“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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." - Matthew 5:43–48 (NASB)
This past Sunday Frank told a story from his high school English teacher days about a student who was being bullied. He recommended a new way to fight. He advised the bullied student to take loving action on behalf of the "enemy". The result was two-fold. The student (who was a believer) took action in faith that was characteristic of God, and the bully responded by no longer making fun of the student. They weren't best friends, but they weren't enemies anymore.
Jesus' fighting style met the world's...and Jesus won.
In Jesus' famous Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), in a section of teaching that scholars often label “The Antitheses,” Jesus introduces six teachings that each begin with the words, "You have heard it said…but I say to you." (Matthew 5:21-48)
In each of the six statements Jesus introduces an ancient or current teaching held in high regard by the culture and asks his audience to dismiss these views in favor of a higher level of obedience that should be characteristic of His people. This section ends with Jesus flipping on its head perhaps the most natural teaching of every culture: hatred of our enemies.
You have heard it said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love you enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
Culture says deal with others as they deal with us and punish those who hurt us. But Christ has a different expectation of those who are His: "My children don't deal with conflict as the world does. It is said of my children that they love and pray for all regardless of others' actions toward them."
But why does this matter? Aren't enemies people who deserve justice or punishment for the way they've treated us?
Jesus says that His children whom He has redeemed are to act like Him. If you are His and don’t act differently, how are others to know that there is an alternative? Your action in connection with Christ pictures the new life described in the Sermon on the Mount and in the Gospel.
He has shown us love by acting on our behalf for our salvation when we were once His enemies. He has “fought” for us sacrificially. That is the way God fights for his people. That is the way Jesus fought for us. Therefore, we fight like he fights. We are to be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect (5:48).
Christ is our example. And unlike the world’s fighting style that keeps having to change to combat their unending enemies, Jesus' style is to stop the fighting--not with sentimental feeling but with action on our behalf. The world can't overcome Jesus' fighting style.
It has always been too strong.
PUT TRUTH INTO PRACTICE
Prayerfully and through the power of the Holy Spirit, begin to replace your attitude and response to that which Christ taught and modeled:
- Change your mind. Stop thinking retaliatory thoughts about your enemy.
- Change your heart. Start desiring good things for your enemy.
- Change your speech. Pray for your enemy.
- Change your actions. Welcome your enemy.
Watch the sermon from September 14: