Love Your Enemies And Other Hard Sayings-part 2
Greetings everyone once again in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I am thankful for this opportunity we have to come together and to study the Word of God, I’m reminded of the verse of scripture that instructs us to study to show ourselves approved of God-[2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.]. So without any further delay we’ll get right to our study of “Love Your Enemies And Other Hard Sayings-part 2.
- IDENTIFYING THE HUMAN BONDAGE’S
The cruelest bonds are not those of debtor’s prison or even human slavery. The bonds of sin carry the penalty of pain and inevitable death. These bonds cannot be shed by the use of a wealthy person’s checkbook or a magician’s slight-of-hand trick. Humanity cannot be redeemed by anything corruptible (I Peter 1:18).
- Desire for Revenge
God’s law of an eye for an eye provided a redemptive lift that brought equality before magistrates in place of escalating vengeance available to the strong. This justice element of the law contributed to the holy conditions where God could abide with them. As Paul noted, however, the law did a wonderful job of pointing out the mountain of sin rather than transforming people into God’s image. (See Romans 7:7.)
The second, and perhaps more destructive, step away from God’s law is the elevation of personal rights above all else. To abandon God’s holiness for one’s independence drives human beings apart from each other and from their Creator. For the person who has walked away from God, the only recourse for real or perceived wrong is to stick up for oneself.
- My Four and No More
Sinful celebration of the self further leads to tribalism or gang-like behavior where outsiders are persecuted. Perhaps the saddest part of Jesus’ teaching at this point is the fact He was speaking to a people who claimed to be religiously superior to all others. However, religion can be used as a tool for hatred, self-justification, and even abuse of outsider groups rather than God’s intent to care for those in need and to be untainted by sin (James 1:27).
Jesus’ ministry and words confronted the elevation of self over others for the sin it was. Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees they were worse than the sinners they criticized. He went so far as to say they should stop evangelizing because they were making their converts twice the children of Hell that they were (Matthew 23:15).
- THE TRANSFORMING INITIATIVES
After providing His grace-filled Mount Sinai covenant, God’s next step was to be born as a human being and “live grace” among humanity. Jesus’ birth and ministry inaugurated a new Kingdom where humans could live according to divine purposes.
Conversely Kingdom inhabitants take on new attributes as they become new creatures. They become the Father’s children (Matthew 5:45). Jesus showed the way as the firstborn of the Father; His kingdom followers would take on this new nature and become joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Following Jesus will not be fulfilled by a new set of rules. Jesus’ teaching becomes realized in us as our nature is changed. Kingdom citizens evaluate themselves against these Father-like behaviors.
- Do Double Good for Each Evil Offense
Fallen human nature largely focuses its energy on self-preservation. Many psychologists doubt that a person can commit a truly altruistic act. They argue that humans will always have a personal agenda even when they think they are acting unselfishly on behalf of another person.
Kingdom living is a whole different economy. Resources are limitless. All people are of equal value, even if they are unable to contribute tangible benefits at all. Shame is banished by the King, so individuals do not have to waste energy protecting their honor. Love and respect are multiplied by giving them away rather than by defending oneself. Finally, the only one who has to worry about judging performance is the King (I Corinthians 4:1–4); He is also the only One who is authorized to execute judgment’s penalty.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gave four categories of change required in His kingdom. These changes relate to threats to one’s person, possessions, liberty, and wealth.
“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” (Matthew 5:39).
Threats to personal honor. At first glance Jesus’ directive seems to be passive resistance or even ignoring evil in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth! In Jesus’ own trial, when the high priest’s servant smote Him, He did not sit idly by and let violence go unnoticed or be celebrated. Instead He challenged the miscarriage of justice. (See John 18:22–23.) Kingdom citizens realize the threat is not against them personally but against righteousness as a whole. They are able to give up the responsibility for getting even because they have complete confidence the King will punish all evil (Hebrews 10:30–31).
We should also explore the meaning of smiting the right cheek. A right-handed attacker would need to backhand another person to effect a right-cheek attack. The force of the hit in this case is more an insult than an effort to do major bodily harm.
Threats to personal possessions. The second transformation is related to personal possessions. Every culture has its own understanding of private property. Native American cultures, for example, did not think of land as something that could be privately owned; land was a shared resource.
“And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also” (Matthew 5:40).
Regardless of the new Kingdom citizen’s original culture, the new culture will bring change. Jewish law required returning a person’s outer garment by the day’s end since the garment had more than one purpose. The outer garment was also frequently used for a night covering or even a bag for carrying grain or other objects. Rarely would a person own two of them.
Kingdom citizens do not live for costly raiment or fine foods. In a world where identity is tied to possessions, we do well to seriously consider Jesus’ call to “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) and let the King worry about our possessions. If we are worried about losing our possessions, then we are not Kingdom focused.
Threats to liberty. New Kingdom dwellers are freed from sin’s bondage to follow their King’s directives. Though the transforming initiative in this case is largely irrelevant for us, the underlying change in Kingdom citizens is still very much in effect.
“And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain” (Matthew 5:41).
In the Roman world, a soldier had the right to conscript subject people to carry his luggage for a mile. Since the people looked forward to liberation from Rome’s yoke, every step of conscripted compliance would be taken with bitterness and anger.
But Jesus called His followers to accept the conscription and even go an extra mile.
This radical reorientation would free the disciple to serve and care for others without a feeling of loss to self.
Threats to wealth. Kingdom living is transformed by living in the reality of sufficient resources. While the Law mandated care for the poor as noted above, the new Kingdom would transform people to the place where they lived what they believed.
“Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away” (Matthew 5:42).
Some Kingdom citizens are specifically gifted with liberality. (See Romans 12:8.) They give with joy. These specially gifted citizens will provide examples for all of us to follow even if we have more limited means.
Perhaps caring for the poor requires different forms of creativity in our modern world. Some who beg and borrow from us may also need life skills or help setting up small businesses. Some may need advocacy help to have access to jobs or other means of both providing for their own families and providing resources for others. Some may need help and encouragement in accessing education and other forms of training.
- Love Everyone Equally as the Heavenly Father Does
We see models of God’s love around us. Those people give us examples to follow, encouragement when loving is difficult, and hope that we can do some good in our world. As wonderful as our fellow citizens are from time to time, our ultimate example and standard is our heavenly Father.
“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” (Matthew 5:45).
Fortunately for atheists and idolaters, our Father loves them and blesses them with many natural blessings. He calls us to follow His example in using the resources He has given us to care for our neighbors, even our enemies. Sadly, some Christians have claimed this ideal will have to wait until the Kingdom is complete. Jesus’ teaching requires serious transformation if we hope to live in the new Kingdom. Our repentance must be followed by action.
Love the enemy. Perhaps this command is one of the most challenging. This kind of love requires both emotional reorientation and practical action. Kingdom citizens are called to see two kinds of people: those already in the Kingdom and those who are potential new Kingdom members. Kingdom love serves as a witness to our discipleship (John 13:35). Such love is difficult to counterfeit!
Jesus gave some ways to put this love into action. He calls us to bless those who curse us. This kind of blessing requires spiritual insight into the deeper need of cursers. What are some possible causes of their anger? As James said, this kind of blessing is not fulfilled with words alone. Actual food and shelter is far better than a simple, “God bless you.” (See James 2:15–17.) Kingdom citizens will care for both the victims of cursing and the cursers.
Such active blessing needs to be accompanied with prayer for the enemy. The old human response would focus on deliverance. This blessing is activated with intercessory prayer for the enemies, their families, and their cities. Prayers will include peace for them—peace from war with humanity as well as peace with their estranged heavenly Father.
Salute the enemy. According to the KJV Dictionary, the word salute means “to greet; to address with expressions of kind wishes.”
“And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Matthew 5:47).
Jesus called His followers to be genuinely oriented toward seeking the best for their enemies. As the Kingdom spread, each citizen would view new acquaintances, nice ones and mean ones, as potential new brothers and sisters. Such a desire would genuinely seek the best for the other, a best that would include physical and spiritual blessings that can come only with being reconciled to the Father. In fact, Kingdom citizens live out their days as agents of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18–20).
Internalizing the Message
New Kingdom citizens are blessed when they realize their new status calls them to live out their King’s words in all areas of life. Conversely, they will fail to reach their potential if they try to follow His words as just a new set of laws to be fulfilled. We need to be born again as new citizens with changed hearts.
Living in Kingdom faithfulness will require God’s grace just as did initiation into the Kingdom by new birth. All of Jesus’ followers should be aware of areas where God’s grace needs to be at work. For example, pain and shame from the past may hinder an appropriate response to aggressors, enemies, and people who are different from us. But God’s grace can heal the pain and the shame. The person who has been healed can then use the experience to help others who have suffered.
Grace must also be at work in areas where the new Kingdom is radically different from the old. Some will have difficulty letting go of rights-based individualism and competition as they follow new Kingdom principles. How blessed we are to receive the grace needed to grow as faithful Kingdom citizens! As God’s people, we can grow in grace.
So that will conclude this study on “Love Your Enemies And Other Hard Sayings”, I’m praying that you have found some encouraging words to help you to be strengthened in your spiritual walk with the Lord. Have a Blessed weekend, and we’ll be back on Monday.