Sunday 212t February - Love Your Enemies
A transcript of our sermon for the week can be found below
Love Your Enemies
Welcome to our reflection for 20th February.
The theme of today is Love Your Enemies.
Today’s passage is a tough one to preach on for ministers.
Not because it isn’t clear, but because it is so clear, there is very little to expand on it.
The problem isn’t hearing the passage, the problem isn’t even understanding the passage, the problem is living the passage.
But we will reflect on that after Gil has led us in our prayers and readings for today.
Today’s Bible reading is from the New Testament, Luke’s Gospel, Chapter 6, and verses 27 to 38.
A large crowd had gathered to hear Jesus preaching, and in this passage from his Gospel Luke tells us what Jesus said, but the things that Jesus taught must have seemed completely foolish, to his audience.
Today, we still find that it goes against our common sense, and it is hard for us to apply this teaching to our daily lives.
Now let us read from Luke, Chapter 6, starting at verse 27.
27 "But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,
28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
29 If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.
30 Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.
31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.
33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
34 If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
35 But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;
38 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."
Amen, and may God help us to understand his word.
Sermon - Love your enemies.
It is only three words.
But if there was one commandment that is broken by Christians more than any other, then it would probably be this one.
As I mentioned earlier.
This is a tough passage to preach on, because it is so clear cut.
I don’t need to spend half the sermon talking about the Greek words for love.
I don’t need to give some cultural insight that has nearly been lost from history.
I just need to say it out loud, ‘Love your enemies.’
Corrie Ten Boom was arrested for hiding Dutch Jews from the Nazi’s. She was put in a concentration camp for what she did and she managed to survive and was released after the war.
She then went round the world talking about her experiences and how God had helped her survive.
Then in 1947 she was speaking in a Munich church and at the end of the service a man came forward saying that he had heard her talk on forgiveness and came forward to be forgiven.
This man had been one of the guards at Ravensbruck concentration camp who used to mock the women prisoners as they showered.
Quoting Corrie Ten Boom herself now, “It came back with a rush, the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the centre of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man.”
He offered out his hand to congratulate her on her fine message of forgiveness, and she found she couldn’t take it.
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard there… But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fraulein” — again the hand came out —“will you forgive me?”
Here’s the thing.
We live a life of tests.
We start it from school.
We have to sit tests and when we pass tests then life is good, when we fail tests life is bad. And the thing about those tests is that there is leeway.
In most tests that I sat as child and young adult the pass mark was 50%. If you got 50% of the marks right then you passed.
There was one exam in University that I had to sit that has a pass mark of 75% which seems really hard. Except that you were allowed to take into the exam your notebook, any reference book you wanted and also any past exams that you had done in your spare time to practice on. Then as soon as you opened up the paper you noticed that that the exam was the same as the year before, so if you had already done that exam as practice you had all the answers in front of you.
Then we hear that one day God will have us in the palm of his hand and give us the ultimate test, and if we pass then we go to heaven, and when we fail we go to hell.
And as soon as we think that way the next thing we think is, what is the least that we need to do to pass that test.
Go to church every Sunday?
Read the Bible all the way through?
Give to charities?
Now we kind of know it doesn’t work that way.
Because we have seen how people in that past have tried to earn their way into heaven.
Jimmy Saville did hundreds of charity marathons in the belief that God had to let him into heaven for all the good works that he had done.
Robert Maxwell, the newspaper tycoon that used ordinary people’s pension funds for his own luxuries, gave millions away to charities in the hope that would get him into heaven.
Jesus gives us a test and there is no 50% pass marks.
Love your enemies.
Mary Johnson, you probably haven’t heard about her.
In February 1993 Mary’s only son Laramium Byrd was shot to death by a 16 year old called Oshay Israel.
Oshay was sentence as an adult and imprisoned to 25 years.
After 17 years he was released and now lives right next door to Mary.
It wasn’t a council blunder that put him there.
Mary had started to visit Oshey in prison, desperate to reconcile the hatred she felt in her heart with her Christian upbringing.
Jesus’ call to love her enemies was destroying her faith.
The love, the comfort that she needed just couldn’t reach her because of the hatred and anger that was already infesting her heart.
So she started to visit Oshey, then started to care for him, then when he was released from prison insisted that he stay next door to her so that he could look after him, make sure he didn’t go down such a destructive path again.
Love your enemies.
Hard as this may seem.
This command of Christ is given for our sake.
If we are to be true to our faith then we need to learn to be like God, who did not abandon us. If we are claiming to be a child of God, a beloved creation made in God’s image and loved not for what we do but just who we are,
then we have to trust that that is true of everyone.
For if it is not true of everyone; then it is not true for anyone.
For who among us then can deserve God’s love?
Whose life is so perfect that they can demand of God that he love them?
Love your enemies.
But it is not easy; it needs God’s heart to do.
And we can only have that heart if we accept it fully from God.
It needs for us to let go of our anger and hatred and pettiness and insecurities and need for revenge.
There is the story of the man going to the psychiatrist and complaining that he hasn’t had good nights sleep in three years. That he is tired all the time and life is not worth living. And when the psychiatrist asks why he can’t sleep the man says that every time he falls asleep he has the same dream when he is being chased by a dragon.
And the psychiatrist says, ‘Have you ever thought of making friends with the dragon?’
The problem comes when you don’t want to make friends with the dragon, you want to fear him, want to hate him, you want to be angry with him.
And God knows that is part of human nature.
Just as God knows that if we allow that to be our dominant thought then it taints every relationship in our life, it doesn’t harm the dragon if anything it gives more power to the dragon, but it does harm us.
And God does not want us to be harmed; he wants us to be whole.
So he gives us a command, ‘Love your enemies.’
Two six-year-old boys and a 5-year-old girl, Silje, are on a playground in the Norwegian town Trondheim. The next day Silje is found dead. The boys had punched and kicked the five-year-old girl before stripping off her clothes and leaving her to die.
The boys claimed they took of the girl’s clothes off because they thought she was sleeping and when you go to sleep you take off your clothes.
Julia Shaw, a criminal Psychologist went to the town to ask the grandmother how they had coped with it. The whole town had decided to bring up the children in the town, they had immediate access to councillors, they didn’t treat them as monsters or adults, they were treated as children who had made a terrible mistake and had to learn to live in society in a productive way.
They were human and their humanity needed to be saved, for the sake of all humanity.
Not one person in the town ever gave away what the boy’s names were. They brought the boys up as if they were their own. And when Julia Shaw was interviewing the granny of the killed child, they child she was holding onto fondly on her lap was one of the children who had killed her grandchild.
Love your enemies.
I don’t know who your enemies are, those people you just have an innate dislike for... maybe people of a different sexuality, or a different colour, or a different religion, or a different social group, or maybe someone who has hurt you or slighted you in the past, or maybe your greatest enemy is yourself, that’s the person you despise more than any other, that’s the person you have least sympathy for.
Whoever it is, we need to love them.
We need to forgive them whatever perceived or real hurt they have caused us, we need to wish the best for them, and maybe even help them be the best they can be, because if we don’t, then it is our heart that will be damaged, maybe even destroyed.
Love your enemies.
Easy to say, but then as in all things, your son wasn’t just the messenger, he was the example.
To be betrayed; and yet still to love.
To be whipped and tortured; and yet still love.
To be falsely accused; and yet still love.
To take on yourself the role of giving the message of God’s love, and then that message to be rejected, and still to forgive, still to love.
Your love led to a life resurrected.
As we love, as we even love our enemies, may we find life.