Text: Matthew 5:43-48 October 14, 2012.
1) Words of a president: During the US Civil War, hatred became entrenched between the North and the South. In one instance, President Abraham Lincoln was criticized for speaking of kind and benevolent treatment for Southern rebels. The critic reminded Lincoln that there was a war going on and the Confederates were the enemies and they should be destroyed. But Lincoln wisely responded, ¡°I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends.¡±
2) Words of Jesus Christ: In many ways Lincoln¡¯s comment pretty much reflects Jesus¡¯ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. ¡°I say to you,¡± Jesus said, ¡°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, that you may be the sons of your Father in heaven.¡± (Matt. 5:44-45) Yes, there are enemies in life, all of our lives. But we can try to turn them, some of them at least, into friends if we want to and know how. Life can be better to have more friends than enemies, for sure.
LET¡¯S SEE ABOUT ENEMIES:
1) Enemy in the spiritual world: Although Christianity doesn¡¯t buy ¡°dualism¡± (a theory of two equal but opposing spiritual powers, God and Satan), the Bible does give us many indications that there is a spiritual enemy against God and all that belong to God and that enemy is Satan. The Bible did not give us the origin of this enemy but it gives us a definite end of existence and complete destruction of this enemy. (Rev. 20:10) This spiritual enemy of God cannot and will not repent of its sin and will not turn around to God for any chance of redemption. In a sense, this spiritual enemy of God is still fighting its war against God and God¡¯s children. Paul says we are at war with the power of darkness, and we need to put on the whole armor of God to win over this enemy. (Ephesians 6:10-17)
2) Enemies in the physical world: You don¡¯t have to live very long to know that there are enemies in this world to make life very difficult or miserable. There are enemies in political world, business world and in personal world. People become enemies against each other for many reasons: selfish personal interests, bias racial, political and religious differences just to list a few. Enemies exist at home, at work, in the neighbor-hood and the society at large. Enemies can be just opponents to begin with. But when personal interests, anger and selfish intent get into their hearts, they become enemies. So, it is very important not to turn opponents to become enemies by pushing selfish personal intent.
3) Enemies come in all colors: Not all enemies are the same in terms of intensity of emotion and degrees of harm they may cause you. When emotion is high and intent of harm is strong like wars between nations, damage and harm will escalate. It is important to control emotion and intent of harm to avoid escalation of warfare. If you believe in the power of evil in some people¡¯s mindset like I do, there are some enemies you can never make peace with no matter what you do. In cases like this, prevention and self-defense are some of the ways to avoid or minimize damage or harm on you.
4) Enemies may turn to friends: This is true in all walks of life at home, in school, at work or any other situation. The best examples are the relationship between the warring parties in the WW II, the US and Europe countries and Germany, Italy and Japan. They had turned the enemy state into friendship state in the past 60 years. If warring nations can do that for common benefit, I believe we all can turn some enemies in our life into friends. I guarantee you: life is a lot easier to have more friends than to have more enemies.
LET¡¯S TALK ABOUT FRIENDS:
1) A friend above all friends: ¡°The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.¡± (Exodus 33:11) If you are familiar with the Exodus story, you won¡¯t feel surprise to read about this: God treated Moses like a friend. With all the saints in the Bible, no one is closer to God than Moses. Since his birth, God was there to protect him. Later, God called him, talked to him and sent him to a mission that changed the history of a people and then the world. By His grace, God still is a friend to all who desires a friendship with him. He invites us to his presence to tell him what is in our hearts and to listen to him what is in his.
2) A friend died for his friends: ¡°Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command.¡± (John 15:13-14) Jesus called his disciples his friends that he would prove his friendship by his death. All we need to do is to accept his offer of salvation and to do his command to be his friends.
3) A friend for love and adversity: ¡°A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.¡± (Proverbs 17:17) King Solomon gave us the best formula to make real friends: to love and to stand by your friends, particularly in adverse times. Friendship is built, not demanded. Besides our family, friends are the most important companions we may have through our life sometimes they are more important and ready to hold us up than family if they are far away from us. All of us are blessed to have good friends who are there for us both in good days and bad days.
4) Be wise in choosing friends: ¡°A man of many friends may come to ruin.¡± (Proverbs 18:24) Solomon gives advice to us to be cautious in choosing friends. We all know the pressure of peers or so-called friends on us when we choose life style and things to do. It is advisable to be cautious in choosing friends so your life will be beneficial to each other for better not worse.
CHANGE ENEMIES INTO FRIENDS: (Matt. 5:43-48)
1) Break away from old mindset: ¡°You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and hate you enemies.¡± (5:43)This is exactly the same saying as in v. 38, about the traditional and acceptable mindset of the Jewish people on how to treat enemies. Most of us if not all of us will do things like everyone else will do: Treating enemies like others do. But Jesus brought us a new mindset: don¡¯t do as everyone else will do, do things in a different way. It is easy to follow the tradition: love those who love us and hate those who hate us. But Jesus wants to see us do things on a higher level, a breakthrough. We are not children of this world but children of God, so, we need to do things with a new mindset, God¡¯s mindset.
2) Follow mandate of the Lord: ¡°But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.¡± (5:44) When the Bible says ¡°If anyone who is in Christ, he is a new creation,¡± (2 Cor. 5:17) it is about death to the old and life to the new. In how to deal with enemies, Jesus has commanded us NOT to hate them but to love them, not to retaliate them but to pray for them. This is not merely a suggestion but a command, an order all of us need to obey. Yes, this is against our old nature, but we have a new nature, the nature of a loving God to love our enemies and pray for them. Obedience is a major sign of real new life. How do people know you are a new creation? May be the first thing you can show them is the way you treat your enemies. Jesus continued to say: ¡°So that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.¡± (6:45)Give them some proof of your new identity.
3) Demonstrating God¡¯s mercy: ¡°For God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you (only) love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don¡¯t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you (only) greet your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don¡¯t the Gentiles do the same?¡± (5:45-47) Because God is merciful that he gives everyone the same blessing, the sun and the rain. Shouldn¡¯t we as children of God do the same: Not just love those who love us but also those who hate us and greet not just our brothers but also those who persecuted us? How do people know the mercy of God if we do not show it in our everyday life?
4) The pursuit of perfection: ¡°Therefore, be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.¡± (5:48) No one can be as perfect as our heavenly Father for sure. But the standard Jesus set for us is the goal all of us need to remember and pursue. Turning enemies to friends is never easy or natural to human beings like us, but we are not ordinary human beings. We are children of God who is supernatural. To be saved is a ¡°one shot¡± experience; to be like God is a life long pursuit. From our heart to our head, from our mouth to our acts, we need to do better each and everyday to be more like Jesus to others.
1) More friends, less enemies: No one needs to be reminded that it is better to have more friends than enemies. But in real life, to have enemies is inevitable for various reasons. Some of them come to us for no reason, at least we don¡¯t know; others who become our enemies because of our own fault. Either way, it is good to try harder to turn enemies into friends by forgiving, being gracious and humble, taking the first step to reconcile, to admit wrong and ask for forgiveness. We need the godly mindset only God can give. So, ask God to help you in this worthy pursuit.
2) Making more friends of God: People who do not believe in God and their sins have not been forgiving may not be our personal enemies, but unbelievers are enemies of God in the spiritual sense. These enemies need to find a way to become friends of God. We are in this world as agents to bring them to become God¡¯s friends. Let us do our part to share the love of God through our words and deeds so they too may become God¡¯s friends.