Love your enemies
Key Verse 6:27
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, “
Leading up to today’s passage was the calling of the 12 disciples. Jesus spent all night praying to make a wise decision according to his Heavenly Father’s will. Jesus now challenges his disciples and shows them how to become true disciples. What we are doing right now is the easy part of life. Coming here to worship in this warm place, we are secure from the cold and icy conditions outside. More importantly, we are shielded from the outside world. We can hear the Word of God, sing praise songs, and enjoy fellowship with other believers. But Jesus is then calling us to impossible, superhuman action. He is calling us to do things like love our enemies, do good to them, and pray for those who curse us. Today we will see how to lay the foundation of our faith on rock by taking Jesus’ words and putting them into practice.
- Love your enemies
- Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday is today. He faced his enemies daily. While in prison, he wrote about the power of love. This is an excerpt from Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.’s sermon on love for our enemies, referencing Abraham Lincoln:
- If you don’t feel you have any enemies, Jesus gives more details in verses 27-28. Let’s read those together. 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. In addition to loving our enemies, Jesus tells us to do good to those who hate us. The normal human reaction is to seek revenge and retaliate against those who hate us. We think that we will feel better when we get our justice. More often than not, anger consumes us and leads to more hatred in our hearts. Anger leads to cloudy judgment. It raises your blood pressure, causes hair loss, and may impair your immune system. If hate is strong in you, your body is always in an uptight, fight or flight state. Ultimately it leads to further separation from God. Therefore, Jesus tells us to do good to those who hate us.
- Let’s read verse 27 again. 27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.” This message is for those who are listening and for those of you who are hearing it now. In the context of this passage, Jesus likely had a mixed crowd of people around him. Some people were there to be healed. Some may have been there to hear what Jesus had to say. Even though many others were around, the disciples were the primary targets of Jesus’ words. He was commanding them to love their enemies and to do good to those who hate you. This is not a broad teaching to love our neighbor as ourselves. It is a specific teaching to love our enemies. If we have nice neighbors, it might be easy to love them. It will always be difficult to impossible for us to love our enemies. The enemies Jesus was likely referring to were the teachers of the law and Pharisees. Later, we see their hatred for Jesus led to his crucifixion. The disciples would face similar persecutions when trying to establish the early church, after Jesus went back to heaven. Most of their lives ended in martyrdom. Some of you might be thinking to yourself, “That’s great. Because I don’t have any enemies, do I? So this doesn’t apply to me.” If you don’t have any enemies now, they are surely to come in the future. As you grow in your faith, the number of those against you will also increase. The 12 disciples may have felt like you. There didn’t seem to be any obvious enemies for them. As we continue reading the New Testament, we see the enemies surface with great power and hatred. They faced fierce persecution and eventually died for their faith in trying to spread the gospel.
“Lincoln tried love and left for all history a magnificent drama of reconciliation. When he was campaigning for the presidency one of his arch-enemies was a man named Stanton. For some reason Stanton hated Lincoln. He used every ounce of his energy to degrade him in the eyes of the public. So deep rooted was Stanton’s hate for Lincoln that he uttered unkind words about his physical appearance, and sought to embarrass him at every point with the bitterest diatribes. But in spite of this Lincoln was elected President of the United States. Then came the period when he had to select his cabinet, which would consist of the persons who would be his most intimate associates in implementing his program. He started choosing men here and there for the various secretaryships. The day finally came for Lincoln to select a man to fill the all-important post of Secretary of War. Can you imagine whom Lincoln chose to fill this post? None other than the man named Stanton. There was an immediate uproar in the inner circle when the news began to spread. Adviser after adviser was heard saying, “Mr. President, you are making a mistake. Do you know this man Stanton? Are you familiar with all of the ugly things he said about you? He is your enemy. He will seek to sabotage your program. Have you thought this through, Mr. President?” Mr. Lincoln’s answer was terse and to the point: “Yes, I know Mr. Stanton. I am aware of all the terrible things he has said about me. But after looking over the nation, I find he is the best man for the job.” So Stanton became Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War and rendered an invaluable service to his nation and his President. Not many years later Lincoln was assassinated. Many laudable things were said about him. Even today millions of people still adore him as the greatest of all Americans. H. G. Wells selected him as one of the six great men of history. But of all the great statements made about Abraham Lincoln, the words of Stanton remain among the greatest. Standing near the dead body of the man he once hated, Stanton referred to him as one of the greatest men that ever lived and said “he now belongs to the ages.” If Lincoln had hated Stanton both men would have gone to their graves as bitter enemies. But through the power of love Lincoln transformed an enemy into a friend. It was this same attitude that made it possible for Lincoln to speak a kind word about the South during the Civil War when feeling was most bitter. Asked by a shocked bystander how he could do this, Lincoln said, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” This is the power of redemptive love.”
Paul echoes this sentiment in Romans 12:20-21. “On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Kindness and love changes people, not anger and revenge. This was evidence by Abraham Lincoln, MLK Jr, and many of the disciples. Let’s follow Jesus’ great example and instruction by overcoming evil with good. Let’s do it so that we can be like Jesus, but also so their hearts can be changed.
The third command from Jesus seen in verse 28 is to pray for those who mistreat you. The simplistic or most basic response when mistreated by someone is for to pray that they stop what they are doing. The deeper prayer is for them to be changed and to experience the love of God. I can remember an instance in my own life when I was mistreated. It was during my medical school days. We just finished taking midterm exams which were always stressful. Afterwards, my friends and I would go to a local spot to grab lunch and decompress. While reclining at the table, a Korean guy who I knew from Sundays at church came to eat at the same place. As he walked passed us to get his food, I gave him a nod to say hello and thought nothing else of it. After picking up his food, he stopped at our table and started berating me in front of all my friends. He was from Korea and knew I could understand Korean so he scolded me in his native tongue. He was insulted by the way I acknowledged him and said I was nothing like Christ. He cursed me out, in another language, and I really wanted to say something back but I was speechless, plus I don’t know how to defend myself in Korean. I went back to my room and we avoided each other for weeks. I didn’t see him at church in the following weeks. Towards the end of the semester, he came up to me and, to my surprise, apologized to me. He confessed that he failed his midterm that day and just let all of his frustration out on me. In retrospect, I realize that I should have prayed for him. I definitely felt mistreated but my solution was to avoid him and conflict. Jesus challenges us to pray for those who mistreat us. He gives many more examples including getting slapped in the face, a coat stolen, and giving to anyone who asks. This feels like too much. How can Jesus expect us to live up to such a high standard?
Lets’ read Romans 5:9-10. 9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! We too were enemies of God. James 4:4b reads “… Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” God loved us so much he sent his Son so we could be saved through his life. Therefore we can love our enemies when we remember the love we received as enemies of God. We can be merciful because God is merciful to us. To love those who love us is rudimentary, as even sinners do this. To do good to those are good to us is no big deal. Sinners do that. Another reason we should love our enemies is found in verse 35. Let’s read that together. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. We innately have a desire to please our parents. A common question I get from my girls is “Daddy, aren’t your proud of me?” Imagine how happy they are when I say ,”Yes, I am so proud of you.” For them it is priceless, greater than any toy or dress I might buy for them. Our reward for loving our enemies is that we are proving ourselves as children of God. How awesome it feels to be doing exactly what our heavenly Father wishes! How good it feels to do what our teacher Jesus is doing and truly being identified as a Christian or Disciple.
- Judging others
- Let’s look at verses 37-38a. 37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you.” The first portion of these commands is for us. The second part is God’s response to our actions, not the response of those around us. If we judge others, it does not mean others will judge us. It means God will judge. If we forgive, then God will forgive us. And if we give, then God will give to us. There is a correlation between the things we do on earth and the things we will receive from God. As disciples of Jesus, we don’t live for earthly benefits but we store up our treasures in heaven. When we forgive and give to others, we receive far greater blessings and much more than we put in. We are investing in God’s faithfulness which yields exponential growth as evidence in the latter part of verse 38. Let’s read that together. “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” This is an old way of measuring grains. In the Old Testament, farmers were required to leave the corner of their fields for the poor. During the harvest, paid workers would go into the fields and collect grains, casually tossing them into their basket to carry back to put into storage. They didn’t care if their baskets were filled to the maximum. Later, the poor people would travel from distances and go to the corners of the field to collect their grains. They knew they would have to carry as much back as possible to feed their families. Therefore, they pressed the grain down, shook the pockets of air out, and made sure it was a good measure. In the same way, when we forgive others and give to our enemies, God will make a good measure and repay more than what we put in. He pours out the blessings to overflowing. As we obey Jesus, we grow deeper in his love. We positively influence those around us. When you plant an apple seed, you don’t receive an apple seed in return. You receive the apples that come from the apple tree. So it is with God. Everything we put in, he takes account of and returns a good measure that’s overflowing with love back to us.
- Bear Good fruit
- The next portion of Jesus’ teaching deals with self-examination. In medicine, you never stop studying. To keep your medical license, you have to take the board exam every 10 years but in between exams must do maintenance of certification. These activities keep you up to date. Jesus encourages us to do maintenance of faith. Without routine maintenance, we can fall into traps like following the world or following our own ideas, not the way of our teacher Jesus. Let’s read verses 39-40. 39 He also told them this parable: “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher.” The disciples needed to make sure they didn’t follow the teachers of the law or Pharisees. They were to keep focus on Jesus. Listen and do as he commanded. Also, it was important for them to remain humble, not thinking they knew everything. The student is not above the teacher. So we too must be humble and always keep focus on the teachings of Jesus or we may fall into a pit or be led away by the blind. This is reiterated in the efforts of the person with a plank in their eye trying to remove a speck from his brother’s eye. How ridiculous it appears to those watching! I was sick in August last year. Coughing and sneezing all day long. I continued to work through it. Imagine how silly I looked trying to treat my patients when I couldn’t even treat myself. Finally, I listened to one of my co-workers and took some medicine and got better. Then I could more effectively treat others. So we must check ourselves before we reach out to help others. When we look inside, we hope to find good things in our heart. God is looking to see what kind of things we say and do. As mentioned before, attending Sunday Worship Service is the easy part. God is looking to see what else we do as we leave this place and go into the world. Jesus was seen praying all night in the previous passage. We need to do the same so that we can continue to fill our hearts with good and be humble to serve others, helping them to remove the specks of dust in their lives.
- Wise and Foolish Builders
- In conclusion, today’s passage is deep and challenging. Jesus wants us to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who curse us. He wants to dig deep to lay our faith on a firm foundation which is strengthened by taking action. The good thing is that Jesus led the way by example and already did everything he is asking us to do. As he was crucified on the cross, he could have prayed for himself but instead loved his enemies by asking his Father to forgive his persecutors for they know not what they are doing. The disciples made many enemies as well especially after Jesus ascended back to heaven. The majority were killed by their enemies. As Stephen was being stoned to death, he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Then he fell asleep. It is possible for us to love our enemies when we experience the deep love of Jesus and when we lay a firm foundation on rock. The disciples became great servants of God because they listened to their teacher Jesus and put faith into practice. Great is our reward in heaven when we give to and forgive others. God makes a good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, as repayment for the good things that we do here on earth. May we be inspired by Jesus and his love for us. In modern times, we can look at the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached love not hate for his enemies. In this way, he hoped they too could experience the deep love of Jesus.
- Let’s read verse 46. 46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? Jesus almost sounds a little annoyed or frustrated. How can we consider ourselves Christians and not do what Jesus says? Talk is cheap. Jesus wants us to put our faith into action. James 2:17 reads, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” Sitting there and hearing the Word is not good enough. Jesus demands more. He wants us to be a people who do so that our faith can grow and our foundation can be firm. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. We all saw the construction of the church expansion from its infancy. The first thing they did was dig deep then laid down concrete or rock. This church was built upon rock, physically and spiritually, and therefore can withstand any storms including the one that was supposed to come yesterday. Jesus wants us to be able to withstand the storms of life and the recipe is to put our faith into action, including loving our enemies. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete. Don’t be a fool! Solidify your faith by putting it into action so that you can survive the ups and downs of life.