Love Your Enemies
Brother and sister,
This morning I would like to talk from Matthew 5: 38-48. Please turn to your Bible Matthew 5 or you can follow the power points. The title of my preaching this morning is “Love Your Enemies”. This is part of Jesus teaching or sermon on the Mount of Beatitudes, on the hill of Lake Gallilee.
Eye for Eye
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love your Enemies
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
May God help us to apply these words to our lives.”
The Sermon on the Mount is the most famous sermon Jesus ever gave, perhaps the most famous sermon ever given by anyone. It is the longest piece of teaching from Jesus in the New Testament, in the book of Matthew chapters 5, 6 and 7. This teaching touch and inspiring millions, including people like Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, and this teaching even admired by atheist like Richard Dawkins and Mahatma Gandhi.
The Sermon on the Mount covers several different topics. If I were to summarize the Sermon on the Mount in a single sentence, it would be something like this: How to live a life that is dedicated to and pleasing to God, free from hypocrisy, full of love and grace, full of wisdom and discernment.
When I was still a new Christian, I have to admit they this teaching is very hard to swallow. After all, who wants to be nice to people who are cursing you or talking bad about you. There is just something in our nature that desires to take revenge on those who mistreat or misrepresent us.
When we think of those who have hurt us – physically, emotionally, sexually – often our first thought is to find a way to get revenge. For some the revenge comes in the form of self-destructive behaviour (cutting, drinking, drugs, alternative lifestyles, etc). Others take revenge by abusing others. Some people use the legal system to exact revenge on others.
When other people get hurt – they want revenge – an eye for an eye. That person hurt me so I have to find a way to hurt them back. Obviously some religious leaders at that time were teaching that it was OK to take revenge .
But what do the Scriptures teach us about revenge? What does Jesus teach us about the treatment of those we perceive as an enemy?
Jesus attempting to rectify a long history of wrong interpretation of the Scriptures by the religious leaders of His day. Look again at Matthew 5:38-39
EYE FOR EYE
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
Revenge for harm done, is the world’s way of making things right. When we revenge with evil for evil, we join our offender in his error. Jesus told us not to return evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21; Matthew 5:39). Revenge is when we take matters out of God’s hands and insist on fixing things ourselves.
In the New Testament, it seems the Pharisees and the Teachers of the law, had taken the “eye for an eye” principle, and applied it to everyday personal relationships. They taught that seeking personal revenge was acceptable. If someone punched you, you could punch him back; if someone insulted you, insults them back.
However, God has said, “Vengeance is mine; …”. Romans 12:19 gives clear instructions about how Christians are to respond when mistreated: “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord.”
“An eye for an eye” was intended to be a guiding principle for lawgivers and judges or government; it was never to be used to justify revenge personally.
Our job as Christians is to forgive, not retaliate. We can set healthy boundaries in destructive relationships. We can protect ourselves from further harm and report to authorities someone breaking the law. Two wrongs do not make a right. We have a Higher Authority to whom we report, and He has promised to right all wrongs done against His servants
When we follow His commands to love, forgive, and do good to those who wrong us, we can trust that our Defender will do what is right.
Let me give some short testimony. When I was still working, for over 8 years I was denied promotion at my work by my manager. I have done many interviews and every time this manager keep putting me down despite that I have more qualifications and experiences. I was so stressed and so were my family. I felt hopeless. I was so bitter that my hair become bald. At night I cannot sleep due to keep thinking about this unfairness.
This is an organization that is supposed to promote equal opportunity. I have tried to go through the appeal process. But the people in the appeal review team, are all the friends of this manager. As soon as I found out who are the appeal review team, I knew straight away that my appeal will fail.
To cut a long story short, I have the support of my family. My wife and my children. We prayed together. I have to let go everything. I learnt to take away bitterness from my heart. I decided to forgive this manager, and I surrender everything to God.
Not long after that there is a change in the organization. A new person from outside the organization became my manager. This new manager interviewed me for a new job vacancy, and…I got the job. I got a promotion.
My old manager who were keep putting me down, left the company to work for another company and become manager there, but not for long. He did many wrong things to the workers. He can get away with that in his old place of work, but not in this new company. He was sacked by the company, and it was so bad that he has to be removed from the site by the company security guard!
Now the point I want to bring here is, if people mistreated you, if people put you down, you do not need to revenge. We have a higher authority to report to. Submit your prayers to Him. He will defend you. We can trust that God will do what is right.
SHIRT & COAT & WALK EXTA MILES
Now, lets see the next verse,
40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
We need to understand that in the Law of Moses NO ONE could take another person’s OUTER COAT (Deut. 24:13).
The outer coat was like our winter coat. It was made of either heavy wool or leather. It was used as a form or protection and warmth. In the OT if a man needed to offer collateral for something he would give his COAT. It was a very valuable property to them.
However, Israel was commanded by God to never keep that COAT overnight. It was to be returned and the item for which the collateral was given, returned as well.
As a matter of fact God tells them it is an act of righteousness to return a man’s COAT to him before the nightfall. So no one could sue a person for their COAT – ONLY THEIR SHIRT
But Jesus says, if a man sues you for your shirt – go ahead and give him your COAT too.
Jesus was teaching that we must be willing to let go some of our “rights” for the sake of other people. Be ready to give up even that which by law cannot be taken. As much as possible, we should be willing to show love to others—even if we don’t like them.
It is about being willing to suffer some forms of personal discomfort instead of immediately looking for a way to retaliate.
GO EXTRA MILES
The same point is being made in verse 41,”… if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles”
Under Roman law a soldier could force someone, any Jew on the road, to carry his backpack for one mile. The background of this practice is this :
Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, invented the postal system to carry letters and documents or backpack from one place to another. To make his system work, any courier could force anyone to carry the mail or backpacks for one mile, but only one mile. The Romans adopted this system for their military, to keep their soldiers from getting worn out, from carrying heavy backpacks.
When a Roman soldier told someone to carry his pack, the Jew would have to drop everything he was doing and go out of his way to obey his order. If someone refused to do it, he would be flogged.
Now Jesus says, “Not only do I want you to carry it one mile, I want you to carry it an extra mile.”
When a Jewish man or boy is carrying the soldier’s backpack for the first mile, he is a slave. However, when he chooses to carry the burden for a second mile, he then takes control of the situation.
No one paid attention when a Jew carried a heavy backpack for a Roman soldier for one mile. The first mile was an obligation. But imagine the scene when the soldier tells a Jew he has done his duty and can drop the bag, but he tells the Roman that he wants to keep on carrying it for him! Now he has everyone’s attention, including the soldier’s.
The second mile was an opportunity. The second mile gives us a story worth telling.
The extra mile is our witness to the world. It’s the way Jesus expected his followers to win over Roman soldiers to the kingdom of God, and it’s still the way we win an unbelieving world to Christ. It’s how we testify to a lost world that Jesus has made a difference in us.
We don’t carry Roman backpacks anymore, but the principle applies to every area of our lives today—in our relationships, at home, at school, at our jobs—Christ calls us to go the extra mile going above and beyond what is asked of us.
Don’t just do what is required but let your light so shine before men…set aside your personal comfort and YOUR RIGHTS for a moment and see the bigger picture – a world requires people willing to live sacrificial lives for the glory of Christ’s Kingdom.
When it comes to your work, always deliver more than expected to the client and your boss. The client will always want more for their buck, which sometimes can almost seem like they are taking advantage. Instead of spending hours on something that they didn’t need, give them more for what they paid for: quality. Quality over quantity always wins.
How can you deliver more than expected towards your boss? You can start with putting more effort, dedication and passion into your job. This will increase the productivity. No matter what field you’re in you should always give more than what’s expected. If you ever want to move up or make the best impression, this is one way to be rewarded by it. The second mile was an opportunity.
I have been working with people long enough to observe that all successful people live by the second mile or extra mile principle.
LOVE YOUR ENEMIES
Now,… Jesus gives an even more radical teaching
LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR
Jesus was talking about the command given in Leviticus 19:18 that says, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbour …
About two months ago, I heard these scriptures broadcasted on television to the whole world. I like it, it excited me and I like to share it with you. Some of you or maybe many of you were watching the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan.
Part of the wedding that I like to mention is when African Bishop Michael Curry delivered his “Power of Love’ sermon. Let me quote a piece of his “Power of Love” sermon on that wedding day:”… On these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything in the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world … love God, love your neighbors, ……
That was a very powerful message by Bishop Michael Curry about loving your neighbour. This morning I was preaching this message for loving your enemy to some 30 peoples, but that night and over 50 millions of people were watching they heard this very message, this teaching, which was taught by Jesus some 2000 years ago in the Mount of Beatitudes.
The religious leaders of the day had interpreted this verse to mean, that you only had to LOVE YOUR PEOPLE. In other words, you only have to love those people who are just like you, or do the same things you do, or have the same religion as you. So as long as you were not one of my people, I could hate you and call you my enemy.
As such, the people felt no shame in mistreating Romans or hating them. After all, they are mean to us – we should pay them back. But Jesus is telling them that in HIS KINGDOM EVIL IS OVERCOME BY DOING GOOD!
Anyone can be good to someone who is good to them. Even sinners know how to do this. But God has a different standard. God even gives us an example of how He loves even those who do not love Him.
“God causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
If God hated His enemies then the sun would never shine and the rain would never fall! Thank God He doesn’t just give sun and rain to those He loves…how would His enemies know His goodness otherwise?
I don’t know if you realize this or not, but Christianity is a radical faith. Jesus calls us to do the impossible: to love the unlovely, to literally love without limits. And this is more than a sentimental Valentine’s Day type of love. It is an Agape love. Agape love means to show unconditional kindness. It means going out of your way to show mercy and friendship even to the people who drive you bananas. Even to the people who don’t treat you well.
Brother and Sister,
If someone is giving you a hard time, maybe that’s God’s way of saying “I want you to pray for this person. And most of all, pray that through your life, they will see the unconditional love of God in action. Pray that they will experience ultimate joy in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s hard to stay mad at someone you pray for.
But why we do this?
In a world that is controlled and dominated by hate and revenge, the person who lives by the teachings of Christ will make a huge impact. Just like it did in the days of the Apostles, who were persecuted but prayed for, and served the persecutor.
This doesn’t come naturally. You need the power of God for this kind of love. And that’s Jesus’ point.
Jesus ends this teaching segment by saying, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
How can you be perfect? As sinful human beings we will not reach a place of complete perfection on this side of Heaven. However, that is not an excuse for not growing and becoming a more mature person in Christ. As such, we too follow the teachings of Christ and as we do we grow in our character;
- The closer we get to Jesus by prayer and obedience, the more our character will begin to reflect His values and not our own.
- The more we follow the teachings of Christ, the more we will separate ourselves from the hatred and revengeful nature of this world.
- The more we follow after the teachings of Christ, the more we want to be like Him and let our whole life be an example of His character.
- When we follow the teachings of Christ, we will learn to love those, who we once thought were unlovable.
Consider Jesus our supreme example in all things. As he hung on a cross, dying the common death of a criminal, yet never having sinned, he was able to say, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).
Or Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who was able to say the same thing as the rocks flew his way in a public stoning (Acts 7:60). When you love without limits, people take note.
When we love without limits, we really reflect our standing as “children of our Father in heaven” (verse 45). People look at us and say, “He looks like his Father. She has her Father’s heart.” A watching world is drawn to a loving God, one who loves us without limits.
Brother and Sister,..in closing…
I believe the Lord wants us to examine our hearts this morning. Are we planning ways to get back at someone who did us wrong? Are we just waiting for the opportunity to get our revenge on someone? Do we have bitterness in our heart that is leading us to anger and hate? These are questions we need to ask the Lord.
If you are here this morning and you have never given your heart to Jesus Christ. You may be thinking, this teaching of loving your enemies sounds pretty tough. Well, it can be if we try to do it all alone and in our own power. But no one can love his or her enemies unless God does a supernatural work in their lives.
That work begins with repentance (asking God to forgive us) and acceptance of Christ as our savior.
I am not telling you that you will leave here this morning with the ability to love those who hurt and curse you. But you will receive the power of Christ to be able to know His forgiveness for you, and that will help you want to forgive others – it will take time.
This is not something we can achieve on our own. This is only accomplished by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, as we consistently spend time in prayer and study his Word. It happens only as we surrender to him. It happens as we understand that it is not just about being saved, but being transformed.
I would like to close this teaching with a quote by Tertullian, a Christian author of Tunisia in the 2nd century AD.
“To love friends is the custom of all people, but to love enemies is customary only of Christians”.
Let us pray:
Father, as always, we’re going to need your help. It is not our natural to be able to love those who are mean to us, who hurt us, who offend us, who are different from us. But you love them, every one of them. Help us to surrender our emotions, our reactions, and to pray for them and love them and serve them, as your Holy Spirit flows through us, in Jesus’ name and for his glory,