Love Your Enemies

Love Your Enemies

Daily Reading: (Matthew 5:44):

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

In the minds of the original audience there would have been no problem to identify an enemy. They probably turned their heads and glanced off in the distance and set their gaze upon some Roman soldiers. Their homelands had been invaded by the Romans. The Romans still allowed worship, they just charged a Jewish tax to do so. So, imagine you just heard Jesus’ words. “Pray for your enemies,” and the next day you are going to the Temple to worship, but before you can worship you have to pay tax to the Romans to do so. Now, go ahead and pray for those people who just taxed you to pray.

If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles” (Matthew 5:41). Rome had passed a law where a Roman could force any Jew, at any time, to carry their belongings a mile down the road. We see an example of this in Jesus crucifixion scene. Roman soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into service of carrying Jesus’ cross (Matthew 27:32).

What Jesus said is the opposite of what the multitudes had expected to hear from their Messiah. Our Messiah should bring us freedom by destroying our enemies, not having us love and pray for them. 

Oswald Chambers said, “The Sermon on the Mount is not an ideal, it is a statement of what will happen in me when Jesus Christ has altered my disposition and put in a disposition like His own.Jesus Christ is the only One who can fulfill the Sermon on the Mount.”

It’s a crazy way of living that Christ was describing to them. It was something they really hadn’t thought of before. It was an impossible way to live. When we come to our text, don’t hate your enemies, love your enemies and pray for them. Don’t get even, forgive people, even when they don’t deserve it, even when they don’t ask for it. It is backwards to how we feel and to what we want to do. The Jews didn’t want to live in the first mile of servitude to the Romans, let alone the second.

Prayer for your enemies is one of the deepest forms of love, because it means that you have to really want something good to happen to someone who doesn’t necessarily deserve it. This is unconditional love. The kind of love that Jesus displayed as He hung on the cross:

“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

And it’s what Stephen did the first Christian martyr as he was being stoned to death for his faith:

“Falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (Acts 7:60)!

I know we aren’t being forced to carry military supplies a mile for a foreign army. So, practically speaking how we live out Matthew 5:41 “willing to go the extra mile” is possible as we spend time with Jesus, allowing His love, grace, and forgiveness to flow from us.

Colossians 3:12-13:“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Christ is our example for all of this. The good news is that Jesus loves us at our worst and His love changes us.

The Sermon on the Mount and the command to love our enemies comes from the great foundation of grace in the life and teaching of Jesus. This is where we get the power to love; that he loved us while we were poor, helpless enemies of God (Romans 5:10), He gave himself for us.

Peace With All Men

Peace with all men

Daily Reading: (Hebrews 12:14):

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

If we already have peace given to us by Jesus, why should we then have to seek or pursue it? In a perfect world (heaven) we won’t but we live in a fallen world that has been marred by sin. There are people who do not know the Lord’s peace and there are others who have it but don’t live in it.

Did you know that before the Fall of Man there was peace in the world?  The Bible offers a glimpse of how restoration in Jesus’ kingdom will once again restore peace.

There will be a full restoration of Eden that was lost with sin (Revelation 22). Adam’s disobedience overthrew the order of things. But Christ will bring back everything to its condition and order.

Hebrews 12:14: NASB: “Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.”

“Pursue [(diōkō) seek after eagerly, pursue] peace with all men”. What this tells us is that peace with each other is not an absolute like it is with our peace with God.

So to begin with we need to strive for peace with all people.  But there is a second instruction in Hebrews 12:14 as well- “And the sanctification”

The question that comes is what does sanctification have to do with pursuing peace with all men?

What is sanctification? Hagiasmos – the state of purity, holiness. An advanced definition comes from the root of the word sanctify which means to set apart to God for His use.

“To see God, in the Hebrew phrase, is to enjoy Him.”[1]  We enjoy God because Christ has purified us and made us whole. We are set apart to be used by God because we are in Christ.  Because of our positional holiness as being found in Christ it is now possible to eagerly pursue behavioral holiness. 

“To be holy” (1 Peter 1:15) it is our calling to live in our Christ given identity and in doing so will experience the enjoyment of time spent with God, (Hebrews 12:14).

“Without holiness no one will see the Lord,” is not a threat but what will result in living in our newness of life.

How do I eagerly pursue peace with someone who is not bent on peace toward me? Peter addresses this in 1 Peter 3:8-22. It is a rather lengthy passage so if you would like to better understand verse 15 and how to do that you can in Church Membership: God’s Good Purpose Fulfilled in You.[2]

This is our calling to suffer unjustly (1 Peter 2:21), not to hurt back those who hurt us (1 Peter 2:23), and this is not a rule to keep but a miracle to be experienced, it’s a grace to be received (1 Peter 2:20). Peace with all men comes by way of not repaying evil for evil.

To conclude with Jesus says something about those who would pursue peace and they are called the peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Blessed (makarios): supremely blessed, fortunate, well-off, happy.  You might remember that Greek word from our 7 Blessings of Revelation Series.

 A defining characteristic of peace makers is that they are supremely blessed, fortunate and happy.

Who are the peacemakers? We are given the answer in 1 John 3:2, “they will be called children of God”.

Question: So who are the peacemakers? Answer: Children of God. All believers are the peacemakers because the very peace of Jesus has been given to us.

Do you see yourself as Christ has made you to be, a peacemaker? One who is supremely blessed because you are a child of God?

The wonderful thing about this is as the world grows more violent and protests and riots become more of the norm you have been gifted as a peacemaker. As a child of God you can show the world the path of peace. Will you see turmoil and violence and chaos as an opportunity before you to be the very opportunity to pursue peace with others so that those who don’t know God might discover that peace is found in Jesus.

[1] Adam Clarke Commentary

[2] Rev. Dr. Matthew Webster. Church Membership: God’s Good Purposed Fulfilled in You. (47-50).