Friday, February 26, 2010

Love Your Enemies

Love your enemy. I don’t know about you but I find this to be a very difficult command to obey. When someone hurts me or appears to be acting against me, I have a very difficult time fulfilling the words of Jesus as seen in Matthew 5:43-48. This Sunday we will look at this passage in detail as we finish our “Love: Go For The Gold” message series. I have to be honest and tell you that I have found myself struggling to apply this passage to my own life.

The passage begins by showing the simplicity of the Pharisee’s righteousness. The Pharisees said two things. First, they said, “Love your neighbor.” As we have seen in our study here at Grace Church this month, this is a direct quote from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18). But here is the difference. Rabbinical tradition had limited the scope of a neighbor to those you approved of. That was a far cry difference from Jesus who, as we saw last Sunday, defined a neighbor as anyone you meet with a need (Luke 10:30-37).

But the Pharisees added this element – “Hate your enemy.” Nowhere does the Old Testament teach this. It is a Pharisaical addition to the Old Testament Law. This advocated hatred to those who were different (i.e., Gentiles). A saying of the Pharisees had been discovered that said, “If a Jew sees a Gentile fall 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.’” In their own self-righteous way, they saw their hatred of their enemies as God’s way of punishing their enemies. The Old Testament concept of a neighbor included enemies that were in need (Exodus 23:4-5; Proverbs 25:21) but the Pharisees in Jesus day had rationalized this away.

With that as the religious mindset of His day, we next see the surpassing of Christ’s Righteousness. Jesus said to “Love your enemies.” The standards of Christ far surpassed that of the Pharisees. And not only are we to love our enemies, which Jesus modeled in Romans 5:10, we are also to pray for those who persecute us. Jesus calls for a response which is not personal retaliation as the Pharisees justified due to the Old Testament law of “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38-42). Our response for those who persecute us is one of intercession.

But why does Jesus want us to do such a difficult thing? First, because doing so exhibits our nature as a child of God. To do so shows we are God’s children (John 13:35; 1 John 4:16). It is “Fatherlike” as God is the one who causes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust.

The second reason we should love and pray for our enemies is that this kind of mercy exceeds what is natural. To love only those who love you takes no spiritual power. Gentiles and tax collectors (thought to be the low-life of their day) showed love to those who treated them well. But loving our enemies is radical and needs a supernatural power to accomplish. Sure it is tough. That’s what makes it right. False righteousness, such as the Pharisees exhibited, settles for what is attainable and comfortable. True righteousness, which is advocated by Jesus, settles for nothing short of being exactly like God.

Love God – Love Your Neighbor – Love Your Enemies! Go for the gold!

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