies” (if you will) who will be our enemies for one reason: We are Christians. They will hate us because of our faith—for identifying ourselves with Jesus Christ. How can we possibly “pray for” someone who persecutes us for our faith? Isn’t the American way to sue them for infringing upon our right to freedom of religion or chastise them for their intolerance of our beliefs? Listen again to Jesus’ promises to those of us who will suffer persecution: Read Matthew 5:10-12. You are blessed. You should rejoice and be glad. Why? Because those who are persecuted for Christ will inherit the kingdom of heaven—they’ll be rewarded. Their reward in heaven is great! Rejoice and be glad! Persecution—no matter how bad—will be worth it in the end! That’s a kingdom mindset. That’s a kingdom perspective.

(iii)    B. Pray with supernatural perspective.

2.     45a “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven…”

a)    Does this verse teach a works salvation? To become children of God or “sons of (our) Father” do we need to have or maintain love for our enemies?

b)    No! This is a reward! Listen to how Joseph Dillow explains this in his excellent book, Reign of the Servant Kings: “Who are the sons of God? Christians can be ‘sons of God’ in two senses in the New Testament. It is, of course, true that all Christians are sons of God by faith in Christ. We are all part of His family. But it is also true that the word huios (sons) can take a different emphasis depending on the context. In Mt. 5:45 we are to do the work of loving our enemies in order that we may become sons. In Mt. 5:9 we need to be peacemakers before we can be called sons of God. In the book of Revelation we are told, ‘He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son’ (Rev. 21:7). Now obviously these are not conditions for becoming sons of God in the sense of being saved. In fact, the sermon was directed to the disciples so that the disciples could become sons of God. It is possible for those who are already sons, according to these three verses, to ‘become sons.’ Is it not obvious that the Lord’s meaning in Matthew is something like ‘sons indeed’? In other words, if we love our enemies and function as peacemakers, we are not only sons in fact, but we act like it and are therefore called sons.” (p.368)

c)    That’s exactly what’s going on here! When disciples of Jesus Christ “love their enemies” they are letting their “light shine before men in such a way that they may see (their) good works and glorify (their) Father who is in heaven.” The world turns and looks to see who could have this kind of love—they learn that the disciple has this kind of love only because he is a “son” of “the Father”. He makes his Father proud! The Father smiles and says, “That’s my boy! That’s my son! That’s my daughter!” You are “sons indeed!”

d)    The Reward: Our Father’s pleasure. Then he goes on to describe more fully what the Father’s love looks like:

3.     45b “for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

a)    This verse is a continuation of the previous thought. It is a picture of God’s love for people. In this present age, the Father shines the sun on the evil as well as the good. You don’t see a rain cloud following evil people around and good people bathed in sunshine all the time. Sometimes there’s rain and sometimes there’s sun. Both are a blessing from God—a picture of how He gives His love to everyone—evil and good alike. As His sons, we can do no less. We bless people with love. Kingdom-minded disciples of Jesus Christ give that love to friend or enemy. To people who love them as well as people who hate them—just like Jesus! Romans 5:8 reads, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Jesus died for His enemies—us—and His disciples must imitate that love.

4.     46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

a)    Average love won’t do, Jesus is saying—the Father’s love is greater than the typical love. “Tax collectors” love each other. “Gentiles” (that’s you and me, but the scribes and Pharisees considered us dogs) love each other. It’s not different, it’s not special, and it’s not Kingdom-level love to love people who are easy to love. Kingdom love is counter to all our instincts.

b)    Notice again that Jesus uses “reward” as a legitimate reason to do what is right—a good reason to love the way God wants us to. There’s no “reward” in ordinary love. But there is “reward” in Kingdom love. He’s talking—as He did earlier in this chapter—about heavenly reward. Eternal reward. “Gold, silver and precious stones” as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 3. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-20, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…” It’s a command. It’s a legitimate motivation to want to obey so that you can be rewarded by God. God loves to reward our obedience and we should make it our goal to have a mount of “treasures in heaven.”

C.   “Therefore…”

1.     48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

a)    Does this mean perfect “perfect”? Does it refer to perfect sinlessness? John said in his first epistle that if we claim that we have not sinned, we’re liars. It can’t mean sinless perfection.

b)    This is a summary of all that Jesus has given us in this list. He said that our righteousness is to “surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees.” We are to have a righteousness which imitates the Father. We are not to look around and compare ourselves with what the world or other people—even other Christians—think is good enough. We are to model ourselves after the Father Himself.

(i)   The Standard: Imitate the Father’s righteousness.

(ii) Listen to Ephesians 5:1 and 1 Peter 1:15-16.

(iii)     Remember that in Christ—if we have trusted Him for salvation—we are made righteous. We are given a righteousness that is not our own, but a gift. God’s righteousness is credited to our account. So, in Christ, we can be perfect.

(iv)    In practice, however, we will not be perfect. We will fall short, but that should not keep us from striving toward perfection. And perfection is found in the Father.

VI.Closing:

A.   Is this enough for you to work on this week?

B.    At the beginning of this chapter, we’re told that Jesus went up on the mountain. It’s a perfect setting for this chapter we’ve been looking at. Jesus gives us an infinitely higher view of what is important and what is true. It only gets better in chapters 6 and 7.

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