Matt 5:43-48 Sermon on the Mount Con’t
Loving our enemies.
I find this chapter an enigma. Not because of the scriptures about love, but because Bonhoeffer himself struggled so much with this subject. When you read his bio by Eric Metaxas you begin to understand Bonhoeffer’s predicament. To take part in the plot to assassinate Hitler or to turn the other cheek while millions died?
Bonhoeffer settled within himself, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
In the end, Bonhoeffer did join forces against Hitler and gave his life for his God and his country.
With that in mind, let’s delve into the topic of loving our enemies.
In the OT Israel experienced holy wars. They were God’s wars against the idols of the world. In the NT Jesus isn’t condemning the OT and Gods wars; instead He’s releasing us from “the political associations of the old Israel. From now on there can be no more wars of faith. The only way to overcome our enemy is by loving him.”
This seems crazy. Love our enemies. Aren’t we supposed to cut ties with our enemies because of their sin? Isn’t that closer to God’s law?
God is just. God is judge. God is LOVE.
We are not God. But we are called to love as He loves.
To be a Christian means we love everyone, not just those who love us. It means we treat others with kindness even if we don’t get the same respect in return.
“Love asks nothing in return, but seeks those who need it. And who needs our love more than those who are consumed with hatred and utterly devoid of love?...the more bitter our enemy’s hatred, the greater his need of love.”
Hatred has consumed my enemy; they may not even realize they need love. But that’s what they need and I should give it.
Bonhoeffer pokes deeper. “No sacrifice which a lover would make for his beloved is too great for us to make for our enemy. If out of love for our brother we are WILLING to sacrifice goods, honour and life, we must be prepared to do the same for our enemy.”(emphasis mine)
I love my son. There’s nothing I wouldn’t give him. I’d give him my last bit of food if he wanted it. But would I do that for my enemy?
Okay. Love them. But what about their evil? What about their sins?
Bonhoeffer goes on to explain that loving them, blessing them, praying for them, etc. doesn’t excuse their evil. That evil is on them.
What’s on us is how we respond to that evil.
Will we bless those who curse us?
Pray for those who use us and persecute us?
Do good to those who hate us?
What they do is between them and God.
What you do is between you and God.
Followers of Christ ARE TO LOVE regardless of what the world does.
Does acting Chris-like mean they will stop persecuting to us?
They hung Jesus on the cross and He is the epitome of love.
So how can we love someone who doesn’t want our love?
“Through the medium of prayer we go to our enemy, stand by his side, and plead for him to God…We are doing vicariously for them what they cannot do for themselves. Every insult they utter only serves to bind us more closely to God and them. Their persecution of us only serves to bring them nearer to reconciliation with God.”
But how can we do such things to those who are so vile?
By realizing we too were once enemies of Christ. He prayed for us on that cross as much as for them.
It is HIS love through us that enables us to view our enemy as our brother.
We’re all undeserving of God’s mercy and love and yet He freely gives it TO ALL.
Bonhoeffer closes this chapter by elaborating on what makes a follower of Christ different from the world. It can all be summed up in love.
Anyone can love those who love them, but only those walking in Christ can overcome hatred and love the unlovable.
It’s His love that makes us extraordinary.
Bonhoeffer challenges us to make the extraordinary our standard of living. Yet he warns, “The activity itself is ceaseless suffering. In it the disciple endures the suffering of Christ.”
While incarcerated Bonhoeffer showed love and respect for other prisoners as well as the Nazi’s who held him captive. I have a feeling he prayed for them and for Hitler until the end.
1. Few have endured such persecution as the disciples and Bonhoeffer, but if you were called to endure such hate can you see how you live today, what you practice today, will influence how you react tomorrow? We cannot assume we’d act like Christ in such a situation, only dying daily to self can prepare us for such selfless love.
2. How can you show love to the unlovable? What are some things you can DO?
3. How’s your heart looking? Do you allow the evil of the world to eat at you or do you allow Christ’s love to make you extraordinary?