Sermon Title: “The Commitment to Love and How to Enhance Your Love for Your Enemy”
Text: Matthew 5:43-48
Speaker: Pastor Joseph
Date: Sunday, January 20, 2019
Love has no enemy, nor does it know any opposition and adversary. The writers of the Bible boldly proclaim that “God is love.” The amazing power of the divine love includes these most coveted adjectives: (God’s love is) beautiful, kind, uncontrollable, boundless, active, redemptive, universal, sacrificial, self-giving, and transcultural. God loves all people regardless of their location in the world and their experience in life; God is always pursuing every individual because he wants to shower each one of us with love, kindness, grace, and affection!
As a result, God commands love to be a catalyst of the human experience and defining characteristic of his creation. From God’s perspective, love is/ becomes more than a human emotion or a sensation; biblical love is a moral duty and commitment to express love boundlessly toward all people, even one’s enemy.
In addition, the most important moral duty of Jesus’s followers is to love and pursue it at all cost, that is, to imitate God’s way of love and loving, and to obey unreservedly Jesus’s ethical imperative to love, even one’s enemy. Hence, God’s creation ought to imitate its Creator by being like Him. Those who love unconditionally and pursue love relentlessly are like God; they are peacemakers like God and his natural children.
Tomorrow morning (Sunday, January 20) at Jesus Center, I will be discussing the idea of love from a biblical perspective and offer some practical ways on how to enhance your love for everyone, even for your enemy or rival. The way of love is the way of Christ and is the most fulfilling way to be human, to imitate God, and to become like Jesus.
You and your family are our special guests at Jesus Center. We can’t wait to meet you in person and fellowship with you. Our worship service starts at 10:00 am. See you tomorrow morning at Jesus Center Community Church!
“Love is the only thing that can turn an enemy into a friend.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.
“Love is kind and endures all things.” –Paul
“A new commandment I’m giving you is to love one another.” –Jesus
” Love your enemy; pray for those who persecute you.” –Jesus
Let us now consider the biblical passage for this morning
Text: Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[b] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The thrust of this passage is that Jesus is commanding us “to model our love of our enemies on his love of his enemies” (John Piper).
- Exposition Commentary on Matthew 5:43-48
The command to love your enemies is very general and does not tell us how to love our enemies and why we should love our enemies. In this passage, Jesus does not define what an enemy is, but in the illustration, he offers, we can deduce some characteristics about our enemies. What is an enemy and what are the characteristics of an enemy. According to the Oxford Dictionary,
- “A person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something.”
- “A thing that harms or weakens something else.”
- An enemy is a person who attempts to defeat you. It could be an individual who says evil things about you and one who degrades you, belittles you, and dehumanizes you.
Characteristics of an enemy:
- To “be one’s own worst enemy is to act in a way contrary to one’s own interests.”
- To “make an enemy of cause (someone) to start feeling hostile to one.”
Naturally, it is impossible to love someone who is opposing and hostile to us. It is humanly untenable to love someone who seeks to harm and hurt us. Naturally, you would hate someone who seeks to defeat you, and an individual who defames you and degrades you as a person. It is even worst to love someone who does not act in a way that is good to one’s own interests.
Nonetheless, according to this passage, there are two specific ways to love one’s enemies.
2. The first way to love one’s enemy is to reject the tradition and belief that states one should love one’s neighbor and hate one’s enemy (v. 43).
Here, Jesus is boldly asserting that hate is the antithesis of love, and that the children of God cannot love and hate simultaneously. Followers of Jesus can only choose one option: to love one’s enemy. Interestingly, the text does not command us to “hate your neighbor and love your enemy” categorically; however, the saying to “love your neighbor and hate your enemy” does assume that a neighbor can be an enemy, and therefore, it is acceptable not to love that person. The great marker of an individual who has patterned his or her life after that of Jesus is that he chooses the way of love and not the way of hate, even his or her enemy. What Jesus is saying is this even a neighbor who hates you is worthy of your love. Instead of seeing a neighbor as an enemy or someone to hate, find opportunity to treat all people as neighbor. In other words, you shall love your enemy as you love your neighbor in that no one will be your enemies, but everybody will be your neighbor. It isn’t true that we automatically love our neighbor; in fact, Jesus is going to provide specific ways how to treat all people as neighbor, but to demonstrate love toward them. Jesus is calling his people to reject the cultural norm and ideology that says to us to hate those who hate us and retaliate when they do us wrong. In fact, the culture of hate is pervasive in our pop culture such as in the music our composers write and the lyrics our artists sing. Consider the following stanzas of these selected songs:
Pardon, please, the narrow
Confinement of your limbs;
Unfortunately, it’s necessary
For your correction;
Shriek to your heart’s
Content, if you wish;
I promise you pain and
Nightmares, in that sequence.
End of passion play, crumbling away
I’m your source of self-destruction
Veins that pump with fear, sucking darkest clear
Leading on your death’s construction
Taste me you will see
More is all you need
How I’m killing you
- Geto Boys “Mind of a Lunatic”
Paranoid, sitting in a deep sweat
Thinking, I gotta fuck somebody before the week ends
The sight of blood excites me, shoot you in the head
Sit down, and watch you bleed to death
I hear the sound of your last breath
Shouldn’t have been around, I went all the way left
You was in the right place with me at the wrong time
I’m a psychopath, in a minute lose my fucking mind
Calm down, back to reality
Don’t fear death, cause I know that it’s promised to me
Flashes, I get flashes of Jason
Gimme a knife, a million lives I’m wastin’
The shadow of death follows me, I don’t give a fuck
Pussy play Superman, your ass’ll get boxed up
Put him in a straight jacket, the man’s sick
This is what goes on in the mind of a lunatic
Top Hate (Selected) Songs
- Kool G Rap “Hey Mister Mister” (1995
2. Ganksta N-I-P “Psycho” (1992)
3. Necro “Dead Body Disposal” (2001)
4. Brotha Lynch Hung “Meat Cleaver” (2013)
5. Live Squad “Murderahh” (1992)
6. M.O.P. f/ Kool G Rap “Stick to Ya Gunz” (1996)
7. Geto Boys “Mind of a Lunatic” (1989)
8. Cryptopsy – “Slit Your Guts”
9. Metallica-“Master Of Puppets”
Jesus wants his followers to act alternatively and contrarily to what the culture prescribes to us. In 1 John 2:9-17, the author writes:
9 Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. 10 Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble. 11 But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them. 12 I am writing to you, dear children, because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. 14 I write to you, dear children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”
The second way Jesus commands to love is to pray for those who persecute you.
3. Pray for those who persecute you (v. 44)
While Jesus commands us to pray for the people who persecute us. He does not tell us “what” we should pray for on behalf of our persecutors. The fact that Jesus is linked these two commands in the same sentence: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” indicates that the one who persecutes another person deserves the title of an enemy; an enemy is one who persecutes another. The reason Jesus commands his followers to pray for their persecutors is to attain this identity: “so that you may be sons of your Father who in heaven.” There’s a sense those who are able to love even their enemies and pray for those who persecute them are imitators of God for like God they always seek the best interest of all people and do not hold grudges against those who hate them or are hostile to them. Hence, Jesus’s disciples are called to imitate God. Those who are children of God are not only peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), their hearts are pure before the Lord, and they exercise good motives and will toward all people (Matthew 5:8); like God, they love all people, even their enemies (5:59). The question you and I should be asked is this: how shall we pray for our enemies?
This passage implies that we have a responsibility to love our enemies to the degree that we will be concerned about seeking their happiness, comfort, and peace through the power of prayer. It also assumes that we should take the initiative to know the areas which our enemies need prayer and spiritual assistance, so we can take them to the Lord. Simply, we can ask them how can I pray for you today? How can I pray for your family? Do you have any need for which you want me to intercede before the Lord? Usually, most people do not say no to prayer and will not refuse you if you ask them.
4. Love all people indiscriminately (v.45)
The third way Jesus commands us to love is to love people indiscriminately. This is illustrating in the way that God provides the rainfall and radiant sun to benefit all people, regardless of their relationship with God, their spiritual standing before God, or their attitude toward God. Jesus highlights what theologians call the doctrine of the “prevenient grace of God,” which manifests through the blessing of the sun and the blessing of the rain.
To love all people boundlessly and indiscriminately is to imitate how God loves. Jesus is calling us to pursue people the way God does and to be concerned about their well-being the way God does it daily. However, the implication to love all people indiscriminately can only be done with the power of the cross. This passage singles out two types of people in the world: the evil and the good, and the just and the unjust. Notice that the way God demonstrates his cosmic love is not partial to anyone. The text does not say that the sun and the rain are the recipients of God’s gracious love; people are. God created people to love them and made provisions for them as an outward expression of his love.
On the other, Jesus implies that his disciples should imitate or model their lives after those who are evil and unjust and the individuals who are ungrateful towards God for his prevenient and inclusive gift of grace and love. In Matthew 5:42, the just and the good are cheerful and generous givers; like God, they give unreservedly to the poor and the needy, show mercy and kindness to those in need of mercy and grace (5:7). The Bible describes God as one who is very kind and good to everyone. Jesus wants his followers to be like his father. In the 1 Corinthians 13, Paul provides very specific characteristics of love and moral virtues associating with those who love. Notice the following attributes of those who love like God:
4 Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.8 Love never ends. 13 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Paul is stating that Christians should covet all these moral and ethical virtues and attributes associating with love. The Bible speaks of agapeic love, that is divine love in this way:
God’s love is involved; it is dynamic, active and fulfilling; it is generative and transformative. It is cathartic and optimistic. God’s love is deep, boundless, pure, gracious, true, and magnificent.
5. Love those who do not love you (v. 46)
The fourth way Jesus commands us to love is to love people who do not love you. In verse 46, Jesus stresses the importance of loving one’s enemy and to consider all people as one’s neighbor by stating that “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” By making this declaration, Jesus is insisting that we should love people who do not love us or individuals who cannot stand or tolerate us. Secondly, Jesus implies that genuine and authentic love grounded on a Christological definition of love does not seek reward; in fact, God’s love through Christ gives sacrificially and does not expect anything in return. This is how we should love. We should imitate God’s way of love and loving according to his goodness he gives both the rainfall and the radiant sun without expecting us to give anything in return. The Bible also says that God lavishes his love upon those who know and love Christ. The Bible also pronounces that those know Christ are loved by God; it also states that God loves the world in such a manner he makes provision for all people through the death of Jesus Christ in order for everyone to have an opportunity to reconcile with him. What great is his love! How great is your love for your enemies!
There are two implications in verse 46; first, Jesus implies that a small act of love includes deliberate and genuine greeting to those who distance themselves from you, and those who do not want to come near you or associate with you. In verse 47, Jesus is pleading with us not to just be in good terms and relationship with people who are naturally closed to us such as family members or people in church. Jesus is stating that we should pursue friendship with strangers and reconciliation with those who have wronged us as well as those whom we have faulted. In other words, Jesus is warning us not to be or imitate the evil and the unjust folk, and the tax collectors and Gentiles (non-Christians). Accordingly, they do not love. In fact, they hate their enemies, people who persecute them, even those who ignore them.
In summary: there are two categories of people in the world:
- Those who hate their enemies (v. 43): they are not children of God or peacemakers
- Those who do not pray for their persecutors (v.44): they do not seek the interest of everyone and therefore are not kind like God.
- Those who retaliate against their enemies (v. 38) vs. those who do not take revenge upon themselves (v. 39).
- Those who are generous and take delight in giving and helping those in need (v.42) vs. those who are selfish and keep their wealth and possession for themselves.
Some practical lessons from this passage:
The hard way of love and the risk of loving our enemies
- Acting in love toward an attacker (vv.39-40) does not guarantee the attacker or adversary will act in love toward you immediately. Sometimes, love involves a long process of forgiving, acknowledging, conscientization, reconciliation, and healing. nonetheless, acting in love may prevent the attacker from further insults (38) and violence (39).
- In the same way, showing mercy and compassion (v.42) to people is not a guarantee that people will be nice to you or compassionate and merciful to you. Nonetheless, showing compassion and mercy toward those who do not appreciate you can be the starting point to point them to Jesus and his love.
- Being a giver or having a giving heart will not guarantee that people who are already exploiting you will show kindness, gracefulness, and thanksgiving in return (v.42, 45)
***Loving our enemies unconditionally and all people indiscriminately offers no security, no comfort, and no reconciliation. Yet, we are commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ to love in hard places and when it’s most difficult to do so. Again, by imitating God in his loving acts, we are pointing people to his grace and salvation. Finally, there are two ways to love: (1) loving theologically—love like God loves, and (2) Loving christologically—love like Christ does. They are illustrated in three parables about God’s pure and unconditional love:
- Luke 15:3-7: The Parable of the Lost Sheep
- Luke 15:8-10: The Parable of the Lost Coin
- Luke 15:11-32: The Parable of Prodigal Son.
The call to love is an urgent call to be a servant to others; it also a call to suffer, that is to biblical discipleship. Those who will love like God will suffer because their Lord who loved people so much, even his enemies, also suffered. We cannot love like God unless God himself empowers through his Spirit to love like Christ. Finally, the way to love include the following:
- Background Text: Leviticus 19:18
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
- The Call to benevolent Treatment Toward Personal Enemy:
4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.”
Proverbs 24:17, “ Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, 18 lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.”
“If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink”
- The Welcoming Attitude toward Foreigners and Strangers
34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
- Deuteronomy 10:19, Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
- Pray for them.
- Show them kindness: Col. 3:12
- Get to know them: Heb. 10:24-25
- Forgive them
- Take the first step to initiative conversations with them.
- Do not keep a distance from them, especially when they want to talk to you, but are ashamed to approach you.
- Treat them with respect.
- Recognize their humanity and weakness.
- Seek the good in everyone.
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