Some people are really good at masking their hate as friendship.
But when it comes down to it, most of us will never go out of our way to help someone we consider to be an enemy. It’s easier to see an enemy suffer than to step in and say, “I’m going to be proactive in making sure I do good things for you.” That’s why this week’s message is one of the toughest messages Jesus ever spoke.
Here’s today’s word…
But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Can you believe the nerve of this guy?
He really asks us to love and to do good towards those who do us wrong. He asks us to bless and to pray for those who persecute us. He asks us to go above and beyond in our response to people.
A lot of people try to contextualize Jesus and take the punch out of his words. Some say, “Jesus is talking to a people living under Roman submission, so this is really subversive. If a Roman takes your cloak, give him your tunic, and stand there naked as a sign of non-violent resistance” (yes, I’ve really heard this).
But no matter how you contextualize it, I don’t think we can get away from the plain meaning of Jesus’ words. He says nothing about Romans. He says nothing here about dealing with Christians versus non-Christians. His words seem pretty clear-cut.
Those we consider to be enemies are people we are supposed to treat well, no matter how they treat us or what they take from us. Jesus really brings his point home well:
If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Sure, it’s easy to be loving to people who love us. Just look at all the compliments on social media. Compliments very quickly turn into a mutual pat-on-the-back love fest. We receive a compliment. We give a compliment. Loving those who love us is a piece of cake.
The real challenge of Jesus’ words is when we realize that God acted in our best interest when we were distant and rebellious from him. He loves us even when we don’t live him back.
One of the chief tenets of Christian behavior is here is Jesus’ Golden Rule—treat people the way you want to be treated. It really is that basic.
Do you want people to spread gossip about you? Don’t do it to others.
Do you want to be treated unfairly by people? Treat others fairly.
Do you want people to help you out when you need a hand? Be a person known to help others.
We could go on and on, but the premise is quite simple. And it ultimately comes down to making sure that our character reflects God’s character.
We’re going to have some reflection and response time. Think about the message and focus on the words of the songs.
Our first song is Losing. It’s not a song of worship but a prayer for God’s help. The songwriter says,
I can’t believe what she said
I can’t believe what he did
Oh, don’t they know it’s wrong, yeah?
Don’t they know it’s wrong, yeah?
Maybe there’s something I missed
But how could they treat me like this?
It’s wearing out my heart
The way they disregard
Oh, Father won’t You forgive them?
They don’t know what they’ve been doin’ (oh no)
Oh, Father, give me grace to forgive them
‘Cause I feel like the one losin’
Our second song this morning is Blessed Be Your Name and simply declares:
You give and take away,
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name
Even when we are the ones losing, even when our enemies are getting to good treatment and we’re drawing the short straw, we can trust that God is STILL good and we can choose to bless his name – to praise him – in spite of our circumstances.
– How do I do at loving others who treat me poorly?
– Do I live the Golden Rule in my life?
MAKING IT REAL:
– This week, think about the people you consider to be enemies. How can you love them and treat them well in spite of their behavior towards you?
– Make a list of people who have wronged you and pray that God would give you grace to forgive and love those people.
– If you have never come to the point in your life where you have said, “I want to be a Christ-follower,” then make that decision today.
Chris Linzey is husband to Tené, father to the three most beautiful children in the world, movie addict (seriously, if it’s on a screen he'll watch it—doesn’t matter how crummy or low-budget), and a Navy Chaplain, currently assigned to Naval Air Station, Meridian. Chris has a deep desire to help people live lives of faith where the Bible is more than mere words on a page, but the way we live everyday. His undergrad and Master’s studies were in Biblical Studies and he focused on the New Testament (his mentor was a Gospel of Mark scholar). He went on to get a Master of Divinity (MDiv) in Pastoral Preaching. Follow him at @chrislinzey.