Love Your Enemies

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Intro- Recap Thanksgiving weekend, Haleigh and I had a great time in Pittsburgh with her family.
Yesterday was the Michigan-Ohio State football game, her whole family is Ohio State fans.
I’m happy to report that, for Haleigh, the combination of marrying me and her working at Michigan Medicine has turned her into a UM fan.
But I spent the game yesterday in enemy territory, rooting for Michigan while the rest of her family was rooting for OSU.
It was a sweet victory yesterday.
You could say I was in enemy territory, today we are going to see Jesus’ command for his followers on how they are conduct themselves in regards to their enemies.
Let’s Dive In

Matthew 5:43-45 - Selfless Love is demonstrated by Loving Enemies

Matthew 5:43 ““You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
Jesus is continuing in the way he has been teaching… “You have heard that it was said...”
Jesus is fulfilling and explaining the law, not destroying it. Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”
Jesus didn’t come to destroy the law but to fulfill it. He clarified what it meant and showed what the Pharisees and teachers added to it.
“You shall love your neighbor”
Leviticus 19:18 “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.”
“…and hate your enemy.”
The scribes and pharisees added onto the law with this tag, not found anywhere in the OT
Passages like Psalm 139:19-22 “Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me! They speak against you with malicious intent; your enemies take your name in vain. Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you? I hate them with complete hatred; I count them my enemies.”
Judicial judgments on their character, not personal vengeance.
But the scribes and pharisees took it as permission to hate anyone that looked different than them or offended them.
The scribes and pharisees thought they were honoring God by looking down on anyone who wasn’t Jewish. All they while, they were way off.
We want to point a finger at them and say “how could they?” But it’s more natural than we want to admit
Driving home from Pittsburg, at the rest stop in Ohio, wearing my Michigan jersey, high-fiving fellow Michigan fans.
How often do we do this though? Someone looks different than us so we look down on them, think they are less than us, they offend us so we write them off.
Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Jesus’ Rebuttal
“Love your enemies..”
Jesus dispels the idea of hating enemies. This is not the heart of God or the way his Children are to live. He is preaching against the scribes and pharisees.
He takes the negative element in the last section - Matthew 5:39 “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.”
And calls his follower to the positive, “…Love your enemies...”
It’s not just “don’t slap back.” It’s the positive attitude, “Love them.”
Good Samaritan- Luke 10:29 “But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?””
Who do I have to love? We so often want to do the minimum that God requires.
The neighbor of the lawyer was even the man that he was “supposed” to hate, the last person he wanted to love. Yet Jesus required him to take positive action, be a good neighbor
Who is your neighbor? Even the last person you think deserves love.
“…and pray for those who persecute you...”
What does it mean to love your enemy? Jesus here gives one application of this.
Pray for those who persecute you. It’s not just not retaliating but humbling yourself enough to bring them before the Father in prayer.
Luke 23:34 “And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments.”
God does not ask his followers to do something that he doesn’t do. While Christ was on the cross, being crucified, he prayed for those who were crucifying him.
Jesus is our greatest example
Kent Hughes says, “When you pray for someone while they are persecuting you, you are assaulting the throne of God on their behalf: ‘God, help this person.’”
Matthew 5:45 “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.”
“So that...” would be understood by the Jewish hearers as “So that you may be like your Father who is in heaven.” This was a common way of speaking. This is not a condition here.
Reason - Because this is how God, our Father, loves.
Example of This - God sends sun and rain on those who deserve it and those who don’t.
“His sun” - God is in control of it and it belongs to him.
Everyone one of us was once an enemy of God because of our sin, yet we still saw and felt the warmth of the sun and the cooling rain on our face. God didn’t have to do that.
To take it further, God’s love for us, expressed in Christ Jesus has nothing to do with our good will or anything we’ve done. It’s based on his self-governing will and love.
Rather, God’s love is in spite of us.
Point #1 - Selfless Love is Demonstrated by Loving Enemies
This is how God loves and we are called to do the same.
When have you met someone who doesn’t know Christ who loved his or her enemy? You haven’t!
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Chapter Thirty: What Do Ye More than Others? (5:43–48)

Your natural ethics and morality can make a passive resister; but the Christian is a man who positively loves his enemy, and goes out of his way to do good to them that hate him, and to pray for them that use him despitefully and malign him.

How is this possible?
Selfless love is love that is not based upon what someone does or has. It is based upon our view of them. Are they made in the image of God?
Are they doing this because they are a sinner in need of a savior? Are they bound in sin, following the way of their master, the evil one? Yes!
Studies in the Sermon on the Mount Chapter Twenty-Nine: Love Your Enemies (5:43–48)

Then we should go on thinking, until we see them in such a way that we become sorry for them, until we see them as going to their terrible doom, and at last become so sorry for them that we have no time to be sorry for ourselves, until we are so sorry for them, indeed, that we begin to pray for them.

We must take pity on them as Christ took pity on us and chose to redeem us.
Their salvation must be at the forefront of our mind.
Introduce Selfless Love - Agape Love
Sermon on the Mount—The Message of the Kingdom Practicing Unlimited Love (v. 44)

Jesus is not asking us to have a romantic love or a buddy love or a family love or an emotional love for our enemies. What he commands is an agape love—that is, a deliberate, intelligent, determined love—an invincible goodwill toward them.

Sermon on the Mount—The Message of the Kingdom Practicing Unlimited Love (v. 44)

C. S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity:

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste your time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.…

Our actions usually follow our feelings but Jesus’ command here is to act first.
The temptation is to do what we feel.
I feel offended, I offend back.
I feel angry, I do something about it.
I feel hungry, I get something to eat.
Some feelings are important warning signs that we must heed.
My counselor once told me, referring to my anxiety and anger over a certain situation, that feelings are God-given warning signs that something is off. But they are just that- a warning sign.
Our Feelings cannot be our master.
Who must I love? Even those who persecute you, your enemy, those who make your life more difficult because you’re a follower of Christ.

Matthew 5:46-47 - Selfless Love Stands Out

Matthew 5:46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”
Almost everyone loves those who love them. That’s easy. Those who are kind to you and provide for you, that’s normal love.
Even the tax collectors of the time, the crooked government employees who stole from almost everyone, they love those who love them.
Matthew 5:47 “And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?”
Greet - Shalom - Like saying goodbye. It doesn’t mean it literally, it’s a greeting.
Translation: When you love those who love you, what do you want as a reward? A gold star or a cookie?
Martin Lloyd-Jones - “More” that Jesus requires of his Followers. Does your love look different than the non-Christian’s?
This is the Test - Is there a “more” to your love than the world’s? Do you love even when you don’t feel like loving back?
Martin Lloyd Jones lays out 4 Questions the Christian is to ask:
Do you pray for people who persecute you and who use you despitefully?
Do you ask God to have mercy and pity upon them, and not to punish them?
Do you ask God to save their souls and eyes before it’s too late?
Do you feel a great concern (for their salvation)?
This is the “more” to a Christian’s love.
Point #2 - Selfless Love Stands Out
This kind of love that Jesus requires looks different because it is different.
It’s not just the negative, “Don’t resist.” It’s the positive attitude towards your enemies, “Love and pray.”
Transition: So we’ve been looking at the whyJesus calls his followers to this selfless love, but how does one do this?

Matthew 5:48 - Selfless Love is Supernatural

This is the standard - Perfection like your heavenly Father.
Is perfection possible?
The word used her for perfection is transliterated as “telios”
Also translated as “complete, mature”
Same word Jesus used with the rich young ruler - Matthew 19:21 “Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.””
To use this word, communicates that every Believer, no matter how long they’ve been following Christ, there is still “more” love for them to strive to give.
No one has arrived in their Christian maturity
Also Philippians 3:15 “Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you.”
This is a life fully committed to the will and way of God
The call is difficult, but do-able with the power of God.
Point #3 - We could say that Selfless Love is Supernatural
“To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.” - Alfred Plummer, an English theologian and Commentator
Selfless Love has been shows to Us
Selfless Love is God’s standard for His Children
Selfless love for the person who backs into your car in the parking lot and doesn’t leave a note...
When you are mocked at work for being honest when it costs you
The person with different political views, show selfless love
The teacher or professor that makes fun of you for believing that there’s a God
The family member who has hurt you with their words
When you feel offended for something someone said about you
Greeting the person whose skin is a different color than yours
The reminder for us - God’s sun continues to shine on them and he still sends rain to water their grass. So we must do the same.
Your enemy, I challenge you to pray for them everyday for two weeks and see how God changes your heart.
When you are tempted to speak poorly or gossip about the person who spoke ill of you, choose humility.
Act first and your feelings will follow
Transition: As we wrap up the Sermon on the Mount until next fall...
Jesus began this section by saying in Matthew 5:20 “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
and concluded in Mt 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The righteousness that Jesus requires is greater than the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees. Even though they thought they were high and mighty and carried the law out to a “t”
Jesus took their righteousness and clarified and raised the bar even higher in saying...
You have heard it said not to murder, but I say don’t even insult your brother in your anger.
You have heard it said not to commit adultery, but I say don’t even lust after someone.
You have heard it said to give a certificate of divorce, but I say don’t divorce except for sexual immorality.
You have heard it said not to swear falsely, but I say don’t take an oath at all, but speak truthfully al the time.
You have heard it said an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say turn the other cheek.
You have heard it said love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.
The six illustrations and requirements that Jesus gives seem disheartening, how can one do that?
They seem almost impossible. Is that the point though?
Matthew 5:48 “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Only Christ is perfect. No one can attain this standard.

Selfless Love is Supernatural

Selfless Love is God’s Standard for His Children

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