If you have your Bibles go ahead and grab them. Matthew, chapter 5, is where we’re going to be. If you’re a guest with us today and don’t have a Bible with you or don’t own a Bible, there should be a hardback black one somewhere around you. Again, if you don’t own one, don’t just use that; that’s our gift to you. Just take that; I believe it will be beneficial.
Everyone born of woman, which would include all of us (correct?) was born with an innate sense of justice. You and I are born, and inside each of us is this kind of real specific sense of justice. It might not be dialed in correctly, but we have a sense of what is just and what is right. Since that’s true, since all of us were born with an innate sense of justice, we are all naturally inclined to retaliation and revenge. We do not have to be trained in it. We do not have to be taught it. We very naturally will retaliate against those who offend our sense of justice. You don’t get trained in this. You just do it.
My middle child is soon to be 7 years old. Sweetest disposition of any young boy I’ve ever been around, and I saw him attack another kid at a birthday party like a lion attacks an antelope. Like jumped on the kid’s back and bit the back of his neck, and all of this because he felt as though there was an injustice. Naturally, I’ve never pounced on anyone like a puma in my life. I’ve never seen Lauren do that. He did not pick that up from his environment. He just attacked this poor kid.
I have seen grown men and women on the freeway either get right up on the trunk of the car in front of them or, my favorite move, speed past them, cut in front of them, and slam on their brakes. Do you know what that is? That is, “I have been the recipient of injustice and will not stand for it.” I have seen grown men and women attack one another verbally, cut the legs out from one another. All of this stems from an intrinsic belief in justice and the refusal to tolerate at any level injustice.
Now here’s the problem with that. The problem with our sense of justice and how naturally we retaliate or seek revenge… The issue honestly becomes that revenge and retaliation rarely if ever actually bring about peace, because we all have a sense of what is just. Revenge and retaliation, more often than not, simply elevate and escalate the conflict, because they tip the scales. Someone does something to us, so we retaliate because we have been the victim of injustice, so let’s set the scales right. We retaliate, and what happens in that moment?
Even if the person is willing, and that’s a huge if, to even admit there has been an injustice against you, you certainly went over the top on your retaliation, so that forces them and their sense of justice to retaliate your over-retaliatory attack on them, which only then emboldens you to fight back all the harder. It escalates, and it escalates, and it escalates, and it escalates. What started as silly can turn into something devastating in a hurry, and it all starts because you and I are born with a sense of justice, are born with a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, and naturally flowing out of that sense of justice are retaliation and revenge.
Retaliation and revenge rarely, if ever, solve conflict, nor do they rarely if ever bring about peace with legitimate enemies. Jesus is going to enter the fray here. In this whole series what Jesus has done is he has shown up in the very difficult scenarios and situations like this, because we can agree justice is good. No one is going to go, “We don’t want justice!” Even God is a God of justice, so justice is good, but because we’re broken our outworking of justice actually leads to sin growing and conflict escalating, so Jesus is going to enter the fray.
The problem with Jesus entering the fray for you and me as broken people is… Maybe this is the best way to illustrate it. I’ve been with my wife for 15 years: 2 years dating, 13 years married. I’m not saying my wife is my enemy, nor am I using an illustration about retaliation and revenge in my marriage. It would not be right or safe. I’ve been married to Lauren for 13 years. We’ve been together for 15, and my in-laws in that amount of time have bought four separate houses they purchased, gutted, and rebuilt from the inside.
I think that’s dumb. My card is on the table. If you want a house with a big room, don’t buy a house with two small rooms that then requires you to have to rip the house out to get your big room. Find a house with a big room! How hard is this? If you want a bigger closet, don’t buy a house with a tiny closet. Buy a house with a larger closet. But they’ve done it four times. Now the reason it’s dumb is because I lack vision, and I lack skill. It’s just the truth. My mother-in-law can walk into a house and just almost immediately (it’s some sort of weird, freak gift) feel that the flow needs to be different in the house.
“The house would just feel better…” All right, follow me here. “…if it was more open when you walked in, if you could see through this, if this room was larger, if you created a wall here.” None of this is actually in place. “This kind of floor will match this kind of wall, and we could take some wainscoting…” I didn’t even know what that was four years ago. “…and put it down at the bottom. Then what we could do is put canned lighting in.” She sees it, and my father-in-law is skilled enough to execute.
I not only lack the vision, but I’m completely incompetent in those matters. Over the last 15 years, there have been times my father-in-law has invited me to participate in these remodels. Before you take this to a place I’m not taking it, those projects are always like, “Take the nails out of that board. Go dig a hole out on the side of the house.” Those kind of tasks. In fact, I believe there have been a couple of instances where I’ve just been taking nails out of wood we planned on throwing away.
In all of these years (four different remodels), I’ve been allowed to use the saw twice, and both times everyone stopped what they were doing and came to just watch to make sure I didn’t lose a hand or I didn’t ruin the cut, because I use my hands a lot, and it’s going to be even more distracting if I’m missing a finger. It’s going to start throwing you off if I’m preaching and I’ve maligned myself because I was trying to put baseboards in.
In the end, here’s what I have learned about reconstruction: it’s always harder than you think it’s going to be, it always takes longer, and the tools you need are usually the tools you don’t have. The room is not going to be square to begin with. Your nail gun is going to jam. The one socket wrench you need is the one you don’t have. You have every drill bit created by man except the one-sixteenth, which is the one you need. You will begin to wear out the road between your house and Lowes and/or Home Depot, depending on your allegiances. Remodeling takes longer than you want and is painful, especially if you’re trying to live in the house while you do it.
Why would I use this illustration? Because what Jesus is doing in this Sermon on the Mount is really coming into where we live, coming into our homes, and he’s remodeling. He’s remodeling while we live in it. He’s blowing out walls. He’s changing the flow. He’s creating a new feel. He’s reshaping how we think. He’s reshaping how we act. He’s creating new walls for our good and for our ultimate comfort, albeit not comfortable while he’s blowing out walls and rearranging the furniture. He’s going to enter into this idea of retaliation and revenge in a way that blows out all our walls and takes what we find to be a tidy, little home, and he’s going to rearrange it.
I’m telling you, it’s painful when God rearranges the house. You’re kind of like me in that scenario where my mother-in-law was kind of talking about how the room is going to look and no matter how much she talks I just get more confused and think, “This is all dumb.” I want to give you a word of warning that what Jesus is about to teach goes contrary to almost everything you’re going to feel in your gut. Aren’t you glad you’re here? Let’s do work.
Matthew, chapter 5. We’re going to pick it up in verse 38. “You have heard that it was said, ’An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” That’s justice, is it not? I mean, that actually is a pretty nice little sentence in regard to justice because it gets rid of all privilege. It gets rid of all socioeconomic or ethnic pecking orders. If you pluck out an eye, you lose an eye. If you knock out a tooth, you lose a tooth. It doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you are in the pecking order of culture. If you make somebody lose their eye, you get your eye plucked out. If you knock out somebody’s tooth, you’re going to get your tooth knocked out.
It seems on the surface pretty fair and pretty straight, like something we could live with. Except, if you’ll remember what Jesus is after… We said this in, I believe, week one or two of this series that Jesus is after the transformation of our inward motivations and our inward understanding of how things actually work in the universe. Here’s what he is going to say. Verse 39: “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is…” What? “…evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic…”
Keep in mind this is someone who is evil who is suing you for your tunic. “…if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” Now that runs about as contrary to our gut as anything I’ve ever read. Can I just talk to the men? What part deep inside of you would respond to an open-hand slap of your face with, “That’s okay,” or “That’s all right with me”?
In fact, what I know about men is if you punch a man and knock him out he will be able to deal with that more healthily than he will if you open-hand slap him. To open-hand slap a man is to wound not only his face but his soul. He will replay that for the rest of his life and will desire to choke you out. If you get knocked out you just get knocked out, but if a man slaps you there is a component of shame built into that. He just said, “If someone who is evil slaps you, give them your other cheek. If someone who is evil sues you for your inner garment, give them your outer garment also. If someone forces you to walk one mile, give them two.”
This is counterintuitive and what Jesus has just done in this teaching is he’s tossed a hand grenade into your living room to blow out all the walls. Specifically, the walls and the way of thinking and the way of living that says, “Ultimately, my push, my pursuit, what I’m after and the lenses and filter by which I should see the whole world around me is in the interest of my own self!” Really what matters when all is said and done is, “Is this good for me? Is this right for me? Is this just for me? Does this benefit me? Does this move me forward?” He has just deconstructed our ability to think that way.
Two years ago I pressed long and hard about this idea of how miserable of a human you are if ultimately everything is about you. The more the world is about you, the more anxiety you’re going to feel. The more the world is about you, the more fear will exist in your heart. The more the world is about you, the more angry you will be. The more the world is about you, the more you elevate yourself as the purpose. I don’t think anybody would ever say this, but the more you actually walk in the belief that you’re the sun and everyone else is the planets kind of orbiting around you, the more miserable of a human being you’re going to be.
Because if you’re the point of it all, doesn’t that make your spouse your maid? If you’re the point of it all, doesn’t that put an undue amount of weight on your children to reflect well upon you? Doesn’t that mean you’ll have to discipline cruelly? Doesn’t that mean you’ll have to crush any type of vitality or personality? Doesn’t that mean you’ll need some sort of Stepford child to do everything perfectly all the time? Won’t you heap that expectation on them because it reflects on you?
You need to discipline your kids. I am not advocating a lack of discipline. I’m advocating a love and concern for your children that’s not about you but is about them. If your kid is acting a fool in Blue Goose and throwing chips like ninja stars at other tables, I think you should handle that. You can handle it your own way. We handle it our own way, but it gets handled. I’m not talking about a lack of disciplining your children. I’m saying a pressure on your children to behave a certain way or look a certain way, not because it’s good for them but because it looks good on you. That’s different.
How good of a co-worker are you if it’s all about you? How good of a neighbor are you if it’s all about you? Do I need to keep going, or do you have my point? I mean, I can keep going. I have nothing but time here. The more you make the world about you, the more anxious, fearful, and miserable you’ll be, and the more you get freed up from that, the more life, vitality, and I would even say happiness and an ability to be untouchable settles in on those who understand it’s not all about them.
This is the deconstruction of our house. This is the knocking out of walls and the ripping up of floors. It grates against the flow of our lives that has us first and foremost as our primary, saying, “Is this best for me? Is this what’s good for me? Is this what I want?” It blows up us seeing through the lenses of our personal self-interest being the driving force of our lives. The salt and light of the world, God’s chosen people, are not to live that way.
Let’s be honest here. If we’re reading this text and being honest, if Christian men and women historically were literally to follow this text without continuing to read the text, then so much of what God has accomplished through his people over the last 200 years would not be in place. If the men and women of God would have read this text and not kept reading, there would be no dismantling of the slave trade. If Christian men and women would not have kept reading in this text and not continued to press past the verses we just read, then the civil rights movement would not have gained traction in the 60s.
How are we to read this text in light of the fact that Jesus cleansed the temple, flipped over tables, made a whip, and drove moneychangers out? How are we to read this text in light of so many good things we’ve been called to stand against in regard to injustice? The next part of this text is the reconstruction of how God would have us to live as salt and light in the world, how he would have us a church to be a city on a hill. Verse 43:
“You have heard that it was said, ’You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Two things, and then I want to roll out the point of this text in light of all that we’ve read today out of the Bible. The first thing I want you to notice is, again, this is counterintuitive. There is nothing easy or natural about loving your enemies. What is natural and easy is what was first listed: to love those who love us and to hate those who hate us. It is a very easy work of our hearts to go, “Oh, you hate me? Well, I hate you. I didn’t even need a reason to hate you. Just finding out that you hate me makes me hate you back.” That’s natural, right? Kids do it. Adults do it. We all do it. It’s natural. It’s what’s inside of us.
What Jesus has just demanded of his people (remember, this is a superseding righteousness that Christ is creating in our hearts) is that we would love our enemies and pray for them. He even says there is a reward for loving your enemies and praying for your enemies that is not present when you love those who love you. If you love somebody who loves you, there is reciprocity there. Are you tracking with me? There is no reward. They love you; you love them. How easy is that? But if you love those who hate you, if you love your enemies, then the reward that is…don’t lose me here…possible is that you might bring peace to where there is strife and you might see an enemy come under the same saving grace you were able to come under.
I don’t ever want to take things further than the Scriptures allow them to be taken, so let me be very, very straight with you. There are times we love our enemies and we pray for our enemies that do not bring peace; it simply emboldens our enemies to attack all the more. Amen? I’m not trying to say, “Be nice, and it will all work out.” That’s not what I said. Do you know the proverb that says a kind word is like heaping burning coals on someone’s head? Can we chat about that for a second? How do people who have coals heaped on their heads respond? Your answer should be, “I think they respond like this.”
It shouldn’t be, “Here’s how they respond. Last night I saw…” They respond with agitation and anger and are emboldened to attack all the more. Again, another example of a verse we try to make cute that is not trying to help us see the cutesy-ness of our allegiance to Christ, but actually some of the conflict that is intrinsic within being faithful to Jesus Christ. There have been times where I’ve tried to act loving toward an enemy of mine and found it only emboldened their rage toward me. When you are kind to your enemies, it will press on deep-seated soul issues, and if conviction flares up, it will work itself out in rage toward you.
The opportunity for reconciliation, peace, and maybe winning a brother or sister over to the Lord is there if you love your enemy. None of that reward exists if your plan is retaliation and revenge. No shot at all. You will simply escalate it. The point of the text here actually becomes Christ being interested in our motive and then our motive being how we see the first part of that text. Let me flush this out like this: sometimes the most loving thing I could do for someone who slaps my cheek is to not give them my other cheek. Sometimes the most loving thing I could possibly do is not allow you to take my tunic or my cloak, but to make a stand. The most loving thing I could do is to refuse to walk that mile with you.
Two nights ago my youngest, little Norah, woke up throwing up. I don’t know how many of you parents have had the joy of the 3:00 a.m. “there’s something to clean up on the carpet in my room” wakeup call. Really a delightful thing. I went in and cleaned that up and then cuddled with her for a while. I woke up around 4:30 with her mouth breathing right into my face. I thought, “I wonder when that’s going to hit me in the next week.” Then she got up and threw up again. She got to the toilet that time. When you’re 3 you’re learning this is where you have to get when this happens. She made it on that one. I put her back to bed and then went to bed.
My wife was speaking at a conference called “Sparrow” up at UNT this week at an event for collegiate young women, so I had all three of the babies. We had a party at our house Thursday night. There was stuff left over from that party, so on our countertop is some carrot cake that Kimberly Miller, Brian Miller’s wife (one of our lead pastors), brought to the party. What does Norah want for breakfast two hours after she vomited all over the bathroom? Does anybody want to guess? Did she want a cracker? No, she wants the carrot cake.
Is it most loving of me to cut her a big ol’ piece and put it on a plate and give it to her with maybe some milk? Or is the most loving thing I could do go, “No, I’m not giving that to you”? I tried to be loving. She did not see, sense, or understand what I was doing was loving. In fact, lip quivering, eyes filling with tears, wounded my soul, “How could you, Father?” meltdown on the kitchen floor because I would not allow her to vomit much more moving into the day.
In the same way, our motive being love are the lenses by which we see the world around us and take our enemies and the attack of our enemies on our lives and lay them on the scale of how we respond. Let’s be real honest. Maybe we’re different. Maybe you’re just far godlier than I am, but I almost always feel like the most loving thing I could do is say, “No.” I almost always feel like the most loving thing I could do is not give you my other cheek, is not give you my tunic, is not walk that mile with you. I almost always feel the most loving thing to do is to stand my ground and not allow myself to be the recipient of injustice.
How do you work through this if what Jesus is saying here is, “Motivated by love, we are to decide in the moment with our enemies whether to be motivated by love or be motivated by self-preservation and our own pride.” How do you wade through that, because that gets messy, doesn’t it? I mean, that’s like seeing through mud. It’s just not an easy thing. Here’s what I think you have to have if you’re going to be able to get in your own heart and tell what your motives are. Is my motive self-preservation? Is my motive the exaltation of self, the convenience of self, the pride of self, or is my motivation genuinely love?
First, walk in wisdom. This is going to require you to not be biblically ignorant. Let me be really clear here. I’m not talking about verses you know; I’m talking about verses you’ve been able to apply. To know verses of the Bible does not mean you know your Bible. Do we understand? You actually have to be able to apply the truths of the Scripture for them to be of any real value. This should not be difficult for you to believe. Are you able to drain from your food the nutrients in your food if you very quickly vomit it up and don’t digest it? That’s a disorder called bulimia. Are you tracking? People die of it. We have to be able to digest and apply.
Secondly, walk in community. If you lack wisdom from the Word of God and then aren’t walking in community with others, I think what we’re talking about here is nearly impossible for you, and you will always pick your flesh. You will always pick what you feel is best for you and not what is best overall for everyone involved. Here’s what I mean about community. I’m in a home group. I don’t ask you to do anything I don’t do myself, so my home group is Brad Payne, Brian Miller, and Josh Patterson. When you hear me talk about the guys I run stuff by, the men I walk with, those are primarily who I’m talking about.
Those men and their wives make up the home group I’m in. We meet on Sunday nights. We’re meeting tonight. Those guys know me. They know how I respond, how I react. They know my iniquities, my bents, and they are able to, in a given situation, help me wade through what’s true and what’s not true. When you’re fully known, people can look from an outside perspective. Not building people who are going to defend you and be on your side no matter what. People who really love you are willing to tell the truth to you.
If you don’t have truth-tellers in your life, if you don’t have people who consistently or at least every once in a while tell you things you don’t want to hear, then you have put around you people who when all is said and done value your friendship more than they value your soul. That’s not healthy or good for you in the long run. Each one of those men I’ve named has no problem going, “I think you’re being a fool. I think this is your pride. I think you just don’t want to be seen in this light and that’s why you’re responding this way.” They’re able to speak into, knowing the details, a situation and help me work through whether or not my motivation is myself or my motivation is love for all involved.
I think the bigger question here is that all of this feels really impossible, so how do we grow in love in such a way that we have the capacity to love our enemies? Because to be straight, I just don’t feel like I have the capacity most of the time. How do we grow in our ability to love our enemies? I think there are probably more, but let me give you the three things we’re going to cover if we’re going to love our enemies.
1. We have to grow in our understanding of being children of God. I always want to point back to this because I find such a neglect in the Christian mind and in the Christian heart over this simple, basic truth. Yes, God has forgiven you in Jesus Christ. Yes, your sins are forgiven because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I think people get that by and large. They accept that by and large. It’s the foundation on which they stand, and rightfully so. Justification is the crown jewel of our relationship with God.
But we can’t tend to get past God the Judge and get to God the Father, that God delights in you, that God loves you, that God is concerned for you, that God is passionate about you, that the Spirit of God feels things concerning you. Those things are not regret. Those things are not, “I can’t wait for this guy to grow up.” God loves you. We have a hard time with that. We have a difficult time believing that. Do you know why? Because we know us. We know us, but if you don’t understand God as Father, then you will doubt situations and scenarios and not trust him to be your Father.
Let me give you an example. Matthew 6:31-32 says, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ’What shall we eat?’ or ’What shall we drink?’ or ’What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” If we don’t have a heavenly Father who knows we need food, we need clothes, we need shelter, and we need protection, then we are forced to handle those things on our own. If we don’t have a heavenly Father who loves us and will give to us what we need (not necessarily what we want, but what we need), then we are forced to take matters in our own hands.
If I have to take matters into my own hands and can’t trust God for these things, then you become my enemy. I have to retaliate. I have to work hard. I have to cut your legs off and stop you from cutting my legs off so I can get ahead, so I can further my career, so I can look a certain way to the people around me. One of the things I hurt in my heart for when it comes to the Metroplex is how concerned we are with external image. Maybe that’s all cities, but Dallas… Goodness sakes! Can I just be straight? Isn’t that what we were doing in high school? Are you telling me now at 30 and 40 we’re still playing the same game? At 50 and 60 we’re still playing the same game? I mean, holy high school, right?
If this is still the driving force… “How will these people perceive me? How will they see me? What will they think of me? I have to try to be in with the cool kids.” It’s sad and ridiculous and is a driving force behind many of us, which is why Jesus says you walk in the anxiety you walk in, you walk in the fear you walk in, and while you will so quickly retaliate against injustice because you cannot be seen as weak, you cannot be seen having a righteousness that isn’t your own, you can’t be seen having honor that isn’t your own. It has to be yours. You have to own it. You have to drive it. It forces our hand, and what it reveals is that we don’t trust, know, and love God as the sovereign Father. We have to grow in our understanding of God as our Father.
2. We have to live with eternity in mind. This is not easy for us. Romans 8:18 says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Let me give you one more here. Second Corinthians 4:16-18: “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison. As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen…” Why? “For the things that are seen are transient…” They’re going away. There will be a day they don’t exist. “…but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Those are the things that matter. Now a couple of things to line up out of these texts: When you and I are talking about enemies and persecution, we are not talking about physical beating. We are not talking about imprisonment. We are talking about other people’s perception of us, other people’s gossip about us, or other people at work trying to undercut us so they get the promotion. When the author of these words is writing, he’s talking about imprisonment. He’s talking about beatings. He’s talking about the murdering of his friends. He is talking about the pillaging of churches he has planted. When he is not in jail, he is being pursued by those who wish to either kill him or imprison him, and he calls them…hear me...light and momentary afflictions.
When you live with the unseen things in view, the eternal things in view, then regardless of situation here it becomes light and momentary. I don’t believe that difficulty is ever light and momentary. It never feels light and momentary in the moment. I think it feels heavy and eternal in the moment. Can we just agree on that? When things get difficult for us, it doesn’t matter that Paul was beaten with rods and we’re in a fight with a friend. It doesn’t matter that Paul had the skin ripped off his back and Christ was crucified and James was killed with a club and all we’re dealing with is someone at work who is making life very difficult for us. Somebody is making fun of us because of our faith. It feels heavy, and it feels like it’s not going away.
If we get our eyes on what is eternal, we see that in the scope of things this is a blip on the screen. Hear me. I am not a man who is unfamiliar with the sorrows of this world. Pastors are second responders. We show up at the house usually while the body is still there. We show up in the ICU, in the NICU, in the waiting room with family members before the person in NICU or in ICU is stable enough to be seen. I am not saying what I am saying with any type of naïve lenses on at all, but what the Scripture is teaching us here is regardless of the difficulty wherein, when all is said and done, as people of God the issues of this life will seem light and momentary compared to what is coming for us who are God’s children.
In our last service here as the service ended, there was a man in the service. Cancer is just eating his body up. In fact, tumors are now in his bones, so his bones are easily breakable. When it came time to respond and worship, he was full-on enjoying the Lord and worshipping the Lord and exalting the Lord. His journey has not been light, and it does not seem momentary until he gets his eyes on what is eternal. When he gets his eyes on what is eternal, now it seems light and momentary, and now he’s not crying tears of loss and sorrow, but tears of hope and sustaining grace.
You get your eyes on what is unseen not on what is seen. All of this is transient. It’s going away. Do you see if you see like this how free you become? What can man take from you if this is how you see? If everything would be light and momentary compared to the future glory we have coming, then what could man take from you that would rile you to betray this God who has made all things light and momentary?
3. We have to have a greater understanding of what we’ve been saved from, how we’ve been saved, and for the reality that if it were not for the grace of God we would be the givers of injustice and not just the receivers of injustice. Let me read a text, and then I want to state some things I believe you can’t deny. Ephesians, chapter 2, 1 through 3:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”
Hear me. But for the grace of God, you are the most hardened, antagonistic, God-hating, secular atheist on earth. It’s the grace of God that rescued you, the grace of God that opened up your heart, the grace of God that opened up your mind. God help us be empathetic toward those who are our enemies in the faith. I have heard heartbreaking things said by men and women of God toward famous antagonists against our faith.
Let me be real straight with you. I think Bill Maher is a fool. You can email me and tell me I’m wrong about that, but I think he’s a fool. He’s a blasphemous fool, and at the same time there isn’t one cell in my body that looks forward to the day where he finds out what’s true and what’s not. There is nothing in me, and if I sense it in me I plead with God to break my heart of it, that longs for the day that he gets his. God didn’t give me mine. God didn’t give you yours.
Do you really believe you weren’t born hostile in mind toward God, that you weren’t alienated and estranged, that you didn’t think you were smarter than God, that you were better than God, that your way was better than his way? There is no difference in God’s eyes from a vocal rebellious person and a silent rebellious person. It is by the grace of God alone that you have been saved. God help us from forgetting it, because when you know that you, like our brother Paul, are the chief among sinners, until you’re willing to acknowledge that you will be unable to extend grace because you don’t believe you have received a lot of grace.
You believe if you think that way, whether you would articulate it like this or not, you would believe God is kind of lucky to have you on his team, that God’s rep is finally being protected by you, that you deserve God’s grace, and you deserve God’s mercy because you’re a great catch. In reality, if you bring God any glory whatsoever it’s that he rescued a fool like you and like me. God’s glory is seen in the fact that he did save you, that he did pick you for his team. He’s like winning with all the people who can’t play. That’s God’s glory. He picks everyone who wouldn’t get picked and then wins the game with them. That’s the glory of God.
Until you understand that and can rest in that and glory in that, you will never be able to extend grace to those who need grace, and most definitely not your enemies. The people of God (the city on a hill), they’re people who handle retaliation and revenge like this: “What is loving? How do I love this enemy of mine in a way that is good for them, helpful for them, and in the end gives us the best opportunity for them to sense, see, and enjoy the grace that has been so richly lavished upon me?”
Church, how are we doing on this one? How are we responding to those who actively are against us? Don’t ever be surprised when lost people act lost. Don’t ever be surprised when immature believers act immature. This is God rebuilding the walls. This is God creating new flow, so that my first response when my face gets slapped is not attack, but prayerful consideration, a gathering of community and saints asking and seeking wisdom and then responding with a heart motivated by love.
As I remember the grace afforded to me in Jesus Christ, I remember I am a son of God who will be defended and protected and provided for by God and by understanding the glory and riches that will be lavished upon me will be lavished upon me in eternity and in the eons to come and that anything here and now is light and momentary.
How is your capacity to love today? I’m not asking, “Do you love those who love you?” I think everyone does that. In fact, the text says the tax collectors, the Gentiles… That’s his way of saying, “Everyone does that.” Drug lords love those who love them. The question at hand is…Is your capacity of love great enough that you can love your enemies? If that’s not the case, church, where do we need to repent? Where do we need to reconcile? Where do we need to make things right before the Lord? Do we need to confess today that we don’t really view God as a good Father? Do we need to confess that we live where we’re hedging our bets?
“Yeah, we’re kind of hopeful that when we die maybe there is heaven and glory for us, but we’re not quite sure, so we’re going to hedge our bets. We want this world and the next. We’re not willing to lose anything on this side, but we want to do just enough that if there is another side, we get that, too.” Are we hedging our bets? Are we living with eternity in view? Are you glad or excited about God’s judgment on others? Oh, that God might increase our capacity to love both him and our enemies.
I’m going to pray for us, and when I say “Amen” there will be some men and women who you can pray with, who you can talk with. Maybe there’s a specific situation you’re in, and you’re not sure how what I’ve just taught works out in that situation. We’ve already had some of that this weekend. If we can pray for you, counsel you, or encourage you, there will be men and women able to do that. Then we will come back around and enjoy the Lord’s Table, enjoy the celebration of God’s broken body and shed blood as we conclude our service today. Let me pray for us.
Father, thank you for these men and women. Thank you for the grace and mercy afforded to us. I pray we might reflect it to the world around us in rich, deep, and good ways. It’s through your beautiful name I pray, amen.
I love you guys.