Thursday, September 9, 2010

Love Your Enemies - September 9, 2010

Matthew 5:43-47 (New International Reader's Version)
43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor.—(Leviticus 19:18) Hate your enemy.'

44 But here is what I tell you. Love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you.

45 Then you will be sons of your Father who is in heaven. "He causes his sun to shine on evil people and good people. He sends rain on those who do right and those who don't.

46 "If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Even the tax collectors do that. 47 If you greet only your own people, what more are you doing than others? Even people who are ungodly do that.

Many of you have probably heard about the controversy that has come up concerning the burning of the Quran on the 9th anniversary of 9/11 by Pastor Terry Jones, from the Dove World Outreach Center, a small Christian church in Gainesville, Florida. You probably have seen Muslims around the world protesting and burning U.S. flags, and threatening violence against our country and Americans as a whole. It seems like everyone has given some kind of comment on the matter, with most of the commentary being against the planned event.

Sad thing is that many around the world and in the more liberal circles around this country have assumed that this is standard procedure and the normal attitude of Christians. The big problem is that this stunt has further turned people off about Christians and could possibly cause a lot of harm to those who are authentic Christians. No one denies that this church has the right to burn the holy book of another faith, but I agree with many that it does not have a place in this country, and especially does not have a place in the true Christian church. This pastor is leading his congregation astray and teaching a gospel that Jesus never taught.

The verses from Matthew, which are part of the Sermon on the Mount, makes it clear what Jesus believes. He makes it clear that we are to love those who hurt or hate us. We are to love our enemies. When you look at the text in Greek, the word for love used here is "agape" love. As Ivor Oakley* defines it from the Greek, agape is love for the unworthy and the undeserving, regardless of how he treats us, the kind of love God showed in giving his Son. This love is controlled by the will, not by the emotion, therefore not to be confused with liking (matter of temperament and upbringing). Agape love involves recognizing, considering, and caring for others. Such love is very active and practical, concerned with personal relationships, not pacifism.

The best action true Christians should take is to extend real, caring, active love for Muslims and all those who may hurt or hate us. That is a radical concept that we can only do with God's help. Apart from Him, we are unable to look past any hatred we might harbor for those who bring harm to us or our loved ones, and to extend real, caring, active love to them. Imagine how attracted many would be to true Christianity if it were lived out the way that Jesus Christ taught it? True Christianity looks at everyone with an all encompassing love; it turns the struck cheek and offers the other; it forgives the deepest sin and forgives seventy times seven; it gives the cloak to the one who steals your coat; and it goes the extra mile for the one who has made you go one.

If we are to truly win others to the saving faith in Jesus Christ, we need to follow the examples that Jesus gives. Burning books and showing the same kind of hatred that others might show for us will not get us anywhere. We need to "let them know we are Christians by our love".

*(from over 40 years Ivor Oakley worked for his Lord as preacher and theology teacher in England, Ireland and Scotland. He was deeply devoted to the Lord, to His Word, and to the traditional gospel of Grace.

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