Message by Pastor EJ Del Mundo
How has God loved us? God loved us even when we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10), and in Matthew 5:38-48, He commands us to do likewise so that His name may be glorified. Jesus defined our enemies as those who curse us, hate us or exploit us selfishly. Christian love is an act of the will, and not simply an emotion. How do we show love to others especially those who do not show love to us?
“You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” (Matthew 5:38) A lot of the Pharisees and Jews in the olden times and maybe some of us also, use this as justification for hating others, even hitting back at others. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is known as the law of retaliation, probably one of the oldest laws in human history. We use this as rationalization for extracting vengeance or getting even with others; as Christians, we rationalize why there are certain people in our lives that we should not love. But this law is not intended for us to justify vengeance. Jesus is basically saying that God will handle your case, while you are to just love others.
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” (Matthew 5:39-40) In all of these teachings, the sovereignty of God and perfect trust in Him is a key factor. God does not issue a command that He does not expect us to do or give us the power to do. This is something which must drive you to your knees and lean on Him in dependence. The law of Christ is the law of non-retaliation. We must always seek to honor Christ by showing the love we have for each other. God is saying realize that this is hard but realize also that this is a command and with the command comes the ability to obey.
“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” (Matthew 5:41) During those days the Roman conquerors could tell a person to carry his armaments, arms and weapons that are used to kill your people, “I am impressing on you, that you are to carry these for one mile, no more than that.” The law said that you could not be forced to go beyond one mile. This was the case with Simon of Cyrene who the Roman soldiers compelled to carry Christ’s cross. God is telling us that whoever compels you or takes advantage of you, go with him two miles. Once again, this is not talking about the law of the land, but of personal tolerance. Radical kindness, radical forgiveness, radical love is impossible to obey and given only to believers who have the Holy Spirit who enables us to do it.
“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” (Matthew 5:42) This is again aggressive love, doing all that we can and be excited in helping people, not thinking we don’t have enough for ourselves. We must rely on God’s sovereignty and ask Him to help us to help that person while He takes care of our needs, great as our own needs might be. One of the sweetest prayers in the ears of God is the prayer of confession: “I know Your standard Lord, but I’m not like that. Can You help me be like that?” With the command comes the enablement; this is radical Christian living.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” (Matthew 5:43) “Love your neighbor” was in Leviticus, but ‘hate your enemy’ had been added by the Pharisees because they wanted to justify hating the Romans and their enemies. The law of love summarizes the ethical principles of the Sermon on the Mount; in fact ‘love your neighbor and loving your enemies’ summarizes the entire second tablet of the Ten Commandments.
“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5: 44) Man is not commanded to love his enemy or those he doesn’t like on the basis of mere human affection, but rather on the basis of love which comes from God. If we are living in a mediocre, 50-50, lukewarm kind of Christianity, this is the level of obedience that we will never realize. But a life lived in the constant dependency on God makes this very possible which the Holy Spirit inculcates in our heart every time a situation arises that calls for this kind of obedience. To be slapped and turn the other cheek, not to sue the one who takes the shirt off your back, to go the extra mile for the one who is taking advantage of you, to give to those who asks of you, and now to love your enemy who may have hurt you or your family is not natural. It’s not something you will do waiting for the emotion to happen. This is something that originates from God and a fruit of the Spirit to the believer only.
“So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”(Matthew 5:45) This verse suggests that our love “creates a climate” of blessings that make it easy to win our enemies and make them our friends. Love is like the sunshine and rain that the Father sends so graciously. This love is a mark of maturity, proving that we are sons of the Father, and not just little children. The Father shares His good things with those who oppose Him.
“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”(Matthew 5:46) The tax collectors were considered the most despicable people, so even the worst people love those that love them. But we are called to be a light upon this world, and there must be a difference. We can open as many churches as we want, but if people do not see radical difference in us, if we do not love one another, then there is no difference.
“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:47-48) This is sanctification. You do this because the God who saved you is saying “be like Me.” The word “perfect” does not imply “sinlessly perfect”, for that is impossible in this life (although we should strive to do so). It suggests completeness, maturity, as the sons of God.
Jesus gave several reasons for this admonition so that we can be a living testimony to others of God’s love. God expects us to live on a much higher plane than the lost people of the world who return good for good and evil for evil. As Christians, we must return good for evil as an investment of love. As the Father loves His enemies and seeks to make them His children. we can demonstrate the Father’s love by blessing those who curse us, doing good to them, and praying for them. When we pray for our enemies, we find it easier to love them. Let us not forget that in spite of our sinfulness, of our rebellion, of our enmity with God, He made that decision to love us.” This is the kind of love we must show to others.
Next month: Be A Good Model by Pastor Peter Tan-Chi on the Best of CCF’s Weekly Chronicles here on my blog.