Enemy Fire

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Introduction:

As we continue our series Kingdom Culture this morning, we are coming to the close of chapter 5 in the book of Matthew. Remember with me that Jesus is preaching what is known as the Sermon on the Mount, which contains the essentials for being His disciple.

We have explored the Beatitudes, the essential marks of character, that Christ desires us to embody. We looked at the call to be salt and light to the world – to radiate the hope of Christ to our world so that they may be redeemed and how we are able to do that is rooted in the power of Christ as the fulfillment of the law of Moses. And then over the past two weeks we have discovered the purity of heart and mind and body that Christ longs for us so that our words and deeds will be pleasing and righteous.

We see as Jesus, preaches a move from the beginning with the focus on the inner life, the very fiber of who we are, to our actions and interactions with creation.

Today we will be reading from Matthew 5:38-48 and you can turn in your bibles now or open your app on your device. It will also be on the screen in a few moments.

Story:

On December 9, 2015 David went outside after he got home from school to get the mail. The vibrant 9-year-old boy ran out the door about 4:00pm to go get the mail for his dad.

Within moments, the deafening screech of tires on the road could be heard and the worst nightmare began. A pickup truck was driving by as David darted into the road and could not avoid striking him.

David’s dad rushed out the door to see his son laying on the road motionless.

The driver did not suffer any physical injuries, but was deeply traumatized by the tragedy. Graciously, the boy’s father immediately showed compassion to the driver and went over to comfort him while his son laid there.

Later a representative for the family released a statement saying, “Our family has rallied around us and our hearts are strong. We rest in the arms of our Savior. David was active and enjoyed ‘working’ with dirt, shovels, tractors, orange caution cones, flashing lights and loved Jesus.”

This tragedy could have resulted in another tragedy but a grieving father showed compassion to whom could have been his enemy.

Movement 1:

Matthew 5:38-48 (NLT)
Teaching about Revenge
38 “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. 40 If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. 41 If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. 42 Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

Law of retaliation that is found in three Old Testament passages (Exod. 21:24; Lev 24:20; Deut. 19:21)

The law was intended as an equalizer of justice.

If a person knocks out my tooth, I get his. And if I poke out his eye, he gets mine. Retaliation as we know it sets out to get more than that. We want to up the ante. We want two eyes for an eye or a life for an eye. But this law limited retaliation so people could only get back what they lost. In addition to being merciful, the law limited retaliation for the offended. It didn’t allow the whole family to get into the act. When wronged, we tend to line up forces of family and friends to retaliate.

Without the law of retaliation, revenge goes from the individual to the family to the clan to the tribe and ultimately to whole nations. What seems like a blood- hungry law was actually a way of limiting violence and bloodshed. Furthermore, while the law allows one to get even within limits, it does not require one to get even. So even in the Old Testament one could forgo retaliation.

Jesus introduces us to a higher law, that of non-retaliation. His command was to never strike back and he applied this principle in specific ways – turn the other cheek (39), let him take your coat (40), go the second mile (41), give to the one who asks and lend to the would-be borrower (42).

We could assume that these ways are to be taken literally but Jesus is painting a picture for us beyond the letter of the 4

law. We need to remember that “6 He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:6). For instance, if we encounter someone begging for money to get something to eat and we give them what they ask for and they use it to get drunk or high – have we done a good deed? Have we acted in keeping with the law of love? Or has our intended blessing been a curse? What Jesus is commanding is a generous, compassionate spirit toward the needy.

Romans 12:19 – Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord.

Christ modeled this for us:

1 Peter 2:23 – He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.

In Christ, the fulfillment of the law, he is giving us not a new law but a new spirit. Jesus is primarily concerned about attitudes based on principles, not on rules. This does not lead us to timidity or to be weak and passive. He is telling us to not be vindictive but full of grace, truth, and love.

A couple of years ago when Tiger Woods won the Master’s Tournament, Fuzzy Zoeller responded with some mean, racist remarks—remarks he intended to be funny, but were only mean-spirited. Fuzzy received a great deal of well- deserved criticism for his comments, but Tiger Woods’ response was, “We all make mistakes and it’s time to move on.” Tiger could have returned the insult—the media would have loved it—but he refused to retaliate. Instead, he said, “Let’s move on.”

Do you share Tiger Woods’ response? Is this your attitude when you bear the brunt of insults? Can you say, “We all make mistakes and it’s time to move on?” Jesus did not give tit for tat. He was not in the business of getting even. Some of us would even the score, even if it kills us–and it may! By nature we are vindictive. Vindictiveness will eat our heart out. It will sour our spirit. How unlike the Savior we are. As soon as someone starts a rumor about us, we get on our high horse. Our backs arch like a cat. We show our fangs. We are ready to do battle. If given a chance, we will hang their hide on the wall. We are still in kindergarten spiritually, compared to our Lord. We believe that we must defend ourselves and vindicate ourselves. When it came to this kind of thing, our Lord Jesus was not concerned about His reputation. Are you willing to leave retaliation in God’s hands?

The first commitment we must make is to forgo our own rights. This is necessary because as a follower of Christ we have no “rights.” If you are to live like Jesus, you must go above and beyond the Law. This leads us to the second commitment we must make.

Movement 2:

Teaching about Love for Enemies
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48 But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

In each of the areas that Jesus speaks to regarding the Old Testament law, He quotes the law from the Old Testament passage and then gives a nobler interpretation. However, in this final one, Jesus makes one change. He gives the scriptural command ‘Love your neighbor” but then adds “hate your enemy’. This latter statement is not found anywhere in the sacred scriptures but was taught by the Jewish rabbis in Jesus’ time.

This was important for Jesus to counter act this false teaching because the hearers of the teaching would understand that to ‘love your neighbor’ meant only to love people of their own country, nation, and religion. If you only love those who you consider your neighbor then you hate those who are not considered your neighbor and thus are your enemy. The crowd that was listening to Jesus’ sermon must have said, “Okay, I will love my next-door neighbor, but those blasphemous Samaritans and unclean Gentiles— well, that’s another matter.”

Jesus made it clear in verse 44: ‘Love your enemies’. Loving your neighbor is natural, loving your enemy is supernatural.

Luke 6:27 – “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you.

Luke 6:35 – “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.

It has been said, “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine

Jesus does not say that you need to like your enemy or like what he does. Rather, you are called to love him or her. Biblical agape love requires that you are concerned about the welfare of even your enemies. This means that you will do things that will benefit and not harm them.

Why should you love your enemies? Jesus gives the purpose in loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you in 5:45 – In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.

When you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, you are like God who is so gracious that He gives good things even to those who rebel against Him.

The transcendent perfect love of God is seen in its

  • Universality
    • His love is for all people for everyone is created in His image.
  •  Compassion
    • The love of God extends to everyone, even those who are evil and unworthy and who do not love Him in return.
  • Practicality
    • God’s love actively seeks their welfare by His provision in temporal needs (food, housing, etc.) and eternal needs (sending of Jesus).

Jesus concludes this passage in 5:48 with the words: But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.

This verse summarizes not only this passage (5:38–48), but everything that has been said thus far in the Sermon on the Mount (5:3–47). Jesus makes it clear that the goal of Christianity is perfection.

The aim and goal of the Christian life is perfection (perfect in love) in the human sphere as God is perfect in the divine sphere.

Movement 3:

In your outline, I am going to jump to the last section and come back to the middle section.

I believe that there are 10 practical things that we can do to help us love our enemies when we find ourselves in these situations.

10 Steps to Loving Your “Enemy”

  1. Stop and breathe
    1. When you think about your “enemy”, you most likely have feelings of anger or something along those lines. Instead of letting those feelings overcome you and determine your actions, stop yourself. Be aware of the feelings. Take a deep breath (or ten) and take a step back.
  2. Pray for them
    1. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Pray for those who persecute you…”
  3. Detach yourself
    1. Imagine yourself floating out of your body and looking down on the situation as an objective observer. You are no longer you. This person has no longer done anything to you or someone you love … they’ve done it to someone else. Seeing the situation objectively is the first step — it’s too difficult to overcome the feelings if you’re in the middle of the situation.
  4. Seek to understand
    1. the objective of putting yourself in their shoes. But it’s important to stress it here, because if you can understand what they did and why they did it, you can take the next steps (below). Really try to understand, even if you don’t want to.
  5. Seek to accept
    1. Instead of fighting what has happened and who this person is, and wanting them to be different or to do things differently … accept them for who they are. Accept what has happened as a part of life. Accept that things can’t be different, because they have already happened.
  6. Forgive and let go
    1. Can you truly forgive this person for what they’ve done, in your heart? If you’ve detached yourself, you’ve sought to understand, and you’ve accepted them and what has happened … it should be easier. Try to think about this: what happened is in the past. It cannot be changed. You can either hate what’s happened in the past, and change nothing but be angry … or you can accept it and move on.
    2. Let it go. It will do nothing but eat you up. Once you’ve let go of the past … let go of your feelings about what this person has done. Move on. Those feelings can do you no good.
  7. Respect their dignity as God’s creation
    1. We don’t ever want to be defined by our past mistakes and actions. Consequently, we don’t want to define a person’s worth by their past mistakes and actions also. Even if people exhibit hurtful behavior, we are called to respect their dignity because they are human beings made in the image and likeness of God Himself. And because this person was formed and fashioned by the Creator Himself, we are still called to respect them…even if they don’t always respect us.
  8. Open your heart
    1. Our hearts tend to remain closed to most people, as a defensive mechanism. We are afraid of being vulnerable, of getting rejected or hurt. And yet, this closing off of our hearts is what blocks us from happiness many times, what blocks us from forming relationships, what blocks us from loving and finding love. Even if we’re able to open our hearts to our loved ones but no one else … that’s limiting ourselves. This is a great challenge, and something that really can only happen with practice. Try it here, with your former enemy … even if you can just open your heart a little, that’s the only way you’ll find love for the person.
  9. Reach out to them
    1. It’s one thing to feel love for the person … but quite another to express it in some way. There are many ways to express love, of course — some ways you might consider are telling them, saying nice things to them, having an open discussion about what’s happened or your feelings, giving them a hug, doing something nice for them, smiling, making a joke.
  10. Fast Forward
    1. Think about the important things in life and the long view of life. What is presently happening is a small part in a big picture. When we put it in perspective, it helps us be able to do the other 9 things on this list.

Conclusion:

Christ is calling us to love – not only as a present duty but as our present privilege, through the power of the Holy Spirit. God graciously gives this power to all who seek it through a love for Him and His will. The essence of the entire chapter 5 of Matthew is a call to holiness. The key characteristics of holiness are… (Beacon pg. 80)

  • Peaceableness
  • Purity
  • Harmony
  • Honesty
  • Kindness
  • Love

Response:

When you look at the requirements, the call found in the Sermon on the Mount, you rightfully ask, “Could I really do that?” But that’s the wrong question to focus on. The first and most important question is: “Can I answer Jesus’ call to discipleship?” If you answer that affirmatively, you automatically answer the question, “Can I carry out Jesus’ discipleship demands?” As a disciple, because you’ve already decided up front that you’ll obey Jesus’ commands, the question now is not will you live the life, but how?

Surrender. Let go. Choose to trust.

Current tensions in our culture and in our world.

Are you in need of forgiveness?
Are there those who you need to ask for forgiveness?

Are others that you need to forgive?

Kingdom Culture Sermon Series Graphic
Kingdom Culture Sermon Series Graphic
Kingdom Culture Sermon Series Graphic