And Who is My Enemy? (Matthew 5:43-48)
Topic: One Truth: Walk in Truth Passage: Matthew 5:43–5:48
And Who is My Enemy?
(One Truth: Walk in Truth)
January 13th, 2019
I. Making Lists
If I were to ask you to make a list of all your friends, how long would it take you? What if I were to clarify that and encourage you social media users to write down all your Facebook “friends” as well. How long would that take you? What if I were to add another clarification and ask all of you to write down the name of everyone with whom you are 'friendly'; now make sure to include people from your past as well, not just people in your circle today. Now... how long would that take you to think of and write down all those names?
For most of us, that would be a fairly time-consuming task. Remember, in light of those clarifications, your list would include everyone from family members all the way down to mere acquaintances. For some, a list like that might stretch into the thousands.
But what if we did a '180' and I asked you to make a list of all your enemies, past and present. A good old fashioned 'enemies list'. How long would that take you?
I suspect that most of us could make a list like that in a matter of minutes. Maybe even less than a minute. But why the difference in terms of these two lists? Is it because we're generally nice people who just don't have a lot of genuine enemies? Well... maybe. But maybe the issue is really how we think about that word. Honestly, who is my enemy?
Hold onto that question as we look at God's word this morning. Turn over, if you haven't done so already, to the closing verses of Matthew 5.
II. The Passage: "Love Your Enemies" (5:43-48)
Let me read to you from our main passage this morning, Matthew 5:43-48. This is what Jesus told his disciples about living for God. 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.”
Okay. Let's try, not only to understand what Jesus is telling us here, but also, how we can apply this teaching to our own lives. How does God want to use these words in your life this morning? Or we might say, how does He want to speak to you through this passage?
Let's dig in by looking together at three aspects of this passage. The first aspect is connected to our opening exercise this morning; to be specific, the first thing to consider is...
1. The Who of Loving My Enemy (vs. 43-47)
When Jesus says, “Love your enemies”, who exactly does he have in mind? What do the verses themselves tell us about our enemies?
Well, right away, Jesus adds another phrase to that command, saying “love your enemies AND pray for those who... [do what? Who... ] persecute you”. So one of the things we might say is, enemies are those who persecute us, who harass us, who trouble us, in one way or another. Some of you may remember that Jesus talked about persecution earlier in chap. 5...
"Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” (Matthew 5:10-11)
As Jesus indicates, there are people in this world who will treat you badly because of your faith, because you want to follow Christ and not the world's path. As we see from this chapter, this can be manifested in many different ways.
So that helps us fill out the picture a bit more. What else do we find here in terms of identifying our enemies? In verse 46, in contrast to his main command, Jesus talks about only lov[ing] those who love you. Therefore, though it seems obvious, we could say our “enemies” are also people who do not love us; or more specifically, people who demonstrate they have no concern for us.
We can't forget what we learned last week. This passage is clearly tied to the verses that came before it. Look again at 5:38-42...
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is 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, 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.
Might we not be tempted to think about ALL these people as our “enemies”, those who only want to take from us, in one way or another?
With people like this, we can be tempted to follow the very teaching Jesus is attempting to correct. Look again at verse 43: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” Unlike some of the other examples given in this chapter, this is not a command from the OT, but rather, a popular teaching of the Jewish leaders. Why were these leaders teaching this kind of “hate”. Probably in light of verses like Psalm 139:21... Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
But David was not encouraging or exemplifying the kind of hatred Jesus is speaking against. David is emphasizing whose side he's on. He's emphasizing his commitment to justice. >>>
He's emphasizing his commitment to God and his opposition to those who hate God and love corruption. David's judicial statements as a leader, as king, were not put in Scripture to encourage hatred in our personal trials. They were put there to encourage a hatred of sin.
Now, I think verse 47 of Matthew 5 can also help us here. Look again at what Jesus says there: And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
When Jesus talked about loving “your neighbor” in verse 43 and “greet[ing] only your brothers” in verse 47, I believe he's addressing the idea that our “enemies” are those who are different from us: those who look different; those who walk and talk differently; those who think differently. For the Jews, non-Jews (or “Gentiles” [the nations]) were thought of in these terms. Similarly, followers of Jesus might also be tempted withhold love from anyone who was not one of their own.
Of course, the irony is, as Jesus indicates, when God's people try to separate themselves from the world in this way, they end up following the world's own path. Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
So stop for a minute and think about the larger question; our original question: “Who is my enemy? Who is your enemy?” Well, as Jesus indicates here, an enemy could be anyone from whom you might withhold love because he or she disdains you, or dismisses you, or is demanding of you, or is simply different than you. (2x)
Now, if we think about the word “enemy” in those terms, wouldn't your 'enemies list' expand a bit? And wouldn't some of the people on the other list, that 'friends list', wouldn't they, at times, find themselves on your 'enemies list'? Aren't there situations, and sometimes seasons, in which people we trust seem to be against us; in which it seems they just don't care; in which it seems they just want to get, and not give? And in those times, we're tempted to withhold love.
But what does Jesus say? He tells us, “love your enemies”. But that has to bring us to a second aspect of this passage. The next thing we want to consider is...
2. The Why of Loving My Enemies (vs. 45, 48)
We don't have to look far for the reason behind Jesus' teaching here. He tells us plainly in verse 45. Let me start in verse 44: 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.
Why should we love our enemies? Because God does. Because God loves his enemies. Think about the example Jesus gives us here. The love of God for his enemies is demonstrated in the simple fact that he does not quickly give the “evil” and the “unjust” exactly what they deserve. No, He allows them to see another day. He sends rain on their crops. Those blessings of sunlight and showers are enjoyed by both those who love God and those who hate God. And why does He bless the “evil” and the “unjust” in this way. Many years later, the Apostle Paul would explain God's goal in this grace, this common grace, in these terms. This is Acts 14:15–17. Paul speaking to the crowd says...
“...We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.  In past generations he allowed all the nations to walk in their own ways.  Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”
Several chapters later, Paul would explain to another group of Greeks that God's broad, common grace has this purpose in regard to human beings:
“...that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us...” (17:27)
And so we are called to follow God's example of love. To be clear, the command to love our enemies should not be thought of as, in some way, being by itself. No, it's simply a clarification of what it means to love our neighbor. Sin works to narrow the scope of love. But God wants to expand it to all people; to every person in your life, no matter who they are or how they treat you. As the British pastor and writer, Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones expressed it:
...Our treatment of others must never depend upon what they are, or upon what they do to us. It must be entirely controlled and governed by our view of them and their condition... we must [love our enemies] for one reason only, not that we can ever redeem or make anything of them, but that in this way we can display to them the love of God.
The good path and the good life, according to Jesus, is the godly path, the godly life. And godliness means being like God in the ways we can be like God. Love is one of those ways. We should love with the fullness that God himself demonstrates. This is why Jesus goes on to tell his followers, in the last verse of our passage: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
But what does this fullness of love, this love even for our enemies, what does it look like? That brings us to a third aspect of this passage, which is...
3. The How of Loving My Enemies (vs. 44, 47)
The 'how' of Jesus is focused on 'how' we treat those who treat us badly. To be clear, as Lloyd-Jones reminds us: “Christ said: 'love your enemies', not 'like your enemies'... we are not called upon to like everybody. We cannot do so. But we can be commanded to love.” Why? Because you are called to do things like “pray for those who persecute you”. It's clear from verse 47 that we should do more than “greet only [our] brothers”. So we should have a warm and welcoming greeting, even for those who are anything but warm and welcoming to us.
And of course, when we talk about how to love our enemies, we can't forget what we learned from the previous section, from verses 38-42. As we talk about last time, “when people look to take advantage of you, you take advantage of that opportunity and give even more. To those who are all about taking, be all about giving.”
And so we pray for our enemies, we show them respect, even hospitality; we serve them with a generous spirit... all in an attempt to display the fullness of love that only comes from God.
III. Common and Special Grace
Now, let's be clear about how all of this is possible. As we talked about before, that command to “be perfect” in verse 48 can send us down either one of two paths. If we care about what Jesus is saying here, then in response to that command, you will either choose a path of self effort, or you will choose a path to the cross. You will either focus on what you can do, or what Jesus did. You will either concentrate on how you can love your enemies, or on how Jesus loved his.
What's the difference between these two paths? The first path is about me changing me. The second is about God changing me. And because only God can change my heart, the first path will always fail. Only by first admitting that I cannot ever “be perfect” by my own efforts, will I have the kind of trust God requires. Only when you trust that Jesus was perfect for you, and the perfect sacrifice for sinners like us, only then can you find a new heart full of the fullness of God's love. On this very topic, listen to how Paul uses the same Greek word Jesus used when he talked about our “enemies”...
And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind [lit. enemies in your thinking], doing evil deeds,  [Christ] has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death... (Col. 1:21, 22)
Now listen to how Paul, in another letter, weaves all these ideas together in Ephesians 5:1, 2
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.
Do you see what Paul is telling us? The common grace of God is meant to point us to a special grace from God. The sunlight each morning is meant to direct us ultimately to the Son's light, and the new day only he can give us. Yes, God loves his enemies by giving them rain in season. But the greatest expression of His love for his enemies was at the cross of Jesus. Only there can we find showers of transforming grace, forgiveness, and reconciliation with God.
And guess what? You and I have the opportunity to showcase that love for others, even when they are anything but loving. This is how God wants you to think about it: when someone treats you like an enemy, it's a reminder of how you treated God as an enemy: disdainful, dismissive, demanding. And when that realization drives you to the love God demonstrated for you in giving Jesus, love you did not deserve, it should compel us to demonstrate that same love to others, even those making it clear they don't deserve it.
Think again about your 'enemies list'. Think again about the people who have and who seem to be acting like your enemy: disdainful, dismissive, demanding, maybe labeling you, 'different'. Maybe God, even now, has brought a specific person or persons to mind. But maybe the last thing you want to do is show love.
And yet, if you are a follower of Jesus, that's the very thing he's calling you to do. Why? So that you can know the fullness of God's love in you and to you, and that other person, that unkind, that hurtful person, can know the fullness of God's love through you. Believer, reenact the grace you received in showing grace. In so doing, that family resemblance will be seen; your Father's likeness will be evident. Let's pray for that very thing.
More in Be Perfect
January 27, 2019What, Where, and When is the Kingdom? (Matthew 5:3, 10, 19, 20)
January 20, 2019Reclaiming Righteousness (Matthew 5:6, 10, 20)
January 6, 2019Being a Doormat for Jesus (Matthew 5:38-42)