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Loving the Enemy (Matthew 5:43-48)

First Baptist Church http://fbcbartow.org

“Loving the Enemy”

(Matthew 5:43-48)

Series: God’s Fulfilled Promise [on screen]

Rev. Matthew C. McCraw, EdD

First Baptist Church, Bartow, Florida

October 28, 2018

Introductory Comments:

Well, church family, we are here at the end of Matthew chapter 5, which has been a monumental chapter in Jesus’ sermon on the mountainside. 

Jesus is teaching us to live counter-culturally compared to the world in which we are immersed. 

He has also been clarifying for His hearers the true meaning behind some of the teachings of the Old Testament. 

Jesus has said repeatedly, “You have heard it said . . . but I say . . .”

He wants to be sure that we know what it means to follow God faithfully and fully. 

At the end of today’s passage, Jesus will drop a bombshell of a statement to describe how we must follow God. 

Let’s look at today’s passage. 

Read the Passage

Read Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Let’s pray together.

(Prayer)

Immediately when it comes to this idea of loving our enemies many of us are not ready to sign on the dotted line to do so. 

Indeed, this would have been the case for Jesus’ listeners as well. 

Jesus said that you have heard that it was said “Love your neighbor”

The teachings of the experts in the law had morphed to the point where they interpreted this idea of loving our neighbors as only loving those that love you; only loving your friends, and family, and those who are kind to you. 

The irony of a command like that is that no one needs to tell us to love those who love us. That comes pretty easily!

The people had lost sight of what God originally meant by the command. 

In fact, this phrase, “hate your enemy,” is not even in the Old Testament law. You can look far and wide in the teachings of Moses and the prophets and you will not find this. 

The experts in the law had changed the teaching of the law until it got to the point that it was not what it originally meant.

As a side-note, this should be a warning to us that we do not take a command of God and change it into something that we want it to be rather than what God really meant. We must be very careful so as not to distort the Word of God. That’s probably a sermon for another time. 

So, the people had not only missed the full meaning of God’s command, they had actually distorted it. 

Jesus sought to bring clarity to what God meant and show the fuller meaning and heart of the commandment. 

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

This morning, we will look at two reasons, in addition to Jesus’ command, that we are to love our enemies. 

Also, several theological terms came to mind as I studied this passage, so we’ll look at those along the way. 

So, let’s look at our reasons for loving our enemies. 

First, . . .

I. We love our enemies in our pursuit of godliness (vv. 43-45) [on screen]

In this passage, Jesus tells us that when we love others we “ . . . may be children of your Father in heaven.”

I believe what Jesus is saying is that by loving our enemies we are emulating God the Father. 

Usually, children emulate their parents. 

Illustration: Just yesterday I was working in the yard with a rake and Levi, my two-year-old son, was carrying around another rake and acting like he was working as well. He was trying to be like his father. 

In like manner, we are supposed to try and be like our Father, our Heavenly Father. 

Jesus says when we love others, we are like our Father. 

Jesus goes into detail about how God the Father shows love to all. 

He says, “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Sun and rain were good things for the people of ancient Israel. The people needed sun and rain for their agricultural prosperity. God blesses the righteous and the unrighteous with sun and rain. 

Although those who trust in Christ are loved in a special and specific way by God, all humanity, good and evil, is loved generally by God because all humans are made in God’s image and are special to Him. 

This is what we call God’s common grace. God has displayed grace to this world that is common to all humanity, including sending sun and rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 

This is our first theological term:

Common grace is the display of God’s grace to all humanity regardless of their salvation in Christ. [on screen]

This is not saving grace but it is loving grace. 

So, Jesus is saying, God the Father shows love to all, so if we want to be like Him we should as well. 

Jesus also tells us to pray for those who persecute us. 

Is this backward, or what?

We’re supposed to pray for those who want to bring us harm?

You’re thinking, yes! I’ll pray for God to cause a bus to hit them, or for them to have kidney stones, or for them to drop dead. That’s what I’ll pray for!

But the context of everything that Jesus is saying is regarding our desire for blessing towards those who our enemies and those who persecute us. 

This is so foreign to us, that it’s hard to even compare it to anything. 

It’s like a southerner eating cream-of-wheat instead of grits, or like a Chevy man buying a Ford, or like a cat taking a bath, or like a group of Baptists agreeing on something. It’s unreal! 

Yet, this is exactly what Jesus is calling us to do: love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. 

Now, in addition to the divine command of Jesus, let me tell you three practical benefits that also come from us praying for our enemies and those who persecute us:

1. Prayer helps mold our hearts to be like God’s. 

Jesus has already told us that we should want to be like God. 

The act of prayer triggers the supernatural within us and starts a metamorphosis in our hearts that makes us more like God. 

2. Prayer softens our hearts towards our enemies. 

We are not to hate; we are to love. 

When we pray it softens our hearts and allows us to love in a greater way. 

3. Prayer reminds us who is in charge. 

By praying we are being obedient to God and loving to our enemies. That’s our part. 

We are letting God do His part. 

If you’ve been wronged, God will one day make that right. 

“Vengeance is mine,” says the Lord. Vengeance is not ours. Loving others is ours, including our enemies. 

(pause)

In order to be like God, we love our enemies. Is there a better reason to love our enemies than this? It makes us like God!

So, we love our enemies in our pursuit of godliness. 

Second, . . .

 

II. We love our enemies in our pursuit of extraordinary perfection (vv. 46-48) [on screen]

Look at the passage again. 

Jesus says in verses 46-48, 

46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In verses 46 and 47, Jesus basically says that He is thoroughly unimpressed with us only loving those who love us or do good to us. 

Jesus says that anybody can do that, and most people do in fact live and love that way. 

He is calling us to something greater. 

We’re not supposed to be like the tax collectors, who were considered cheats, traitors, and scumbags. 

We’re not supposed to be like the Gentiles, who were considered irreligious and non-devoted to the true God. 

No, we are to be like our Father. We are to love all. 

Just to make sure that we understand the standard that He is calling us to, Jesus drops this statement, Be perfect.”

Come on, now, Jesus! We’re to be perfect?

This is His standard. He says to be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect. 

Some would say that this standard Jesus is holding us to is unrealistic for human beings. 

Indeed, as mere humans, this is an impossible standard. However, in Christ this is possible. 

Let’s talk about this for a minute. 

Without Jesus, we are unable to be holy. We are depraved in our sin. 

This is another theological term that I would like for us to highlight. 

Depravity refers to the inability for us to live holy lives because of the sinfulness and corruption in our hearts. [on screen]

We cannot be perfect with our human hearts. 

That’s why we need Jesus! We keep coming back to this passage after passage, week after week, sermon after sermon. We need Jesus!

By the work of Jesus, when we ask Him for forgiveness, when we give our lives to Him, He gives us new hearts. 

When Jesus gives us a new heart, He also imputes His righteousness to us. 

That’s our next theological term: imputation. 

Imputation is the attributing or giving of Jesus’ righteousness to those who trust in Him for salvation and new life. [on screen]

So, once we give our lives to Jesus, we are rescued from our depravity, we are imputed with the holiness of Jesus, then we are free to live as Jesus has called us to live. 

Each and every day we are on a path to be holy, to be perfect, as Jesus is. 

This pursuit of holiness is called sanctification. That’s our last theological term for the day.

Sanctification refers to the Christian’s process of being made holy. [on screen]

So, when Jesus calls us to be perfect, we must consider these factors:

Because of our depravity, we are unable to be perfect. 

Because of the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness, we can pursue perfection. 

In our sanctification, we are pursuing perfection. 

On the spectrum of holiness and perfection, we have the sinful state (motion to one side of the stage).  This is where we started. On the other side of the spectrum, we have God, our Heavenly Father (motion to the other side of the stage). We are to pursue this side of the spectrum. We are to pursue holiness. 

We will fall, we will slide back. That’s ok. We must get back up, get back on track, realign, and pursue extraordinary perfection again. 

The victory is found in the pursuit of perfection; the victory is found in the pursuit of holiness. 

I’m thankful that Jesus did not call us to the pursuit of mediocrity. He rescued us from mediocrity! He called us to something great and something new! He called us to be like our Father! Let’s pursue holiness!

Loving our enemies is part of what it means to pursue holy perfection. It’s part of what it means to pursue God. 

Concluding Thoughts:

Some of us even now are tempted to think that we cannot possibly love our enemies. 

I want to plead with you not to concede to the temptation to not love the way that God has called us to love. Do not give in to sin. Fight for holiness. Fight for godliness. Fight for holy perfection. Fight for love. 

Our bottom line today is . . .

Bottom Line: Loving our enemies makes us more like God and more like God wants us to be.  [on screen]

(repeat)

Do you want to be more like God and more like God wants you to be?

If so, love your enemies. If you don’t want to be like God and like God wants you to be, don’t love your enemies. 

If you want to pursue godliness and godly love, challenge yourself in the following ways:

Weekly Challenge: [on screen]

  1. Identify your enemy (the person).  [on screen]

Take some time to think of specific people that you might consider your enemy. 

Being specific will help you overcome your challenge in loving that person. 

  1. Identify your enemy (your sin).  [on screen]

Sin is our enemy. Sin will keep us from living for God. Sin will keep us from loving others. We must admit this. 

Acknowledge that the resistance to show Christlike love is a sin. Name it as so. This will help you in overcoming that sin. 

3. Destroy your enemy. [on screen]

Your sin, not the person. 

Destroy your sin by pursuing godly perfection. 

Commit to love. Commit to resisting sin. Commit to sanctification. 

Closing:

We must remember that following Jesus and being just in God’s eyes is not about following a list of rules. We can’t possibly follow the rules good enough anyway. The standard is perfection. 

If you think you can live perfectly without the grace of Jesus, you’re sadly mistaken. 

Jesus’ point is that we need to be changed by God’s grace to live the way He’s called us to live. 

Pastor Jay Brinson did a great job two weeks ago pointing us to the fact that sin remains on the earth because sinners remain on the earth (if you missed his sermon you can find it on our website at fbcbartow.org or simply bartow.church).

He pointed out that there’s a lot of crazy people out there right now. These people are hard for us to love. There are people mailing bombs, shooting people in a grocery store because of their skin color, shooting people in places of worship like synagogues, planning evil in schools even in our own town. This is is all the result of sin. 

These people need Jesus . . . and so do we. 

We are sinners, or were sinners, as well; which is why we need to be changed by Jesus and live a life led by love. 

We must pray for God’s grace for ourselves and for others. Our desire should be for people to be changed by God and made right with God, even for our enemies. This is the kind of love that our Father has, and that we should pursue. 

Have you been changed by love and are you living by love?

(Gospel Presentation)

(Closing Prayer)

Invitation Song – Give of Your Best to the Master

Benediction:

If you have any sort of spiritual decision that you would like to make, you can contact me or Pastor Richard and we would be glad to talk to you anytime.

Our service tonight will be in the back parking lot as we celebrate the Fall Festival. Again, it’s from 5-7 PM. If you’d like to help set-up you can come a bit early. It’s supposed to be nearly perfect weather, so be sure to come out. 

Let’s dismiss by singing We are One in the Bond of Love. 

(Sing We are One in the Bond of Love)

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