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You have heard . . But I say; Love your enemies. Matt. 5: 43-48

October 26, 2014 Series: The Gospel of Matthew

Topic: Sunday AM Passage: Matthew 5:43–5:48

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Matt. 5:43 - 48 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

This is a milestone, just getting to the end of this first portion of the Sermon on the mount!

I remember telling you this was a 20,000 foot mountain and the way to climb it is a foot at a time.

This is the sixth and final thesis - antithesis in this section of the sermon on the mount. You've learned it this way. But I say this.

Who talks like that? Because the people who He's quoting in the thesis part are the reigning religious leaders and experts who trace their position and lineage to Moses himself, who spoke directly to God on Mount Sinai.

We can draw a parallel for our understanding with our roman catholic friends who have the pope who claims a direct line to Peter who was there listening to Jesus on this very day.

Trust me, when Calvin and Luther came along and said, Rome says this, but I, based on sola scriptura and sola fide say this; it was radical.

We want that unbroken line back to God. But just as Rome did, the jews had in exactly the same way, supplanted the pure words of God with layers and layers of traditions of men, until what God said and meant was lost in the rubble.

Jesus is accomplishing several things here. He's establishing His authority as not just teacher or commentor like their rabbi's who would quote other rabbi's who were quoting other rabbi's. He's speaking as someone who has authority of author. Only God can do that.

Secondly, He's lifting God up. A high view of God. God is lofty, seperated from men.

And thirdly, He's establishing that men are hopelessly sinful and cannot attain to God's standards with their self styled religion of layers of tradition. Man made righteousness is not acceptable to God.

There is a two-fold result.

Some men are stricken with their sinful condition before a Holy God and find themselves in the Beatitudes. Spiritually bankrupt. Mourning over sin. Meek before God and hungering for a righteousness that they realize is impossible for men. These cry out to a benevolent God for mercy.

Then, others are hardened in their unbelief. Jesus is a threat to their position. HE's a threat to their power, their authority over others. He's a threat to their lifestyle of sin with a thin facade of self styled righteousness. He's a threat to their comfort. And unbelief becomes hatred.

Why should they believe this man who shows up and turns their comfortable order upside down. Is there any reason to believe Him? I mean, let's face it, that man is claiming authority that only God himself could claim. Who would believe Him? Why?

Here are their choices. He's a lunatic, or as C. S. Lewis said, a poached egg, or He's the devil, or He's who he says he is. They understood that.

Then there's the compounding problem of the miracles. He raises the dead. He turns water into wine. He casts out demons. He heals the whole land of Israel from Dan to Beersheba. He makes the blind from birth have sight. He makes the hopelessly lame into strong. He ignores their prescribed Sabbath rules. In fact He claims to be Lord of the Sabbath.

Every miracle. Every act either pushes you more to your knees in repentence, or it hardens you harder than flint until finally, the only answer you can devise is that, given that the miracles are undeniable, He must be Satan himself. The ordinary lunatic thing doesn't work with the miracles.

That tension between the sons (and daughters) of the Kingdom of God, and the Kingdom of Satan continues to this day.

Take another look at the passage we just read together. Enemies. Conflict. Hate. Persecution. Unrighteousness. This parallels exactly with what we said last week.

I don't want to get a reputation as an alarmist who paints these horrible fearful pictures every week. That isn't what I want to be known or remembered as. But everything I said about our present situation as American christians last week, applies here also.

Otherwise, we can dismiss this passage of scripture.

Love my enemies? I don't have any enemies. I get along with everyone. Me and Pam avoid conflict. We don't want enemies. We stay well within boundaries that maintain zero conflict to the best of our abilities.

When the dog bites and the lawyer says, you can sue them, you know. We don't.

So we can dismiss this passage. It doesn't mean anything to us. We live in America and our laws work well enough that no one's paying any attention to us, and that's the way we like it. We pay our property taxes on time. I hope.

I don't have any enemies that I need to learn how to love. As long as I obey all the rules, I can live my life and not worry too much about this requirement.

Is that a fair statement for American evangelicals? I wonder what Corrie Ten Boom would say about that? Or Louis Zamperini, who just died a couple of months ago.

They both were just 2 generations older than me. And I'm two generations older than some of you. But still, within our memory close enough that we can identify with their stories.

They both were imprisoned, beaten, abused, forgotten. Corrie, by the Nazi's. and Louis by the japanese. Just 2/3rds of a century ago. Both of them had to come face to face with what Jesus says here. Not so long ago.

What about us? Nothing to worry about. Get a different preacher so we don't have to visit this - every week!

I love to bring current events into the mix, just to make things real. How far do we go in order to avoid this enemy - persecution thing?

Last March, Rich Stearns caused an uproar when he said World Vision would allow gays to minister, as long as they were married. He was trying to make peace with the prevailing attitude in the United States and indeed, the world. And it blew up in his face.

Then yesterday, Hillsong church, which is a mega-church with campuses all over the world, 100,000 plus strong, evangelicals, refused to make a statement of any kind, under pressure, about where they would stand on this issue. No comment. A large percentage of their congregation in New York City is gay.

The reason they give is relevance. We want to remain relevant in a complex society. We're going to have this conversation.

Where is the outcry? Where are the evangelicals that battered poor Rich Stearns half way to oblivion six months ago?

How far are we willing to go to avoid conflict in a society around us that presses in relentlessly on this and other issues of sexual liberty and non morality.

Last week also saw California break through yet another barrier of protection of religious liberty. They're going after the churches now to pay for abortions for employees, thanks to our governments new rules.

That means places like Grace Community Church, where I grew up as a christian, who have been stalwarts will be sued to comply. First it was just going to be the catholics. Now it's all evangelical churches in California. Sexual liberty trumps religious liberty.

A little aside here; Last week my sweet wife gave me a stearn warning for my own good to not cross over into political things. I don't disagree. That's excellent wisdom on her part. And I'm going to do my best. And honestly, the difference between the two opposing parties at this point is minimal. Neither one can solve the issues I'm worried about.

But when the incremental encroachment of sexual liberty against religious liberty crosses over a red line, wherever that is, and we are forced to choose a side, we're going to become enemies of our own government. Or enemies of God. And in that position, if we are faithful, enemies of our society.

For the sake of this mornings passage of scripture, let's do something else though. Let's pretend we're Philip, in the book of acts. Remember Philip, and the Ethiopian Eunuch.

This is a stretch for us, because mostly, we don't tell anyone about Jesus, even though there's no resistance, but just for now, we'll pretend;

Acts 8:38-40 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. 40But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea.

So Philip preaches to this eunuch and he believes, and they come to some water, and the eunuch says hey, is there any reason I can't be baptized? And when they come up out of the water, poof, Philip is translated in the spirit to somewhere else! And it doesn't matter where the spirit plops Philip down, he starts talking about Jesus to the first person he comes to.

Now suppose for our purposes, the spirit picks us up and drops us into Iran. And, this is even a bigger stretch, suppose we understand that our purpose on earth is to point people to Jesus. And just like Philip we start going from city to city preaching Jesus. In Iran.

Would Jesus words here in Matthew become very real to us in that situation? Virtually everybody is your enemy! They don't want to hear what you've got to say. In fact there are laws against it. Everywhere you go, riots break out.

I'd venture to say you'd become a Calvinist in that situation. Why? Because when you're surrounded by enemies and people who hate you, you need to believe that even in a mob like that, God has His elect who are waiting to hear the gospel, and will respond.

43“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

Let's look at these verses. 43“You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.

This was the mindset in Israel. In spite of passages like Exodus 23:4 - 5, it says this, “If you meet your enemy’s ox, or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it.”

The pharisees said; “If a Jew sees a Gentile fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out of there for it is written, ‘Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor, but this man is not thy neighbor,”

So it all came down to who was your neighbor. And it turns out, by the time the pharisees were done with it, almost no one was your neighbor. Not even other jews, if they were common.

The story of the good samaritan is a perfect example of jewish mind set. A young lawyer comes to Jesus and says what do I need to DO for eternal life, and Jesus says; Love God with all your being and love your neighbor like you love yourself.

And the lawyer, being a lawyer, wants clarification. Who is my neighbor? That's what it got down to. According to their religion, you could be righteous and hate almost anybody else except for other righteous folk and family members, just - like - you.

The roman's charged the jews with "hatred of the human race". That was what they were known for around the roman empire.

So, Jesus words here are monumental. Vs. 44“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

Never mind figuring out who your neighbor is, love your enemies!

That isn't a minor deviation from their current mindset. That is nothing short of radical! Impossible, really, for fallen humans. Love the people who are making my life miserable!! Really!! And pray for them. That's crazy talk.

And I don't think He's got imprecatory prayers in mind here. Like, God, will you please strike my enemies with leprosy. Please. Bring a tidal wave and sweep them out to sea. Cause a volcano to erupt and open the earth beneath them to swallow them up. May they perish and burn in hell. Amen.

He means we should pray for their rescue. For their very salvation. That's the definition of Biblical love. The root word is agape here. Love them selflessly and receive only evil in return. While they're working us over, we pray for otherworldly good to come for them.

Again, radical faith. This is so counterintuitive. Who does this??

Well, God does.

Vs. 45so 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.

A day is coming when God will reckon with His enemies. But not just yet. Right now, God feeds them, clothes them, gives them blessings and happiness and pleasure. He gives His enemies their very breath they breathe.

Calvin was the first theologian to call this 'common grace'.

Through the prophet Ezekiel, God tells us; Ezekiel 18:32   "For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies," declares the Lord GOD. "Therefore, repent and live."

Indeed, we were God's enemies when He sent His own son to die in our place. Listen to Paul, in Romans 5;

Romans 5:6 - 9  For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

That's our example. Love your enemies - to the death. And so prove that you are sons and daughters of your father who is in heaven, and who loves you like this.

And then Jesus argues further; 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?

To love only your defined neighbor, like the self righteous pharisees were doing, is gentile love. Tax gatherer - traitor love. Or to say it another way, it's not more than Satan's kingdom peoples love. Everybody does that.

Jesus calls us to an impossible love. A love that will require radical faith. And a love that will be repaid with more torment. Are we up to it?

We need to think this through. It's been easy so far. No pressure. No cost.

I'm not trying to alarm you. Just trying to prepare this church for challenges as yet unseen. I hope that's not a bad thing.

I think these things are coming fast. My brother sent me an update about some folks in Coeur D'Alene Idaho who are christians and who own a wedding chapel there. They are facing fines of $1000 per day and 180 days in jail because they have refused, because of conscience based in the word of God, to perform a same sex wedding.

This stuff is real. Coeur D'Alene isn't so different than Tonopah. It's not New York City or San Francisco.

I don't think the Spirit is going to have to translate us to Iran in order for us to be faced with the principals we've studied this morning.

In Matthew 10:34 - 36 Jesus says; "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35"For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; 36and A MAN'S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.

We read right over this and never think twice about it. That's for another century, another place, another time. Maybe that will happen in the tribulation. Clearly it isn't about us, so we can breeze over passages like this. Right?

Here's the scenario. When it comes down to your stuff, your liberty, your property, someone in your own home isn't going to see it the way you do. They're going to say, just compromise. Bend a little. I'm not willing to lose everything over this book.

What could be more heart breaking than what Jesus warns us about here. When your own family members turn against you and become your enemies. It gives a whole new possible meaning to loving your enemies, praying for those who persecute you.

Well, we have one verse left, don't we. And I left it seperate on purpose. Because I think Jesus meant for this to be a sort of prologue to this section of his sermon.

He's visited anger, lust, lying, divorce, persecution, and radical love. How'd you do? Did you find yourself there? Or are you like the rich young ruler. Remember him?

Matt. 19:16 - 20 And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” 17And He said to him, “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18Then he said to Him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER; YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY; YOU SHALL NOT STEAL; YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS; 19HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER; and YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” 20The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?”

If you made it through Jesus teaching on the Sermon on the mount and you're sitting here saying, All these things I have kept; I have just one verse left for you, and it's what Jesus says in Matt. 5:48

48“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Last man standing, just got knocked down.

What is required to get into heaven? Perfection. Perfect righteousness. Sinless perfection.

That's why Paul said in Philippians 3:8  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,

If perfection is the bottom line, the only thing that's going to work is for Jesus to give me His righteousness, and take on Him, my sin and failure.

Since we have such a glorious saviour who has done that for us, let's make up our minds ahead of time that if we see times in our life time where the lines get drawn and enemies press in around us to cause us mischief, we remember what our Lord said about loving those enemies.