In July of 1962 from a New York jail, Martin Luther King revised one of his favorite sermons, “Loving Your Enemies”.
Probably no admonition of Jesus has been more well-known and poorly followed than Matthew 5:43-45. Some feel that it is impractical. Nietzche contended that this command is a testimony to the weakness and cowardliness of Jesus’ followers. But, as King said, “In spite of these insistent questions and persistent objections, this command challenges us with new urgency…modern man is traveling along a road of hate, a journey that will bring us to destruction and damnation. Far from being the pious injunction of a Utopian dreamer, the command to love our enemies is an absolute necessity for our survival…Jesus is not an impractical idealist: He is the practical realist.”
King continued, “I am certain that Jesus understood the difficulty inherent in the act of loving one’s enemy…He was not unmindful of its stringent qualities. Yet He meant every word of it. Our responsibility as Christians is to discover the meaning of this command and seek passionately to live it out in our daily lives.”
From there King proceeds to answer the practical question, “How do we love our enemies? And it’s instructive to note his three answers: First, we must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive; second, we must recognize that the evil deed of the enemy, the thing that hurts, never quite expresses al that he is; third, we must not seek to defeat or humiliate the enemy but win his friendship and understanding.
From the practical, King moves to why we should love our enemies. And he answers with four powerful reasons – returning hate for hate multiplies it, hate scars the soul and distorts the personality, hate is just as injurious to the person who hates as the person who receives it, love is the only transforming force to make an enemy a friend. Dr. King then ended his message with the powerful story of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton.
As we continue our series, “A Charge to Keep”, we will be examining Matthew 5: 38-48 and Jesus’ command to “Love Our Enemy”. In preparation for Sunday’s message you may wish to consider the following:
- Where would the people have heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” (verse 43)?
- What does “love” mean?
- How many Greek words are there for love?
- What does C.S. Lewis mean when he says, “Christian love, either toward God or man, is an affair of the will”?
- How does Jesus’ command in verse 43 relate to what He says in verses 38-42?
- What does Jesus mean in verse 45 when He says, “So that you may be sons of your Father…”?
- What’s the purpose of describing the deeds of His Father in the balance of verse 45?
- How does verse 48 fit?
- How does Jesus demonstrate loving His enemies?
- Who are His enemies?
POST TENEBRAX LUX -- “Out of darkness – LIGHT!”