Loving your Enemies
General Idea: This passage is about how we are to treat others around us. The theme of the Sermon on the Mount is clearly echoed here in this passage. The call is to serve others as Christ has served us, and to treat others as Christ has treated us. This means the carrying out of love, grace, understanding in all of our associations and then not reacting with our emotions, rather as Christ called. The attitude is not to judge, or to overreact, or to bow to our emotions, or to let others malevolence get the best of you; rather allow the flow of the Spirit in to us and out from us.
If we follow Christ, we will gain enemies who will want to destroy us. We are called to do a difficult thing, to seek Christ and not our pride or the overreaction of our emotions. This is completely opposed to our fallen human thinking and culture--not to pay back evil for evil. Yet, this is our first thought when something bad happens. It was the typical American thinking to desire to destroy Afghanistan after 9/11, but, clear thinking prevailed--that there are millions of people that are innocent and victims of the same rulers and terrorists who attacked us. We must see that it is God's position and authority to exercise revenge; it is our role to seek peace, harmony at the same time we are to be discerning. Thus, it is good character to seek why it happened, find out the real problems and then act, just as our government did. God even calls us to bless people who hate us! So, we have to find a way to retune our thinking to these challenging precepts of Scripture.
1. When you earnestly serve the Lord, people will rise up against you! The exhortation given to us is not to overreact, rather seek kind solutions and pray for those who seek to harm us (Matt.5:10-12; Luke 6:28; 2 Tim. 3:12).
a. Curse them, this meaning having an emotional response, it refers to making "wise cracks" as in demeaning someone because they first demeaned or humiliated you. We are to see past how others react and concentrate how we act in response! We do this by referring our mindsets to God's justice and not our own! This is allowing the covenantal work of God (Deut. 27:11-30:20) and not superimposing ours (this does not refer to braking civil laws or causing abuse, in such things involve the civil authorities!).
b. Christians will also come against us and attack. We must know that other Christians who are "apostate," (not living according to the Word, but according to their own desires, such as gossipers, and hypocrites), who are refusing to serve in their call, will come and attack you the hardest when you honestly and faithfully serve the Lord! They do this because they are out of God's will, in order to make themselves feel good and satisfied, and to elevate themselves, they must bring Godly Christians down. The Pharisees were the equivalent of apostate Christians in Jesus time.
c. Rejoice…weeping…morn, this means to identify with others with understating, compassion, empathy and sympathy. We are to express the unity of Christ, so be involved with God's love to others (Luke 6:31)!
2. Our response to Satan is found in Eph. 6 and 1 Pet 5:8. Our response to our enemy, both secular and apostate Christian, is to love them (we are not to love Satan!). If you are in a role of hate, the thing that hurts the most is someone coming to you in love! Conviction is very painful when we do not yield.
a. Live in harmony, meaning empting ourselves of pride to allow the work of sanctification that beings humility and love, by respecting and sharing the same love and thoughts- togetherness (Phil. 2:1-8). It is about positioning ourselves in Christ not in the ways of the world, being harmonious not filled with self-conceit!
b. Your revenge is to be love, for this has the greatest sting! And, it has the greatest positive effect. When we turn an enemy into a friend, we have won an incredible battle, and prevented future war. We are to turn strife into an incredible blessing!
c. God will allow your enemies to teach you, as an enemy may know you better than you know yourself. Thus, go to school by their attacks. Learn, and grow in Christ.
d. Let God be the judge! He is God and knows the true motivation and circumstances of people, which we do not have access to. Thus, He will judge with the right amount of vengeance. Our vengeance is insignificant, and unnecessary, and unlawful before God! Let God be God.
e. Low position, man we are to go out of our way to associate with others of different races and classes. Because real self worth and value is determined who we are in Christ, not who we are in the world. Career, money power have there role, but when they become our identity they are illusions made to think we are relevant and important, there is no comparison to what we have in Christ! How and what we think determines how we live and treat others (Prov. 3:7)!
3. We are to be "peace makers," and not hide in protest, or fight in ignorance. This is about how we react. There are times when Christians must take a stand to defend morality, such as the anti-abortion movement. This must always be done in love and listening, and in kindness, while never compromising integrity or values. There are also times when we must go to war, either for defense or to defend others. This is not a rejection of the sixth commandment of, "you shall not murder." Rather it is the protection and responsibility to the government, which is moral and just if followed biblically.
a. Live at peace, this is what we are to be because who we are in Christ. We will fail at it, as conviction sits up negative responses in others as does pride, fear and attitudes. But we are still to strive for peace even though we may not get it! Truth will divide, but also will unite!
b. We are to have "Heavenly Qualities" of brotherly love, hatred of evil, joyfulness, diligence, sympathy for others, honor, and peacefulness. These are not "Spiritual Gifts." They are the character we are ALL to emulate. We cannot say, "I do not have the gift of mercy," because we are all to have it in its character form. The person who actually has the gift will be able to rally people around it, and take more direct action.
c. We must not have a desire to use revenge in order to "get even" (Deut. 32:35; 2 Sam. 22:48; Jer. 51:56; Prov. 20:22; 25: 21-22; Matt. 5:39). This means to show grace and love, if not we make it worse. As our Chinese friends say, "You better first dig two graves before seeking revenge."
d. Greeks believed that whatever happens to a person is because of fate and they deserved it, but as Christians we have grace. We must have stricter virtue, honor and character than the society in which we live to show Christ.
e. Heap burring coals on his head, meaning guilt, conscience and the Lord's conviction and judgment will go after the person so we do not need too. The typical response from society is, "I could care less," or, "forget about it (in a cynical tone)." These are expressions of hurt, even though they verbally say otherwise. The burning coals will convict them or punish them. Because they do not see the cost that the Lord paid for them, they are unwilling to respond to the gift of Grace. Christ pursues them, and all they have to do is respond to His call. The world's desire is to tell the person off and seek revenge. To observe this, watch the daytime talk shows. We, as Christians, are called to a higher standard-one that builds, edifies, and reconciles (Proverbs 25: 21-22)!
Satan will attack us, which we should expect! Christians will also attack like the TV show, "when animals attack" (I could not resist this pun!) This is the one thing we do not expect to happen, but it does. It is one of the sorriest and pathetic things under the sun. It is also one of the most hurtful things on par with having a family member attack us. These attacks are rarely physical in nature, although I have observed many a fist fight in a church. The attacks are usually in the form of gossip, slander, legalism, and such. As many child psychologists suggest, verbal abuse is tougher to overcome than physical abuse. Many Christians fail to realize that our intrinsic value is from Christ not what others say or do, so look to Him and all else will fall into place! However, we forget and we fight! So it is when churches fight and people leave, never to venture into another church again! Thus we are to look at Christ as our Lord and example and not what other Christians seem to do to us. Our faith is in Christ not in how we are treated in Church; however we must always strive to do our best at treating others even at churches with excellence in the way of the Fruit of the Spirit! If we can't do it at our "Home" how can we do it in our personal homes and community?
Truth will divide, but also it will unite, so we have to find away to retune our thinking to these challenging precepts of Scripture. If we have the opportunity to turn an enemy into a friend, then we must do what it takes to make it so. We do this by doing good to those who seek to do us harm!
Learning Outcomes: a. To know what it means to overcome evil for good.
b. To be committed to God's justice and not our own, thus, not to retaliate evil for evil, but to trust in God's justice to prevail. c. To understand we worship Christ for our identity not how others treat us.
1. Have you ever been in a fight? If so, how did you feel in the heat of battle? How would you feel as a Christian? Would the character of Christ come out or the emotion of retribution?
2. Jesus calls us to love our enemies. How do you feel about this? Is it something you practice?
3. Have you ever prayed for an enemy? If so, how did you feel?
4. If you follow Christ, you will gain enemies who want to destroy you. So, have you personally experienced this?
5. How did if effect your faith? Did it build you stronger or cause you to flee?
6. Why is Christ's call to love our enemies completely opposed to our fallen human thinking and culture?
7. Do you desire to pay back evil for evil?
8. How did you feel about September 11, 2001, or December 7, 1941?
9. What is your first thought when something bad happens?
10. How and what does God desire your thoughts to be when others mistreat you? What about when Christians mistreat you?
11. God even calls us to bless people who hate us! So what have you done to exercise this call?
12. What would happen in your society if all Christians did as Jesus called in this passage?
13. When you earnestly serve the Lord, people will rise up against you. Have you experienced this? If so how?
14. Read II Tim. 3:12: Why would we endure hardships for being godly? Does this frustrate you or give you perseverance (remember Christ suffered for you, and you live in a fallen and corrupt world from sin)?
15. Satan will attack us, which we should expect! So why would some Christians believe they do not have to worry about persecution or hardships?
16. How do you feel knowing that Christian brothers and sisters are suffering and dieing by the thousands in counties such as Sudan, or being severely persecuted in North Korea?
17. Sometimes misguided Christians (if that's what they are, remember wolves infest the sheep) will attack other Christians who are doing a good work. Why is this something we should not expect to happen? Or should we expect it?
18. In your experience what has happened when people leave the church because of slander, do they come back or go to another church?
19. Should they leave, why or why not?
20. What would be the best way to handle misguided Christians attacking you or someone else when you honestly and faithfully serve the Lord?
21. What are some possible reasons why misguided Christians would attack others?
22. Read Eph. 6 and I Pet 5:8: What can you do to develop a response to Satan's attacks?
23. We have to love our enemies or at least try, so why are we not allowed to love Satan?
24. If you ever were filled with hate for someone, how would it feel to receive love by the person you hated or was hating you?
25. Knowing that for people filled with hate, the best way to hurt them back is to love them! How will this effect or empower you the next time you have to deal with a hateful person or an enemy?
26. Have you ever struggled with hate yourself?
27. If so how did you deal with it? If not how can you prevent it?
28. How can it be very painful when we do not yield to the character of Christ?
29. What causes conviction in you?
30. Have you, or have you known someone who was able to turn an enemy into a friend?
31. What can your church do to turn strife into an incredible blessing?
32. God will allow your enemies to teach you, so what can they teach you?
33. How and why could an enemy know you better than you can know yourself?
34. When the next time an enemy strikes you, how will you handle it?
35. We must not have a desire to get even with revenge as our Chinese friends say, "you better first dig two graves before seeking revenge". Why?
36. What do you have to remove from yourself to allow God to be the judge?
37. What is the role of a "peace maker"? How can you and your church develop this skill?
38. What does it mean to overcome evil for good?
39. What can you do to be committed to God's justice and not our own? (We are not to retaliate evil for evil, trust in God's justice to prevail.)
"Kingdom of God": Throughout recorded human history, humanity has gathered with one another for trade, and protection, as well as organization for gathering food, hunting, and relationships within a structure which translates into control and government. Kingdom means government; it is our need to be organized for purpose and direction. Some people strive to obey, while others lead, and some seek to destroy it. That is our criminal element. Nevertheless, we need leadership and direction to succeed in building a society. Biblically, we are called to have a civil government and obey it within the parameters that there is actually only one true government and leader--God. It refers to the exercise of our God's "Lordship," that He is our King. Hence, comes the name "Kingdom of God." He is sovereign; He is the absolute monarch of the universe. His rule is absolute. When we refuse to be governed and controlled, we will revert in our sinful nature to anarchy and chaos, causing others harm (Rom. 1:21). Thus, it is our responsibility to obey God and man (Rom 13:1-7).
This theme is found throughout Scripture, and links the two Testaments. It is what is now with God's reign of His people and what will come in the future (Psalm 10:16--18; Dan. 2:44; 4:34; Isa. 9:6-7; Matt 3:1-12; 4:23; 24:14; 28:18-20; Luke 11:20; 16:16; 17:21; 22:16-30; John 18:36; Acts 20:25; 28:23-31; Col. 1:13; 28-29; Gal. 3:16; 26-29; Eph. 2:11-18; 3:6-15; Heb. 1:8-14; Rev. 5:9-10; 7:9; 17:14; 19:16).
John the Baptist announced the Kingdom to us with a since of urgency and at the inauguration of Jesus' ministry on earth. It is now in it's beginning and will be fulfilled, as Jesus said, in the future. Thus, it is already running, and there is more to come with Christ's second coming. Exactly what, we do not know, we only have a glimpse that it will be consummated.
Jesus preached the 'Kingdom of Heaven', which is here and is to come (Matt. 3:2; 4:23; 5:3,10,19-20; 6:10; 33; 7:21; 10:7; 13:24-47). The term the Kingdom of Heaven in Mathew is the same thing as the 'Kingdom of God' in the other 3 Gospels. They both mean God's rule and sovereignty. They point to our eternal future and the church today. Matthew used the expression "Kingdom of Heaven" almost exclusively, whereas the other gospels use the term "kingdom of God" The distinction is who the audience was, to the Jew who Matthew wrote too were reluctant to say the name of God because of their high reverence to His name. To the gentiles and Greeks it did not matter. The kingdom of heaven will culminate with our Lord's second coming with a new heaven and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13-14; Rev. 21-22)
Our task in the church is to proclaim Christ as Lord, His character, righteousness, peace, and joy, all by the Holy Spirit. The "Coming of the Kingdom" in the O.T. meant that a new stage in God's redemptive plan was coming, CHRIST. The meaning for us is our personal identification/relationship to our Lord and Savior! This is our need, to bow to His Lordship for our betterment and growth!
© 1998, 2001, 2005 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries http://www.intothyword.org/