“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Loving our neighbor is a central theme to the teachings of Jesus and He repeats this theme in two other Scriptures. “Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19) “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) Jesus makes reference to the fact that this theme is central to the entire Law of God. “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Mathew 22:40) As well as, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)

In this passage Jesus goes on to extend the love for our neighbor to also include our enemy. This thought probably was not well received, as it is hard to love those who persecute you and try to bring harm to you. This is a hard thing to do and we humans living in the flesh are for the most part not readily capable to return love for hate. Jesus did teach us that our dependence is not upon ourselves but upon God living through us.  “And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Jesus gives us a clue on how to develop this attitude towards one who is an enemy, prayer. We are not only praying for our enemy but also praying for the strength to allow God’s love to flow through us to them. Praying before we encounter our enemy will give us the right attitude to present the right action towards those whom we find offensive. When we look at the Lord’s Prayer we find that this act of loving our enemy is consistent with forgiveness. “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:12-13) God will forgive us as we are willing to forgive others and it opens a door to their forgiveness from God. “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

Loving, praying for, and forgiving our enemies is consistent with the broader teaching to one of the purposes of this sermon, to learn better the character of the God we serve. God is love and He shows His grace towards all men in that the sun shines on the righteous as well as the unrighteous and the rain to come and water their crops as well. This is a wonderful picture image of the quality of the God we serve. This is a quality that we as His children should try to aspire to. This is how others outside of the faith will know that we are His. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

In Matthew chapter 19 Jesus confronts a rich young ruler who has been faithful to follow all the commands of the law. Yet, he knows that something is missing and asks Jesus what more He must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers the young ruler with a shocking answer. “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matthew 19:21) The ruler is to let go of his possessions and give them to those who are in need. He is promised to find his treasure in heaven. Then he is told to follow Jesus. This is the maturity that Jesus wants from His followers. A willingness to give away what we have acquired in this world for the promise of the treasures in the next world the Kingdom of Heaven. Not only that but sacrificing affluence and friends and following Jesus on faith. Not many a soul is willing to forsake the possessions of this world for the next.

We have been called to live holy and righteous lives before God and man. If we are growing in to the likeness of our Lord and Savior, then we must strive to take on the characteristics of our Lord. How else would His light shine through us if we were not living as He is? If He is not living through us? If we have been called by Christ, then we must follow Him in the fullest way. If we are to be as He is at the end of our walk here, then we must grow towards Him while we are here. “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23)

We are never to take our own revenge as we are not without sin. Only God is just and He will judge all justly in His righteousness. “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19)

God is righteous and to enter into His Kingdom we must be righteous, the theological conviction is that God is perfect and we must be perfect too. As God treats the just and unjust with good things we also as His followers must treat others justly whether they are good or evil. It is not only for their benefit but for ours as well. It proves that we have His love coming from within us. “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:8, 20) We are to love our neighbor in spite of their action this is an act of spiritual maturity, perfection, and the fulfillment of life.

This is the requirement of God for man that we not dwell on the past but move onward and upward to the calling that we have received from Him who loves us completely.  “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12-14)

Thomas N Kirkpatrick

First Baptist Church of Durant, May 11, 2016

wordpress analytics