Love Your Enemies And Other Hard Sayings

Love Your Enemies And Other Hard Sayings

 Greetings in the precious Name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and Happy New Year, hoping that as we begin this new year that you are blessed with good health and that whether you are beginning your walk with the Lord anew or you are continuing to grow in your relationship with the Lord that in some way these studies are helping you to grow spiritually, this week we begin our new study “Love Your Enemies and Other Hard Sayings.”

 

Love Your Enemies and Other Hard Sayings

Focus Verse

Matthew 5:48

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Lesson Text

Matthew 5:38–48

38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:

39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 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;

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.

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?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Focus thought

Jesus calls us to live unselfishly and to forsake our desire for revenge.

Culture Connection

The Unintended Product of Revenge

Mark Twain is noted as having once said, “Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.” Certainly the same could be said about harboring other harmful emotions and attitudes such as bitterness and jealousy, which sometimes result in vengeful actions.

In her article “Why Getting Revenge Isn’t Worth It,” Jen Kim summarized the findings of social psychologist Kevin Carlsmith when she wrote, “The reason for revenge is to achieve catharsis.[catharsis- a purification or purgation that brings about spiritual renewal or release from tension]

Those who choose to exercise revenge only keep their own hurt and anger alive, allowing the negative emotions to continue to torment them and foment bitterness. Rather than seeking revenge against those who hurt and use us, Jesus taught us to love our enemies and do good to them who “despitefully use” us (Matthew 5:44). Abandoning the perceived need to seek revenge in order to live life unselfishly engenders the most peaceful and positively vibrant life one can enjoy on earth.

Outline

  1. OLD COVENANT TRADITIONS
  2. An Eye for an Eye; a Tooth for a Tooth
  3. Love Your Neighbor; Hate Your Enemy
  4. IDENTIFYING THE HUMAN BONDAGES
  5. Desire for Revenge
  6. My Four and No More
  7. THE TRANSFORMING INITIATIVES
  8. Do Double Good for Each Evil Offense
  9. Love Everyone Equally as the Heavenly Father Does

Contemplating the Topic The Sermon on the Mount provides a wonderful exploration of Jesus’ agenda for the coming kingdom of Heaven. This much anticipated Kingdom began with the arrival of its King. Jesus’ first sermons were about repenting from the old ways in preparation for new Kingdom living.

Even today we find ourselves looking for the Kingdom’s consummation with Jesus’ second coming rather than how we are to live now. The disciples had a similar challenge. (See Matthew 24; Acts 1:4–8). Jesus was not only concerned about adultery, murder, and deceit. He addressed self-centeredness with its orientation on rights and vengeance as well as selective understanding of God’s directive to love one’s neighbor.

Jesus’ radical claims on Kingdom citizens are no less startling than Isaiah’s glimpse of the time when wolves and lambs would live in harmony. The lion will change its nature to consume straw like an ox rather than eating its neighbor (Isaiah 11:6–7). Kingdom citizens will undergo radical change as they follow their King. Transformed citizens will advance the King’s initiatives by serving as witnesses to their world.

  1. OLD COVENANT TRADITIONS

The God who made the covenant at Mount Sinai was made flesh in Jesus Christ. God’s purposes have always been the same: He desires to live among His people. Prior to Adam and Eve’s fall, no barrier existed for this initiative. With sin, however, God’s holiness served as a threat to the very people He wanted to inhabit. With Abraham and his descendants, God took the initiative to create a way for the people to be holy.

The covenant set parameters of this holy arrangement. Mount Sinai’s temporary solution pointed the way to the ultimate solution, but it was unable to change the nature of fallen humanity. Israel failed to live within the established boundaries. The old covenant was not the problem; human traditions turned righteousness into unrighteousness yet again.

  1. An Eye for an Eye; a Tooth for a Tooth

The Mount Sinai covenant included holiness parameters in both vertical and horizontal directions. In the Ten Commandments, four commandments directly related to God, and the other six regulated relationships between the people of God. Of course violating the horizontal codes was just as damning as disregard for the vertical codes. In fact David felt that his violation of commandments seven (adultery) and six (murder) were actually sins against God (Psalm 51:4).

Jesus’ critique of human traditions that had been added to God’s loving commandments

must be understood against the context of what God intended by the commandments in the first place. Once we understand God’s intent, we can explore human abuses of God’s gifts.

The Mount Sinai covenant directed human behavior toward righteousness in several ways. Prior to the eye-for-an-eye code, humans tended toward escalating retaliation.

The Mount Sinai covenant replaced escalating retaliation with a higher principle of justice. We must also remember the covenant provided the means for whole community holiness. To let sin go unchecked called into question the holiness of the whole people of God. (See Leviticus 24:15;)

The eye-for-an-eye rule also protected the weak. Even slaves found some redress under the law that made sure the strong would be punished for such egregious behavior. Sin would not, could not, go unpunished in God’s covenant community. On the other side of the equation, the stronger or violent members of the community were put on notice. They were not going to escape judgment and punishment for their evil behavior just because they had power.

Finally, this law placed judgment and sentence in the hands of a judge rather than in a family’s personal desire to get even or to remove shame. As with much of the world today, shame to one family member brought shame to the whole family. however, the primary concern was holiness. Israel had to advocate for the weak by punishing the evildoer, or she could not hope to retain God’s presence.

  1. Love Your Neighbor; Hate Your Enemy

The covenant’s call for neighborly love is rooted in God’s nature, and as such, it is not subject to change. When God invites a people to be in relationship with Him, they must respond to the love command.

Sadly, human emotions are fallen. To accept the invitation to a covenant relationship with God, humans must surrender emotions and related behaviors to the Master. The command to love one’s neighbor is inseparable from the first command to love the Lord with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:26–37).

Unfortunately God’s gracious gifts can be turned upside down by those who only nominally act like God’s people. Some people try to limit God’s care for others rather than responding to the love command. When Jesus highlighted the directive to “hate your enemies,” He was drawing from their tradition rather than the Mount Sinai covenant. God wanted to bless Israel so the world would know He was the only true God. God wanted a highway for those who were once Israel’s enemies but would become co-worshipers (Isaiah 19:21–25).

Most of Israel assumed neighbors meant only family and near kin. In their sinful logic they reasoned God’s command to love one’s neighbor must include a corollary to hate one’s enemy. In doing so their birthright of loving grace became an agency of hatred and death.

So this concludes part 1 of our study “Love Your enemies And Other Hard Sayings” we will pick up on part-2 on Thursday at 2. Identifying The Human Bondage’s, looking forward to seeing you then.

 

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