By Nicole McLeod
We are going to the “Sermon on the Mount” for our devotion so please turn in your Bibles to the Gospel of Matthew 5:43-48 and let’s open our hearts as we come to The Lord to listen to His teaching, and consider the challenging subject of “Loving like God loves us… even our enemies”.
Before we begin, I want to say this topic was not part of our original plan, but it does seem timely, as challenging days are coming upon us, we must trust God is faithful and will keep helping us to “Walk in Love” is truly our aim. More than ever, we need encouragements to live in a Christ honoring way, lest we fall into the trap of responding to people in un-Christlike ways. As Adrienne reminded us last week, through 1 Cor 13, love is to be an essential part of everything we do, in the Lord. He is, and will always be faithful to help us, and to lead us in Christlike love… even towards our enemies.
May He bless His Word to our hearts and our time here today, in Jesus Name
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaks to His disciples, and to “the crowd” that followed Him around to hear Him speak, and we are in that crowd today. These teachings would have likely been a part of his messages as he went about Galilee preaching the Kingdom of God, teaching what it means to live as a citizen of this Kingdom. His teaching had quite an impact, and Matthew, in 7:28-29 says this: “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” The True light had come!
The Scribes and Pharisees had taught the people that righteousness consisted of doing certain external and superficial actions, like praying giving, fasting, obeying rules and regulations, and this bred a religious self-righteousness. Now the Son of God had come to teach the truth, and show the way, teaching that true righteousness would come from Him, and center in the heart and attitudes of those who belong to God’s Kingdom. “…for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Sam. 16:7b
Jesus begins by correcting their wrong understanding of the law of Moses, which had led to wrong living and wrong loving. This section we will look at today is the last of 6 corrective statements in Matt. 5, all of which begin with the phrase, “You have heard that it was said” (past tense) “ but I say to you” (present tense). Note the contrast between their standards of “love”, and God’s, which is much higher.
Matt. 5:43-48 Jesus teaches: “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, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He (God) makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Jesus calls us, as citizens of His kingdom, to walk in these four aspects of God’s unconditional love, even towards the most challenging people, by:
1. loving our enemies,
2. blessing those who curse us,
3. doing good to those who hate us,
4. praying for those who spitefully use us and persecute us, that we may live as sons ( daughters) of our Father in heaven;” and as citizens of His kingdom.
1.“loving our enemies”
They had heard not the law, but what was taught, (43)“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ … and that fits rather well with the fallen nature doesn’t it? Anyone can live this way and feel justified.
But this is what the law actually says: Lev. 19: 18 “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”. The teachers left off the phrase “as yourself” – and added the opposite, hate your enemies – a command which does not appear anywhere in the law. Love for others shown in sympathetic concern and actual care was always God’s standard for human relations. There is also no command to love ourselves for we do that naturally, without even trying, and it is truly a rare person who loves their neighbor as graciously and forgivingly as themselves.
Lev. 19:34 adds “The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” Interesting that would mean that your neighbor would include also foreigners, the uncircumcised and enemies, whom their teachers did not tell them to love! Remember the question , “Who is my neighbor?” The Scribes and Pharisees interpreted the term “neighbor” to mean those in their own group, but in one way or another, everyone is our neighbor, and all are in need of God’s mercy and saving love.
Pause: * Thank God for good and faithful Bible teachers, our pastors and those who hold to the truth. We have been so blessed! Thank you also for our Bibles, to have Your Word in our own language is a great treasure. These followers had to rely on their teachers, and we have Your Word and Holy Spirit and good teachers too.
44 “ … I (Jesus) say to you, love your enemies,” Using the word agapaō in the present tense, the highest, and noblest form of love, Jesus is saying, “Be constantly loving your enemies.” This is a born-again and Spirit filled attitude of mind and heart that wants to be a witness to and channel of God’ love to others. It’s the highest form of love that a child of God can show, as its origin in from God (see 1 John 4:7-21) Agape is rightly called God’s “unconquerable benevolence, and invincible good will”. It’s a love that embraces the entire world (John 3:16), and He loved each one of us when we were still sinners, and showed it on the cross while we were His enemies (Romans 5:8-10). When Jesus mentioned "enemies" to first-century Jews, their minds naturally thought of the "evil" Samaritans, and the Roman oppressors they eventually hoped to overthrow. As a people, the Israelites had legitimate enemies. It's hard for us to understand what this was like for them, but Jesus was telling His Jewish audience to love the people they hated, who hated them and mistreated them, and to pray for those who actively persecuted them and would eventually kill many of them.
From David Guzik’s commentary on the blueletterbible, “ Jesus understood we will have enemies, yet we are to respond to them in love, trusting that God will protect our cause and destroy our enemies in the best way possible, by transforming them into our friends.”
One of my favorite pictures of God’s love for enemies, is seen in John 4 – where Jesus went out of his way to the land of the “hated” Samaritans, to reach out in love to a woman who had many husbands, and was living with a man, so He could give her a drink of living water, and change many lives. He did that for her, as He has come to each of us, and has done it for us- and our lives today are having an impact on the people around us, for Him. Your life is having an impact upon your family and friends, your church and community…. So, lets Love our enemies… like God loves us, and see what happens! It may transform an enemy into a friend and even transform a community. Love is the way!
Let’s pause again for a moment and look at the context – so we know what these verses do and don’t mean to us. These teachings are in reference to offenses in personal relationships – to be applied in response to our personal enemies, insults and offenses. These steps of showing unconditional love are distinct from taking steps with civil and judicial laws that God has set in place to handle criminal and legal offenses. Self-defense against crime is right, and criminals are to be brought to legal institutions who are in place to bring justice, keep the peace and protect citizens rights.
2. bless those who curse you,
In Romans 12:14 the apostle Paul also adds: “ Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” God is a blessing God and we truly need God’s power of love to return blessing for cursing. Blessing involves speaking, but it’s hard to get your heart and mind in the right place when people are hostile. Cursing is very provoking, we may get defensive or want to lash back with words… but this not about winning the moment, it’s about living for Christ, and perhaps even Christ winning the soul. We are called to speak kindly, bless and be courteous.
1 Peter 3:8-9 “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”
Jesus had told his disciples they would have enemies.In John 15:18-21 Jesus said, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. 19 If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20 Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21 They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me.”
From Warren Wiersbe’s Commentary on Luke 6: “When you have values different from those of the people of the world, and when you stand up for what is right, you are bound to have enemies. But If we retaliate, we are only living on their low level; but if we love them, do good to them, bless them and pray for them, then we rise to a higher level and glorify the Lord. It takes little effort to love our friends and serve them, but it takes faith to love our enemies and do them good.”
By faith is how we do everything in our Christian life. By faith, and through the power of the Holy Spirit according to the Word of the Lord.
3. do good to those who hate you
Doing good speaks of taking action. Agape love involves action, as we saw last week in 1 Cor 13, as all 15 of the characteristics of this love are given in verb form. It begins with Christ in the heart, but it is best seen in the real world by what it does. There are so many ways we can do good to people, and James says we may “know” the right thing to do, but not want to do it, and that is sin. So for today’s message and discussion time later, I’ve picked two ways we can do good, even to our enemies, 1) by forgiveness and 2) by trusting to God to take care of things.
1.) Forgiveness: Jesus taught us to pray Matt. 6:12 “And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” And then He lived this out on the cross, praying for all of us, while we were sinners, enemies of God, “Father forgive them; they know not what they do.” Stephen prayed, “Lay not this sin to their charge,” and people heard these prayers, and watched these men die, and some were cut to the heart. Much can be said for the power of forgiveness and how it sets us free. When we forgive others, we are the one set free.
I struggled for many years to try to forgive my father, but the problem wasn’t in him… it was inside me. When I gave my life to Christ and received God’s forgiveness, my own heart was transformed. I soon found the power to forgive and to ask my dad’s forgiveness as well. By the power of the Holy Spirit we were reconciled and love could flow. In the later years of his life, there was just love – and at the end of his life, he turned to God in Christ as well.
2.)Trusting God to take care of things – this one is also hard and takes surrender. Romans 12:17-21“ Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. 18 If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Vs. 13 - Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; give place to God for “Vengeance is Mine, I shall repay says the Lord” a promise He will fulfill perfectly, as He does everything perfectly and justly. And as James 1:20 tells us, “human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Our part is to walk in the Spirit and be led by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:14-18 “14 For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
vs. 22-25 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Humbly walking in the Spirit is truly a way to “take the higher road”.
4.pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
Jesus taught us to pray that God’s Name be hallowed, that His kingdom come and His will be done on earth as in heaven, and God hears our prayers. When questioned by Pilate after his arrest, John 18:6 “Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.” We don’t fight with carnal weapons, but with the power of prayer.
In 1 Timothy 2, Paul wrote, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority.” So we pray for the people who have the most power to promote good, or persecute, those in government and positions of authority at all levels, “ so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” We pray for their highest good, for their salvation and for laws that maintain our freedom to share the gospel so others can be saved and come to Christ too. This matters to God – “ who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, “This is the supreme command: Through the medium of prayer, we go to our persecutors, stand by their side, and plead to God for them.” Loving your enemies means praying for your persecutors.
And as we pray also for the persecuted Christians all around the world, we pray also for ourselves as challenging times are upon us, and for all of us, we pray for God’s transforming grace, a humble faith and a Christlike love for Jesus sake.
I think it’s helpful to remember that behind an enemy, is an enemy, we battle the world, our own flesh and the devil, and we need Divine help. These are days in which the armor of God (Eph 6) and clothing of love (Col 3) are both needed to live and love for Christ.
Ephesians 6:10-20 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritualhosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
May God give us boldness and courage through prayer to live and love for Christ and impact the world around us.
Matthew 5: 45-47 “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He (God) makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”
We need to remember who we are and Whose we are. Our Father sends the rain on the just and the unjust, He doesn't just send rain on those that fear and serve Him. And Jesus says it's important to love our enemies so we will be like our Father in Heaven, who shows love to all. We don't love those who hate us to get something in return, we do it because that's what children of our Father in heaven do. It's what we do as a citizen of God’s kingdom.
As we close our devotion time lets turn to Luke 6:27-36 which is a parallel passage in which we have some closing thoughts... Jesus says, “27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you…..
31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise….
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. 36 Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
And here’s the basic thought: We’re never more like God than when are kind and merciful. As God loves, we love… even our enemies - because the whole of salvation is based on the fact that God loves and has forgiven His enemies. Romans 2:4 says He exercises “goodness, patience and forbearance” with sinners, may we by His grace, do so as well.
And the final thought here (vs 48) “ Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfect, that’s not possible, there is no perfect person, only transformed people. Job was called “perfect” because he feared God and shunned evil. He was not sinless, but he was mature. but this is talking about going on to maturity, to completion.
1 John 3:1-3 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears [ a ] we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Amen! Let’s pray: Our Father, we come to You asking for your help to love people around us the way You have loved us, and to walk in love. And Lord, we pray You would be gracious and save those today , even those who are openly hostile toward Your truth. Turn them into friends by Your grace, and help us we pray. In Jesus name, amen.
“Loving like God loves us… even our enemies” from Matthew 5:43-48
Tuesday Morning devotion outline
In Matthew 5:43-48 , Jesus gives a simple and direct teaching on this subject (simple to understand, very challenging to live out). He says,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, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
1. Love your enemies
Leviticus 19:18, 34 1 Sam. 16:7b John 3:16 Romans 5:8-10 John 4
2. Bless those who curse you
Romans 12:14 John 15:18-21 Matthew 5:10-12 1 Cor. 4:12 Luke 6:27-35
3. Do good to them that hate you
James 1:20 Mat. 6:12, 10:22 Prov. 25:21 Romans 12:17-21. Galatians 5:13-18, 22-25
4. Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you
1 Timothy 2 Matthew 5:10-12 Eph. 6:18-19 Romans 2:4
5. Live as a child of God, love as He loves us
Luke 6:27-30 Romans 2:4 1 Peter 2:23 Matthew 7:28-29
How to love our enemies practical helps : (adapted from Steve Carr’s message on these verses)
1. We must be born again, and be filled with His Spirit of Agape love. All forms of love are reciprocal, but God’s love expects nothing in return. Romans 8:2, Gal. 5:22-23 The fruit of the Spirit is this kind of love.
2. Choose to forgive – as God forgives us all our sins, we are to pass this to others
3. Control your thought life – so we don’t keep going back to the offense and return to bitterness
4. Pray for perspective, to see this person as blind, lost, hardened and going to perish because they don’t know Him. “ Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing”
5. Speak kindly, show mercy, bless people 1 Peter 3:8-9
6. Pray … Ephesians 6:18-19 and do good!
Tips from Pastor Steve Carr: How do you deal with the
A. Be ready.
You must be ready for hostile and argumentative people when you share your faith. Jesus prepared His disciples with the understanding that people would hate them and some would even become spiteful. "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me" (John 15:20-21). Jesus even told His disciples that they should count themselves blessed because they were in very good company if they were persecuted. "Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you" (Matt. 5:11-12). Therefore, have you armed yourself with this mind that you will encounter people like this and are you ready to be reviled (1 Peter 4:1)? To be an effective and bold witness for Christ you must be ready for this to occur.
B. Don’t respond with anger or sarcasm.
Paul encouraged Timothy concerning how he should respond to those who would oppose him. "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Therefore, you must respond gently and humbly to those who oppose you. You must answer their words with the wisdom of God’s Word lest they think they have overcome you with their words. However, you cannot respond with the same attitude that you have experienced (Prov. 26:4-5).
C. Know when to move on.
There are some people that are initially argumentative when you first speak with them, however, are sincerely interested in talking with you concerning Christ. Others are completely hardened and resistive to any attempt by anyone to share Christ with them. You must discern the difference between these two types of people. If an individual is in anyway receptive to the Gospel you should see this person soften and become responsive as share concerning the love of Christ. If a person becomes increasingly agitated and sarcastic, leave a tract with them and politely excuse yourself.