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Be Counterintuitive with Your Enemy

Be Counterintuitive with Your Enemy

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The 4th sermon in the Sermon on the Mount series preached at St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Monroe, Michigan and New Hope Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio.
The 4th sermon in the Sermon on the Mount series preached at St. Paul's Lutheran Church of Monroe, Michigan and New Hope Lutheran Church of Toledo, Ohio.

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Published by: Rev. Christopher D. White on Mar 19, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sunday after Epiphany – February 20
, 2011Matthew 5:38-48
The Savior’s sermon is full of spiritual truths that are somewhat counterintuitive. It iscounterintuitive that we consider ourselves to be “blessed” in the many detrimental conditions that arelisted in the Beatitudes, and nonetheless, that is exactly what Jesus calls us – “Blessed,” because, as hisdisciples, we have been brought to a knowledge of our salvation in the One and Only Son who came fromthe Father full of grace and truth. The introduction to the sermon presented some rather counterintuitivethoughts. But because they came from the lips of our Savior, we treasure them on a higher level than ourintuition.The same is true of the sermon’s theme. It is rather counterintuitive for us to strive to stand out like salt and light, and nonetheless that is exactly what Jesus calls us to do in our Christian living – not toblend in and behave like the non-Christian, but to stand out and be different so that our unique Christianlives support the unique Christian faith that, in and of itself, stands out like a sore thumb among all thegeneric work-righteous / moralistic religions of our world.The pattern of Christ’s encouragement to be counterintuitive as his disciples is, in my opinion,most evident in the verses that are before us today. How does the Christian behave towards those whoare “enemies”? Do we follow the pattern of the world, working adamantly to get the enemy before theyget us? Do we conform to the pitiful sinful intuition to get even, to settle the score as if we were in somekind of competition to retain our pride?Remember that as Christ’s disciples, we are “blessed” and are called to be salt and light, to bedifferent from the world in our actions, which even applies to the treatment of those who stand against the truth of Scripture and against those who hold to the truth of the Christian confession. We are to becounterintuitive towards the enemy – reformed in reaction and unqualified in love.
I. Reformed in reaction
Firstly, Jesus deals with our reactions to the assaults of our enemies. Again, remember that he iscalling us to be counterintuitive – to go against our human intuition of revenge to exhibit and a strong“softness” that shows that we belong to the humble, meek, servant, Jesus:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’  
But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 
It’s rathercounterintuitive for us to be so recklessly generous, so recklessly naïve that we offer to our enemy anopportunity for abuse. Doesn’t that seem odd?Our intuition says, “get even!” Our intuition says, “Get our enemies before they get us and hurt them worse than they could possibly hurt us.” Unfortunately, that human intuition is as far fromgodliness as the east is from the west. But that principle of “getting even” was exactly how the Jewishleaders were presenting the “eye for an eye” passage from Deuteronomy 19, planting into the Biblical soilthe seed of human reason, thus poisoning the divinely intended meaning of the Torah. Instead of upholding the true meaning that crimes in the Israelite community deserved a fair punishment, the “eyefor an eye” passage was used by the Jewish leaders as ground for all kinds of vigilante behavior.
Jesus’ disciples are called to be different. As we look at verse 39 specifically, we can’t help but think ahead from the mountain where Jesus is teaching his disciples to the night that Jesus was betrayed– how he offered his cheek to the one who would strike it, how he offered his body over to abuse, tobeating, to all kinds of unthinkable and unspeakable violence, how he stood in the center of his enemiesand not once lashed out to “get them before they got him.” What strong softness, softness in the midst of the Jewish officials who wished to do away with him, softness in the midst of his crucifiers, askingforgiveness for their ignorance in nailing the Lord of glory to the tree, softness even as the shadow of death drew near, not once promising revenge on the cross – but instead promising paradise to the faith-filled thief; not once promising to get even, but instead willingly and lovingly satisfying the demands of the law and its curse with his death, so that we are exonerated from the charges against us and savedfrom the eternal punishments that we so surely deserve.Such selfless sacrifice clarifies that the spirit of grudging recompense and quick revenge is farfrom the heart of God. It’s not okay for Christ’s disciples to act like the unbelieving world, or to mix intothe soil of Holy Scripture the seed of natural human instinct, like the Jewish officials did in Jesus’ day. Weare to be salt and light, different from the world, and that includes the way that we approach those whoare our enemies. If holding on to the firm truth that Jesus is the only way to heaven invites abuse, if it creates enemies for us, and offers to our enemies an opportunity to take advantage of us, then so be it!For we are “blessed” in Christ Jesus. To flirt with the natural instinct of revenge is to flirt with damnation.To be recklessly generous and willing to be abused for the sake of the gospel, to be counterintuitive withthe enemy, to be reformed in our reactions by the words and deeds of Jesus, is to be salt and light – andthus a disciple that stands out with a unique life and a unique confession of faith that even gives theenemy a chance to “see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
II. Unqualified in love
Jesus continues his instruction to his disciples:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?  
And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?  
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” 
 Again, this is quite counterintuitive for us. We see in verse 43 that the disciples were hearing fromtheir religious officials that they should “hate their enemy.” The human instinct to limit who we love to acertain group of people, that instinct is found wherever sinners are found. We love to qualify who isdeserving of our love – those who agree with us, those who do nice things for us, those who we benefit from, those that we spend the most time with, really anyone that has proven themselves worthy of ourlove – and when I say “love,” I’m talking specifically about the kind of Christian love that seeks the eternalsalvation of another.With urgency, Jesus commands us to be unqualified in love, for that is the way that God the Fatheracts each and every day, and that same lack of qualification in extending saving love is clearly evident inthe plan to save the world from sin through Jesus and his atoning sacrifice.Every day, rain falls, sun shines, crops grow, provisions are made for the whole world. Dailybread, which we pray for in the Lord’s prayer is given to people throughout the world, not just believers.

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