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Re-Thinking Your Enemies

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(3/10) 52 Weeks at the Feet of Jesus

I read recently about a truck driver that stopped at a little restaurant and ordered the meatloaf special for dinner. The restaurant was busy and the trucker sat at a table by himself. Just as his meal was placed on his table a whole gang of bikers came in and seeing the tables taken but just a lone man at the one table they came over and told him they wanted his table. "I'm not finished my dinner," said the trucker. One of the bikers stuck his finger in the mashed potatoes, and another poured the driver's coffee over the meat loaf. "You're finished now," they said. The driver stood up, put on his hat and walked out the door. "Not much of a man," said one of the bikers. "Not much of a driver, either," said the waitress, "He just backed over all your bikes."

It would be a great thing if everyone who meets us or knows us would like us and be courteous to us; if they always approved of what we did and said. It would also be a great thing if we liked everyone we ever met and never got angry or annoyed with anyone. Unfortunately, that isn't reality. The truth is. there are people that don't like us, a few that may even hate us, and some that just snub us, ignore us, or are just rude to us. And there are some that you would just as soon not talk to or have any contact with; some that you just don't like, or some who have hurt you and you may even hate. There may even be days when, your spouse gets on your nerves, or makes you angry. But as long as we are in this world, this is what life will be like. And we know the reason why. We all have a nature that is self centered, self focused, and we live in a world that is dominated by the author of confusion. We have different personalities, and we think differently about faith, politics, manners, rights, responsibilities, philosophies, and more.

This is compounded when you decide to follow Jesus. It is like painting a bulls eye on your back. Satan, sinners, and selfish people will not like your faith, your changed life, or your opinion of both sin and holiness. Throughout the Bible we are told that what happened to the Prophets, to Jesus, & to the Apostles, will happen to us. It is part of the bad news of the gospel. Back in verses 10-12, our Lord said that you will be persecuted for righteousness sake. In John 15, Jesus said, that if the world hated Him, it will hate you. In Matt. 10, He said, that a disciple is not above His teacher, that what they did to Him they will do to you. In Luke 6, our Lord said that if everyone speaks well of you, something is wrong. "Woe to you when all men speak well of you, For so did their fathers to the false prophets." So what are we to do? You already know the answer, don't you. We are to Love them - our enemies.

I. The Mandate to Love. In ch. 22. our Lord is asked what is the greatest commandment, and He quoted Deut. 6:5, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, "that is the greatest commandment, and the second is just like it; from Lev. 19:18 He said: "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord." This mandate to love our neighbor appears all over the New Testament. It is the basis for the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10; Jesus refreshes it and calls it the New Commandment in John 13; Paul says it is the sum of all the law in Romans 13:8-9 and Gal. 5:14, and in 1 Cor. 13, Paul tells us our faith isn't worth spit without love, and then He gives us a lengthy description of what love looks like. James 2:8 calls Lev. 19:18, the Royal Law. In John 13: 34-35 our Lord Jesus tells us that this will be our badge of identification. We will be identified with Jesus by how we love others. Jesus is known as a man of love. In love He cared for strangers, friends, family of friends, and even His enemies. He died loving His enemies and He expects, or demands that we do the same.

The mandate is to care as much about the welfare of your neighbor as you care about your own. We will talk more of this when we get to 7:12 and what is called the Golden Rule. There are at least two thoughts here. How would I want people to respond to me if I had the need or problems they have? What do I do to take care of myself or to care for my family?

II. The Misrepresentation of Love. (5:43) In our sixth statement of clarification, our Lord Jesus focuses on the second greatest commandment in the Bible. "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." The religious leaders of His day had totally abused thus commandment just as many of us do today. To find a loophole in our responsibilty, we try to read into this verse, a definition of neighbor. So did the leaders of Jesus' day. Was a neighbor someone from my synagogue or church, someone from my community, my county, my country? Was a neighbor someone of my political party, my social standing, my kind? For example. It was no secret that:

  • Judeans didn't care for Galileans
  • Judeans and Galileans didn't like Samaritans and vice versa
  • Pharisees didn't care for the Sadducees and neither liked the Herodians
  • The Zealots didn't like the Romans or Herodians
  • Jews didn't like Gentiles.
  • Gentiles didn't like Jews
  • Jews didn't like the traitorous Tax-collectors
  • The Religious loathed the Sinners.

It is no wonder that the lawyer tried to justify himself and asked Jesus to define who His neighbor was (Luke 10:29)? A Pharisaical writing was discovered that says, "If a Jew sees a Gentile fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out, for it is written, 'Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor,' but this man is not thy neighbor."

Whether it is because God had Israel exact His judgment on the Cananites, and demanded that they be Holy and set apart to Him, or if it was because of what we call the Imprecatory Psalms where David speaks of his enemies as in Psalm 69:22-24,"Let their table become a snare before them,

And their well-being a trap. Let their eyes be darkened, so that they do not see; And make their loins shake continually. Pour out Your indignation upon them, And let Your wrathful anger take hold of them." But here is the thing, David may have hated what his enemies did and that they had no regards for God's love and Holiness, but David left vengeance to God. For example, do you remember when Saul was chasing David? Twice David was close enough to Saul to kill Him with a sword or spear and twice he refused to touch him. He would leave that to God (1 Sam. 24:3-7). Listen to these scriptures:

Psalm 7:4-5, "If I have repaid evil to him who was at peace with me, Or have plundered my enemy without cause, Let the enemy pursue me and overtake me; Yes, let him trample my life to the earth, And lay my honor in the dust.

Ps. 35:12-14, "They reward me evil for good, To the sorrow of my soul. But as for me, when they were sick, My clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; And my prayer would return to my own heart, I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother.

Prov. 17:5, "He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished."

Prov. 24:29, "Do not say, "I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work."

Prov. 25:21, "If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;

But no where does it say that we are to hate our enemies. So, what is an enemy? The scripture is not talking about those who are fighting you in a war. He is talking about those in the course of life that we talked about in our introduction. Some could be pursuing your life because you are a Christian, or they could simply be people that are in disagreement with you, snub you, or don't like you, or they could be people that you don't like or are at odds with.

III. The Meaning of Love. (v.44) When our Lord said, "But I say to you" He is saying it with Authority, the Authority of the Author of the Bible. He didn't come to change or destroy the law but clarify it and state emphatically what God intends from His Word.

We have just one word for love and we use it for everything. But the Greek language of the Bible had 5 words for love, One for the Marital sexual act (epithumia), one for self centered feelings (eros), one for family love (stergos), one for friendship love (philos), and one for charity love (agapao or agape). This is the word used in John 3:16, and the one used in Matt. 5:44. Agape. It is a word that is used for giving because there is a need. that is why we use it for charity. Feelings or emotions may or may not be involved. The giving is because we seek the best, the good, for the objects of our affection. Many of you gave when 9-11 occurred even though the recipients may have been of a different faith or political persuasion. You gave to the Haitian earthquake victims even though they may have been voodoo worshipers. You gave to the Tsunami victims in Indonesia even though many or most may have been Muslim. Agape says there is a need and whatever it takes I will do it to meet that need. That's what God did for you.

So let's understand, Our Lord is not asking us to have goose bumpy feelings for our enemies, but what He is demanding is that we seek the best welfare and highest good for our enemies. This love looks past what has been done by the person, to the ultimate cause and the needs he has. Because that is what He did for us. Look over at Romans 5:6-10, "For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when 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. Underline the words, ungodly, sinners, & enemies. Yet, God loved us. He sought our highest good regardless of the cost and regardless of what we had done, or are capable of doing. No where does it say that God had feelings for us, just that He sought the best for us when we didn't deserve it. And He expects, No, He demands that we do the same. The reason why is:

  • Your enemies were created by God and in God's image
  • Christ Died for your Enemies and wants them to be saved.

Christ's heart desires for them reconciled and has committed that ministry of reconciliation to us. (2 Cor. 5:18-20, "Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christís behalf, be reconciled to God.

IV. The Method of Love (v. 44). Now the King James and New King James Versions have two lines that aren't in the NIV or NASB. The two lines are both found in Luke 6:27-28. For that reason we will speak of all of them. There are 3 distinct ways in the two gospels that our Lord says to Love our Enemies.

Bless Those Who Curse You. To Bless carries the idea of seeking the well being of someone. In this case someone who is cursing you because of what you achieved, something stupid you did, like in traffic, or because of a disagreement you had, your faith, your political persuasion, etc. To bless may include praying for them, it may mean to speak well of them, to them and about them, regardless of what they have done. It focuses on their positives and not on their negatives. It may mean to give something for their benefit because they need it. Is this not why Paul recites Prov. 25:21 in Romans 12: 17ff, "Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

Do Good to Those Who Hate You. It doesn't say, "Feel good", it says, "Do Good." Even if a need isn't detected, think of something good to do for them, just because. In Jesus' day this could be a Roman soldier a tax collector, A Gentile, A Samaritan or anyone different than you. For you it could be your Muslim neighbor or a person of a different race, ethnic origin, etc. By the way, the same chapter of the Bible that says to Love Your Neighbor also says this, "And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Lev. 19:33-34) This could be a card, a gift, a dinner or party invitation, a cookout, etc.

Pray for Those Who Spitefully Use You. Again, this could be the Roman soldiers, the Tax collectors, the Religious leaders that are ripping you off, a supervisor or boss at work, a spouse, a parent, etc., anyone who is taking advantage of their position over you.

What do you Pray? Not that they would get would you would like them to get, but rather, think of the words of the prayer that our Lord is going to give us in Chapter six.

  • That they would know God as their Father or walk in obedience to Him
  • That they would hallow God's name
  • That they would seek to live as kingdom children
  • That would seek God's will
  • That God would provide for their needs
  • That God would forgive their sins (our Lord prayed this from the cross)
  • That they would learn to forgive like God
  • That they would not give in to temptation
  • That they would walk in God's ways
  • That they would live to Glorify God

V. The Means to Love (Romans 5:5) How is it possible to love like that? Isn't Jesus asking too much? No, He is not asking too much. It is exactly what He did for His enemies, and for us, and to enable us to love like that, He gave us His Holy Spirit to enable us to do what we are incapable of doing by ourselves. Two verses;

"And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever- the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you." (John 14:16-17)

Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom. 5:5) Our Lord doesn't ask us to do this in our own strength, He wants to love our enemies through us. He gives us the ability to do what we can't on our own.

VI. The Model of Love is our Father. (v.45) All men need to eat, they need sunshine and rain for their crops. God pours out His grace to the unthankful and unbelieving, and those who will never turn to Him for righteousness and forgiveness and salvation. And as we said earlier He gave His Son to die for His enemies. He doesn't say Mike is my friend, I'll give Him some rain, But Joe hasn't been in church or prayed for two years, I'm gonna hold back from him. God shows the same grace to all. Why? Listen to Romans 2:5, "Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? He wants people to realize how Gracious He is and to turn to Him for His forgiveness and righteousness. Listen also to Ephesians 2:1-5, "And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),"

VII. The Mission of Love (vv.46-48) The Mission of Love is to be different than the world's way and the way of our enemies. The whole world loves those who are of their same kind, anyone can do that, everyone does that. Listen to John MacArthur," The citizens of God's kingdom are to have a much higher standard of love and every other aspect of righteousness, than does the rest of the world. Christians should be noticed on the job because they are more honest and more considerate. Christians should be noticed in their communities because they are more helpful and caring. Christians should be noticed anywhere in society they happen to be because the love they exhibit is divine love. "Let your light shine before men," Jesus had already said, in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in who is in heaven, (Matt. 5:16). As J. Oswald Sanders comments, "The Master expects from His disciples such conduct as can only be explained in terms of the supernatural." (Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, Moody Press, p. 349)

The Father and Son are our Model. We are to be Salt and Light so the world can see the difference in our lives. The ultimate goal is to glorify the Father. This will identify you as a Son or Daughter of God. It goes hand in glove with what Jesus said in John 13:34-35, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

Look at verse 48. Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. The word, perfect, probably refers to the goal God has for your life. This is what God wants to achieve in you. That you would be like Him. What God does is to be the standard or what you do.

Let me give you one more little insight. You will find that your bitterness and anger and ill feelings will begin to dissolve and you will develop feelings of love, though it may be pitiful love, it will be more peaceful than the anger and hate that you feel now, or the desire you have to run from your enemy's presence.

Let's close out with this.

Who do you need to love?

That disrespectful clerk, that nasty neighbor, an X, an abusive parent, a rebellious child, a sibling, someone at work, someone from a former church, a politician, or someone else?

Write their names down in a book, make a list, not of their offenses, just their names. Then begin to regularly pray the Lord's prayer over their names.

Spend some time this week meditating in 1 Cor. 13 and the characteristics of love and it's importance. The peace of God will come in and wash over your hearts and your spirit will rest. You will not want to run when you see them in public. I promise.

Maybe you need to be reconciled to the one who gave His life to save your soul. Look at Romans 10:9-13. Receive Jesus as your Savior today.

If this has spoken to your heart, write to me and tell me, or ask me whatever you want about knowing God or having a relationship with Him., or call me at 301-447-6565. Better yet, come and worship with us on Sunday at the Emmitsburg Elementary School at 10:00 A.M.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman