The Love for Enemies Jesus Commanded
“But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44
We have seen that Christ taught a higher “law” than the Old Covenant Law. Christ’s Law is the Law of Love. Many religious teachers had taught that people should love, but the most outstanding characteristic of Christ’s teaching, which makes His teaching unique, is how He commanded enemies to be loved. Not only did Christ teach this, He lived it.
Eye for an Eye
The Law of Moses regarding an “eye for an eye” was intended to be a warning not to hurt someone else. It challenged the Israelites to be considerate of others and to know that if they carelessly hurt someone, they deserved to be hurt in a similar way. But over time, the Pharisees had interpreted these passages as a right to take revenge. That’s why Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said…”
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18
- How would a reading of Leviticus 19 have showed the Pharisees that even the Law of Moses did not agree with their interpretation of “an eye for an eye”?
(The Law called for love of neighbor and to not take vengeance.)
Perhaps the first and most natural response we feel whenever someone hurts us is to hurt them. Very shortly after I became a Christian, in my high school years, I was confronted in the schoolyard with someone who had heard that I had become a Christian. This person had a reputation as the school bully. He had come to test my new found religion. He did this by mocking my commitment to Christianity, to the supporting jeers of those watching. He then pushed me and drew no response. Then with a clenched fist, he punched my face, knocking me to the ground. As I lay on the asphalt looking around at the laughter of my ‘friends,’ I looked up at the little bully who had just struck me. I felt no desire for revenge or even malice toward him. In fact, I was struck by a great sense of pity and sorrow for this lost soul. What struck me so hard was the thought that in all my school days no one had ever dared to hit me (due to my size and physique I was never a target for bullies) and that if this had happened just days before I probably would have responded by thumping the living daylights out of this kid. But something had changed. I was different. My heart had changed.
“If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also.” Luke 6:29
“But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also.” Matthew 5:39
“For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.”
2 Corinthians 11:20
- Consider what Christ said in the above verses. What is common in all three verses?
- What does “turn the other cheek” mean to you?
(Because the left hand is considered unclean, to strike a person on their right-cheek requires that they use the back of their right hand. This was incredibly insulting. To publicly slap a person with the back of your hand was to grossly humiliate them. Thus, Christ is saying far more than just “don’t hit back.” He just may be saying, “Offer them your other cheek to make them address you as an equal!”)
Handling Money the Way Jesus Commanded
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.” Matthew 6:19
Jesus had more to say about money and its use than He had to say about hell! Money is generally something that represents our life. We exchange money for parts of our life: our time and effort. What we do with it says an awful lot about us. As we look at this vital topic of what Jesus taught about money and the way it should be handled we will be looking at what might be one of the most important aspects of how we live. The way we handled money will either be a great source of blessing or pain for us.
“It beckons and woos us. It tantalizes and seduced us. It sucks us into its grasp and wreaks havoc in our lives. And we still deny its sinister power.” Bill Hybels
- What is the last of the Ten Commandments? (Exodus 20) Describe the connection between this commandment and greed.
(“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” When we covet what others have, we are greedy and not content with what the Lord has given us.)
- What does Colossians 3:5 call “covetousness” or “greed”? What are we to do with it based on this verse?
(“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” Colossians 3:5 Covetousness or greed is idolatry (putting ANYTHING before God) We are to put it to death.)
While we live in a world that demands the use of money, and rewards fame and effort with it, we are not to make it our focus. Money must serve us rather than the other way around!
“What’s fascinating is that as our financial needs are supplied, our appetite for money tends to increase rather than diminish.” Bill Hybels
A Matter of the Heart
Christ taught that what we do with money reveals what is really in our hearts. The love of money has the power to grip a heart.
“They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share.”
1 Timothy 6:18
- What instructions did Paul ask Timothy to pass on to those who were rich?
(Do good….Do good deeds….Share their abundance.)
“Put no confidence in extortion, and set no vain hopes on robbery; if riches increase, do not set your heart on them.” Psalm 62:10
- What did the psalmist warn us about in Psalm 62?
(Having our heart in the wrong place….Desire God, not wealth.)
“The lover of money will not be satisfied with money; nor the lover of wealth, with gain. This also is vanity.” Ecclesiastes 5:10
While we all need money, it’s vitally important that we are not driven by a lust for it. Generosity seems to be the antidote to covetousness and greed. Whenever we are reluctant to share or give it should perhaps sound an alarm that we need to check the condition of our hearts.
“No slave can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they ridiculed him.” Luke 16:13-14
- Why were the Pharisees so opposed to Jesus teaching about money?
(The Pharisees in question were Jewish elites. They held themselves above other Jews. They had riches and comforts that Jesus’ peasant followers didn’t have. These Pharisees might even argue against Jesus stating their wealth and status was because they were blessed by God for their piety and adherence to the Law.)
Money is a Blessing
While money can result in great misery for those who are consumed by it, it can also be a great blessing. We need to be careful not to assume that those who are rich are the ones who are consumed by money. It could well be that those who become rich have done so because they are not ruled but it! And, on the other hand, those who are poor may idolize money. Levels of wealth are not necessarily the indicator of how much money is loved.
Brian Houston notes in his book (You Need More Money) that money can be a blessing in the following ways:
- It says to land, “I can own you.”
- Money says to vision, “I can fulfill you.”
- Money says to buildings, “I can build you”
- Money says to things, “I can buy you.”
- Money says to a missionary, “I can support you.”
- Money says to the poverty-stricken, “I can feed you.”
- Money says to opportunity, “I can accept you.”
Money should work for us rather than us working for it. But if we get ourselves into unreasonable debt we position ourselves to be servants of money. A sad, but typical story is of the young person who gets their first job and borrows to buy their first car. They are barely able to make the monthly payment but as soon as they get a pay rise they trade-up their car for an even larger monthly payment. After struggling for months then years to try and repay their car loan, they get another pay rise and trade-up again. Rather than using their money wisely, debt has deceptively crept in to choke what could have been a huge blessing.
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Luke 6:38
- Christ-followers should be generous. According to Luke, what promise did Jesus give his followers about the benefits of generosity?
(Our giving out of the love of others directly correlates with our love of God. What we give to others, God will give to us.)
The Golden Rule Jesus Commanded
“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. 2 For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. 3 Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. 6 Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you. 7 Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? 10 Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:1-12
Christianity is not only about following Jesus it’s also about becoming like Jesus. This involves us changing and growing. As we each become like Christ, we will reflect him in different ways. Becoming like Christ doesn’t mean we have to wander around in a seamless robe and talk with fishermen for the rest of our lives! It means that we pursue those things that Christ pursued and imitate his heart toward others.
“I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” John 5:30
- According to John, what was Jesus pursuing?
- What are some of the things that hinder us from pursuing the same thing?
(Our own will, stubbornness, pride, self-sustaining attitude.)
- Based on Matthew 7:3-4, what kind of attitude would be necessary for us to have to be made aware of any logs in our eyes?
(An attitude that we are no better than anyone else. We often point out others’ faults to make us feel better about ourselves, not out of Christian love or concern. We must first look at ourselves in the mirror before we can turn it on others.)
- How might we best remove the “logs” from our own eyes?
(Confession and Repentance. Turning away from our own sin.)
- If we really believed Matthew 7:7-8, how different do you think we would live?
(We need to stop thinking we can do it all, that we are self-sufficient. We are nothing without God and can offer God nothing. We should seek his will in all things.)
- Based on Matthew 7:9-11 what do think Jesus wanted us to know about God?
(If our heart is right, we can have whatever we ask for. If we are seeking the Lord’s will, we will be in line with his will. (Use anchor example…not pulling us to God’s will, but aligning ourselves with God’s will) When this happens, the Lord will provide whatever we ask for.)
Perhaps if it was possible to live a “minimal” Christian life then Matthew 7:12 would be a contender for that minimum standard (In everything do to others as you would have them do to you).
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