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Love My Enemies?

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Love My Enemies?

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Love My Enemies?

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Sermon in Spokane, Washington. It's natural and easy to love those who love us. Loving our enemies is considerably more difficult. But we are commanded to do so, and this message has some tips on how we can do that.

Transcript

[Paul Moody] Well brethren, several months ago I would say it was probably back in December I gave a sermon entitled “Am I My Brother’s Keeper?” And we looked at Scripture to determine the answer to that to which the answer was a resounding “Yes.” As brethren, we are our brother’s and our sister’s keeper. And shortly after that, I gave another sermon titled “Love Your Neighbor” and essentially asking the same questions, “Are we required to love our neighbor? And what does that look like?” And the focus of that is primarily not to our brothers and sisters within the Body of Christ but to the world around us, to those whom we would consider to be our neighbors.

And so today I’d like to come back around and address the topic of relationships again. And so I guess we could consider this a part 3 to the relationship series, although I didn’t title it such as in parts. But the title for today’s message is “Love My Enemy?” with a question mark. And so it’s pronounced more like “Love my enemy? Really? Love my enemy? Would God really expect me to do that? How do you even do that? What does it look like?” Again, what does God mean when the Bible tells us “Love my enemy?” Today, brethren, we’re going to look at a number of scriptures that talk about how we should relate to our enemy, the love we should have for them and we’ll see a little more clearly how that should be expressed as God’s people.

Now loving our enemies is probably one of the hardest things for us to do in this flesh. It’s easy to love people who love you back in return, say a good husband and wife relationship where they’re both loving and caring for one another. It’s easy to express and to receive that love back and forth. And even say it’s relatively easy to love somebody who likes you. But loving someone who’s your enemy that’s a little bit different. One of the hardest things that we can do in this flesh is to love our enemy. And in our mind that could almost seem to be stretching that love thing just a little too far. I mean, they’re our enemy. That’s the point. And of course we can love our friend but there’s a reason they’re our enemy, they’re our enemy because they’re not our friend. And yet we have instruction from Scripture just how exactly we’re going to have to look at that relationship. So again, what do you mean, “Love my enemy?” Sounds nice in words and saying the words “We should love our enemies” may make us sound Christ-like, but it’s not just a slogan, it’s actually actionable, something we’re to put in constant action in our life.

I want to go to Matthew 5, to begin with today, see the words of Jesus Christ in regard to this topic. Matthew 5 and we’ll pick it up in verse 43. This is the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew 5:43 Matthew 5:43You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.
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, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” You think, well that’s interesting because I can turn to a scripture that says, “Love your neighbor,” but where do you find the scripture that says, “Hate your enemy?” It’s not in the Word of God that I can find. “Hate your enemy” was sort of their own vocal aural recommendation as to how you dealt with someone who was your enemy but it wasn’t scriptural, “love your neighbor” is, “hate your enemy” is not.

Verse 44, Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, then you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” So by using this illustration of God sending rain on the just and the unjust, Christ is showing that God is not a discriminator in terms of who’s He’s going to express love to, and the point is we should not as well. Christ wanted His disciples to demonstrate love to all of mankind, not only their friends but their enemies as well and it’s a lesson for us. It’s the standard we’ve been called to live by today. Loving your enemies isn’t such an easy thing to do, and yet it’s the commandment we have here in Scripture.

Verse 46 as it carries on, Christ says, “If you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” And it’s interesting as you go through the Gospel accounts you see tax collectors are sort of pulled through the mud a little bit here and there and kind of they were people who were despised by their fellow Jews, because a tax collector, you know, how some people feel about the I.R.S. This is a little different than that because a tax collector was your fellow Jew and they were working for the Romans too who had, you know, jurisdiction over the Jews and they collect the taxes from their fellow Jews for the Romans. And so they were looked at very much as traitors by their countrymen. So, you know, when you say even the tax collectors do this, Christ is saying, “You know what? Even by your own estimation to love somebody who loves yourself isn’t like a step beyond the norm. Everybody, everybody does that.”

Verse 47, “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” It says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And so by learning to love our enemies, we begin to develop that perfection in that character of completeness that is of God and that becomes of God in us by the indwelling of His Holy Spirit and we begin to see what it means to love as God loves. To love an enemy actually gives us insight into loving as God loves. Now Jesus Christ said, that involves “blessing those who curse you, doing good to those who hate you, and praying for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” That’s hard. That’s a hard thing to get down on your knees before God and pray for somebody that has been spiteful and hurtful and out not for your benefit, maybe they’ve wronged you in some way.

You ever been taken advantage of by someone? You know, have you ever gone out of your way to do good for someone and then in return in payment back for your good they took the good you offered and then treat you spitefully? Again, that doesn’t make us want to run right into the room, close the door and get on our knees and pray for their good. I dare say it makes some other thoughts run through our mind. Our first knee-jerk reaction is usually wanting to get even, isn’t it? Just kind of wanting to settle the score, see them get theirs. Maybe if we’re going to prayer or we’re going to, “God, why don’t you deal with them what they’ve dealt to me just so they know what it feels like?” But, again, the command is, “Bless your enemy,” don’t say rude and inconsiderate things about them, “love them, pray for them and do good unto them,” and as Christ said, “If you do that, you will then be sons of your Father in heaven,” because that’s according to His nature and His character. Let’s notice the example of God and Christ and what it is that they set for an example in this regard for us.

John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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, probably one of the most quoted scriptures in Christianity. John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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, but it’s an important focus for us. John 3:16 John 3:16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
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says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” So God loved the world so much that He sent His Son, His only Son to die on behalf of this world. So who is in the world? Who did Christ die for? Was it friends of God? Was it close people that God specifically felt very close to? Or was it not sinners? Was it not people with the carnal nature? Book of Romans we will turn there to chapter 8 verse 7 says, “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Carnal simply means that the fleshly human mind apart from God. So God sent His only Son to die for a world that was sold under sin that was of a carnal mind that was in enmity to Him. Essentially, He sent His Son to die for His enemies. That’s the example, and it’s what Christ as well of His own willingness did willingly. He came and died for us as well.

Now if we carry on in John 3:17 John 3:17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
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it says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Your God has such love for those that were His enemies that He provided the sacrifice on their behalf, for us as human beings in our carnal nature the desire for our enemies is to condemn them. You know, we want to see them pay, we want to see justice, and we say, “God give them what’s due to them, but be merciful on me O God a sinner.” And we kind of try to play both sides of the coin. So God did not send His Son to condemn the world but to save them. And from our perspective, we should not consider our enemies people that we would like to see condemned as well but people we would like to see ultimately saved.

The way people become enemies is a funny thing. And we can start oftentimes over something very petty, very simple. I’ve seen people blow relationships completely out of the water over two inches of grass on a property line. I mean, if you want to see somebody have a meltdown over something that’s pretty petty, run a landscape business for over 20 years and such as I did and see what happens when somebody mows over somebody else’s property line and they don’t like it. I mean, I’ve seen… I’ve had customers that lived side by side that were neighbors, and this one was my friend and customer and this one was my friend and my customer. I got along great with both of them. I thought they were wonderful people, but they were enemies to one another, again, over something very petty that just blows up and then you have one wanting to talk to you about the other and the other want to talk to you about the other, and look, you know, I really didn’t want to hear it.

But, you know, I’ve seen it started in such simple ways as that. You know, maybe it’s a tree. “Your tree dropped its leaves on my yard.” Or maybe it’s not a tree that’s way over there, maybe it’s a tree that’s right on the property line, so now you have an argument whose responsibility is it to trim the limbs. Who gets to clean up the leaves? So you have one neighbor that goes out one day and rakes of all the leaves, puts them in trash cans and goes over and dumps them on their neighbor’s property. Those are his leaves. So the neighbor comes out with a leaf blower and starts to blow all those back plus more on to the other property. You know, this is a family feud or something going on. It happens.

Again, God, brethren didn’t send His Son to condemn humanity, He sent Him to provide a means by which it could be reconciled to Him and frankly to one another because if two people are reconciled to God, they ought to be able to be reconciled to one another. And when there is conflict it is generally because there is conflict between that individual and God and it bleeds over them between one another, because if you’re right with God and I’m right with God we ought to be able to be right with one another. But if we’re not right with one another, there’s generally a stumbling block, there’s a problem in the relationship between one of us and God. Of course is easy to say, “Oh, I agree with that. They’ve got a problem.” But the point is we all need to examine ourselves. Again, God sent His Son to die for Humanity those who are enemies so that they could be reconciled ultimately one day, all of mankind in relationship with Him.

Romans 5:6 Romans 5:6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
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, we look at the words of Paul. Romans 5:6 Romans 5:6For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
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[5], Paul says, “Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us.” You know, we need to recognize, brethren, verse 6, sorry, “For when we were still without strength,” he says, “in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” So we need to stop and we all need to recognize where it was that we came from. We were the ungodly, we were the sinners and the enemies of God, and he says, “Without strength,” which means there was nothing within our own power that we could do to free ourselves from that state of being, and as such God sent His Son to die for us. Christ died for the ungodly.

Verse 7, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.” You know, I’ll die for my friend, right? I’ll die for my spouse, but that guy? You really want me to die for that guy? That might be another question. Jesus Christ died for every single human being. “But God,” verse 8, “demonstrates His own love towards us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, now having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we now receive the reconciliation.”

So, again, God’s plan of salvation is about extending an opportunity for reconciliation to every single man and woman, every single human being each in their time and in their order, but again Christ died for all. God desires to be reconciled to all. He’s not willing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance. Of course, we know from the Scripture, not all will come to repentance, okay? There will be fuel for the fire so to speak, but God has not overlooked anybody in terms of who He’s going to offer that opportunity for reconciliation with. But reconciliation takes two sides coming together not just one. In my mind, the process of reconciliation and loving our enemies boils down to us viewing others as God views them. We need to view our enemy even as a potential son or daughter in the Kingdom of God. Someday who God one day will hopefully be able to establish a reconciled relationship with. Again, it takes both, but God created all mankind with the potential to be sons and daughters in His Kingdom. And so the way to love someone as God loves them and to have a willingness to get down on your knees and pray for them and desire reconciliation is to see them how God sees them in the purpose and in the potential for which they were created.

For truly to become like sons of God, brethren, we need to take on God’s nature, and included in that is His nature of love and forgiveness. We need to be willing to look on those who have wronged us with compassion. And in fact, the Scripture would indicate that the level in which we’re willing to extend forgiveness to others actually has an impact on the level of forgiveness that God would extend to us. I won’t turn there but Matthew 6:12 Matthew 6:12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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, Jesus Christ is teaching His disciples to pray, we would call the model prayer. And in Matthew 6:12 Matthew 6:12And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
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He says, “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”

And so the principle is as we are willing to extend forgiveness to others is the manner in which then God is going to extend forgiveness to us upon our repentance. But if we’re not willing to extend forgiveness that somebody else has come to us in repentance then why would we as the saved children of God, why would God desire to extend forgiveness to us if we’ve shut our heart up against someone else?

In the flesh, Jesus Christ showed the greatest level of love imaginable towards those who are persecuting Him. You walk through the Gospel accounts and you see His life He was persecuted time and time again, but the ultimate level of persecution was at His crucifixion where He was scourged, He was beaten, He was spit upon, He was mocked. And what was His response? When He was reviled against, He didn’t revile in return. His response was to pray to His Father in heaven, and Luke 23:34 Luke 23:34Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.
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He says, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” Jesus Christ was crying out to His Father for forgiveness for those who were brutally killing Him at that moment. And brethren it’s an incredible example for us. Again, someone who was willing to die for people that didn’t even appreciate the sacrifice He was making. Notice again, the words of Paul, Romans 12:14 Romans 12:14Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
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Romans 12:14 Romans 12:14Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.
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, Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” And that’s difficult. If somebody persecutes you it’s really easy to go around and tell everybody else about it, give them all the dirt. Instruction is, bless, do not curse. Verse 15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Be the same mind towards one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. And if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” So, inasmuch as it is in our power to do so, we need to pursue peace with all men. Those who are kind to us, those who love us, and even those who do not.

Now the reality is peace may not always be possible. Again, reconciliation is a two sided event. God sent His Son that did not automatically reconcile Him to mankind. What brings about the reconciliation is then mankind recognizing their need for sacrifice coming to repentance and coming into that relationship with God. So reconciliation takes two parts and we all have to do our share, and Paul says, “As much as it depends on you, you do your part. You pursue peace, you grab a hold of it, you make it a part of who and what you are and how you deal with the rest of mankind.” In Hebrews 12:14 Hebrews 12:14Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:
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, I’ll just quote for you. It says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” So if you’re not someone who pursues peace, if you’re someone who goes out to, you notice, just sort of handle it your own way, if you’re not one who goes after a peaceful relationship and makes it happen, then it says you’re not going to be worthy of the rule alongside Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace in the Kingdom of God. Peace is that important of an issue, brethren. Our salvation depends on it. Again, the instruction, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.”

Beatitudes as well. Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
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Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God.” The passage we started out in Matthew 5 where Christ said, “If you love your enemies, you’ll be sons of your Father in heaven.” So we can see again the nature of God is to desire peace reconciliation with all of mankind. He has done more than what any of us would ever expect that we would have to do in order to bring that about. He provided the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ who was willing to be that sacrifice. In light of that, how much should peace be very high on our radar and our desire to pursue? We need to strive to be at peace with those around us whether they are in this world or whether they are in the Church of God as long as coming to a point that brings peace is not in conflict with the laws and the standards of God.

Verse 19 carrying on still in Romans 12. Paul says, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” It’s not for us to take vengeance on our enemy. God will decide where and how and what it is that He will do — that’s His jurisdiction. Verse 20, “Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in doing so, you will heap coals of fire on his head.” And we say, “Oh I like that.” Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? I get the heap coals of fire on my enemy’s head. Well, what does that mean really?

Well, I thought it was interesting the point isn’t, “I’m going to burn then, okay, by doing good. I’m going to get even by doing good.” I like what the Blue Letter Bible Commentary says on this. It says, “It most likely refers to a burning conviction that our kindness places on our enemy.” In other words, if you’re doing good to your enemy especially in their time of need, perhaps they’re suddenly going to start feeling guilty about being your enemy. You know, if you’ve done something good on their behalf and loving and kind for them, maybe they’ll determine that it’s not a good idea to be your enemy for long and perhaps it will open the door to repentance and forgiveness and reconciliation.

Verse 21, Jesus concludes the chapter by saying, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” And so evil is conquerable. It’s conquered by doing good. That’s what we do when we respond to our enemies in love — that’s what Jesus Christ did when He came to be the sacrifice for all of mankind.

And so again, what does loving our enemy involve? What does it look like? Well, feed them when they’re hungry, cloth them when they’re naked, pray for them, do good on to them, bless them. Christ said to pray for them. By asking God to open their mind to the truth, I would say would be the best way to pray for them. Not, “God give them theirs. Dish out on them what it is that they deserve. Let them see that I’m right, that I’m justified.” That really shouldn’t be the focus of our prayer. Focus of our prayer should be, you know, “God open their mind to the light of your truth. Help them to be reconciled to you and then hopefully they’ll be common ground in which we can be reconciled to each other.” Pray to God to open a window of opportunity that you can extend the hand of reconciliation. And sometimes that’s a difficult because that might involve looking at ourselves and looking at, you know, our own actions, how we’ve contributed to the offense or the division in the briefs that exists.

Sometimes reconciliation, again, isn’t possible in terms of rebuilding a relationship, number one, because they may not wish to return it, but we should at least still forgive them in our heart and desire that relationship should the point ever come. And then also there’s times where there are situations frankly where it would not be a good idea to open the door on a relationship. I’m talking, for example, abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse where it is best not even to crack that door under certain circumstances, but that does not mean we cannot love the person as God loves us and to forgive them in our heart and pray for them as well.

Loving our enemy also includes going out of our way to do good for them. And if you looked out the window… If you had a neighbor that was an enemy, you looked out the window and you saw their house was on fire, what would you do? Would you grab a bucket of water or a hot dog on a stick? Would you feel bad for them or would you want to try to help? If you’re driving down the road and you saw a car broken down and you recognize is the car of somebody really didn’t like and it’s a rainy evening and you get about another half mile down the road and you see them walking, would you stop to pick them up? Would you keep driving?

We had the 4th of July recently and I heard a report that 4th of July is, I believe, the number one day that the animal shelter picks up dogs because the fireworks are going off and all the dogs are getting scared. Our dog hates fireworks and thunder, and you have dogs running the street because they’ve just been terrified, broke out of their yard. What if you’re driving down the street on the 4th of July and you see your neighbor’s dog running around in traffic on the highway, are you going to get a sense of satisfaction that maybe, you know, they’ll get hurt, you know, they’ll suffer because if that dog gets hurt they’re going to feel really bad and that’s going to make me feel good? Or are you going to stop and rescue that dog and return it to your neighbor unharmed?

Hopefully, none of us would be confused over what the right thing would be to do, but if there’s any confusion there’s a biblical principle for us to consider. Exodus 23:4-5 Exodus 23:4-5 4 If you meet your enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. 5 If you see the ass of him that hates you lying under his burden, and would forbear to help him, you shall surely help with him.
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. Exodus 23:4 Exodus 23:4If you meet your enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.
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says, “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him.” So here’s this animal out running around and you might think, “Look at that. Serves him right. He can spend all day chasing that animal.” The point is you go and catch it, you bring it back. That’s doing good unto your neighbor.

Verse 5, “If you see his donkey of the one who hates you lying under its burden,” you know, is loaded down, they’re trying to go to market, maybe this animal lays down now and won’t get up, and they’re pulling on the rope trying to get this animal back on their feet and it’s lying down under the burden, you know, again, will you just walk by and laugh? It says, “and you refrain from helping it,” it says, “you shall surely help him with it.” Again, if you see your enemy in need, you see somebody you don’t particularly like in distress at some level, it’s still the right and proper thing to do to render assistance. It’s the principle of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. So looking out not only for your own interests but also the interests of others.

Proverbs 24:17 Proverbs 24:17Rejoice not when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles:
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says, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls. Do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” “He got what was coming to him.” It says that is not an attitude that is of God. Again, brethren, and this is a hard concept because carnally, we want to see our enemy stumble. We want to see them what is there due to get, we want to see an eye for an eye. Maybe we want a little bit of revenge and of course, once again, we want mercy for ourselves.

What else? What else as we think of our enemy? Well, loving our enemy will help us look out for their positive qualities. Usually, what’s made them an enemy is the fact that there’s focus on some negative quality. And when we see them now maybe that’s all we see, is their negative quality. You know, “Why would anybody even be their friend, after all, you know, here’s what I’ve seen.” But I believe part of loving our enemy is looking out for their positive qualities instead of focusing entirely on their downfalls. It also means exercising patience with their shortcomings. And you can tend to get upset at somebody and then you’ll blow a fuse faster than somebody else who you like. But we need to get and be patient with their shortcomings, perhaps there’s something they’re working on, certainly, we would have our own shortcomings along the way as well.

Primarily, I’ve spoken today about loving our enemies in the world, but in reality things can occur even within the doors of the Church of God, even within our congregations because the Church of God is a small community and it’s very easy for us to, you know, bump into one another, rub up against each other maybe in a wrong way, and things that we can do that contribute to the breakdown of relationships even among brethren. Offenses sometimes occur or sometimes disagreements come up. How do we respond? Well, we’re the love our enemy and God expects us to do that, how much more are we to respond in love towards our fellow brethren to the desire to be reconciled, to desire to say, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.” That you should receive the same from the other. That doesn’t mean you can’t have a disagreement over some issue, but it means that love and not sticking it to the other person is the order of the day. And that love to be desired to be reconciled through love.

1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
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speaks more to the Body of Christ. 1 Peter 4:8 1 Peter 4:8And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.
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, here Peter says, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’” So if you show love towards somebody who’s sinned against you, it means, “All right, I’m willing to forgive this person.” That love it says “will cover a multitude of sins.” We can be reconciled.

If we go back just a page of 1 Peter 3:8 1 Peter 3:8Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:
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. 1 Peter 3:8 1 Peter 3:8Finally, be you all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brothers, be pitiful, be courteous:
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, it says, “Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous.” You know, I think of brothers. What do brothers? I have a brother. What do brothers do when they grow up? Well, they get into scuffs every now and then, you know. They tussle every now and then. But also when opposition comes and especially opposition from the outside, brother stand back to back. They fight for one another and they have each other’s back. Peter said, “Love as brothers.”

Verse 9, “Not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this that you may inherit a blessing.” Verse 10, “For ‘He who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.’” Again, go after peace, pursue it, grab hold of it with both hands and don’t let anybody tear it from your grasp. God is about pursuing peace through reconciliation and brethren we must be as well.

Verse 12, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And who is he who will harm you if you become fellow workers of what is good? For even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake you are blessed.” I mean, who set the greatest example of suffering for righteousness sake? Again, it was Jesus Christ. He was willing to be wronged and suffer for the benefit of others, the benefit of those who actually were wronging Him at that moment.

He says, “If you suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. ‘And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.’” Brethren as much as it depends on us, we should pursue peace with all people. We should “do good to all especially of the household of faith.” It’s an instruction from God but more than that He set the example. His Son Jesus Christ as well set the example.

I’d like to read to you an article that’s actually the featured article on a member site, United Church of God member’s site. And I encourage you to go back and look over it at least as of yesterday was the featured article on there, and it’s titled “Grudge Match.” “Grudge Match: The fight Against Broken Relationships.” And the article is written by Kevin Greer, and I looked up Kevin’s profile and he’s a young adult in the Church, a college student, I would say probably in his early 20s and lives in Michigan, I believe. And I was so impressed with the article that I sent him an email and asked if I could share, and he said, “Please do.”

I want to read to you what one of our young adults is thinking in the Church as it comes to not holding grudges, unity, and reconciliation. I think it’s very well written. I’ll just read it in its entirety. And I’ll reference briefly for you the scriptures that he references as we go through. So again, “Grudge Match: The Fight Against Broken Relationships.” And he starts out by quoting Hebrews 12:14-15 Hebrews 12:14-15 14 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15 Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;
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. He says, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.” He says, “Bitterness is not good. In this verse it is associated with falling short of God’s grace, not seeing God, and ‘defiling’ or infecting, many other people.” I mean, have you ever known somebody that was bitter against somebody else and now they go out and they poison the well against that person. You know, they’ll spread around the rumor and give you all the dirt on that person who you’ve never met and now you have a grudge against that person, and you’ve never even interacted with them or even met them. You know, it says, “The root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by that many become defiled.”

Going back to the article, he says, “The New Living Translation even calls it a ‘poisonous’ root of bitterness, further emphasizing the infectious and debilitating nature of this problem. Bitterness for others can arise from a variety of circumstances, but often it only begins as something small:” He says, “a grudge. A grudge seems innocuous enough. Usually it comes from a situation where you feel justified in holding the same matter… or some matter against another person. ‘“Forgive,’ but never forget,’” is the motto. “However, over time, this unresolved anger stirs and festers. A form of partiality creeps in where you treat the other person that you have a grudge with differently than those who you are ‘clean’ with. It becomes infuriating to even see this person.” You ask the question, “Is that the way to live? Is that the way God wants you to live? A proclamation God made over 3,400 years ago still stands today: ‘You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people,’” against your fellow brethren, “’but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.’ Leviticus 19:18 Leviticus 19:18You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
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. God does not want us to hold grudges. To bear grudges,” he says, “is to disregard the Golden Rule, forsake the heart of God’s law in our lives Matthew 7:12 Matthew 7:12Therefore all things whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
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. If we are to love each other as ourselves, we must put this damaging form of resentment behind us.”

He says, “A grudge is an angry gap between us and another person, but is also a gap between us and God. By stoking this fire, we give Satan the chance to enter this gap and to pry us away from others and from God, Ephesians 4:26-27 Ephesians 4:26-27 26 Be you angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down on your wrath: 27 Neither give place to the devil.
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, Grudges are destructive to the relationships that we should hold dear, including the one that we have with the Lord above. A grudge is just as much a spiritual condition as it is a social one.” I think that’s an important point for us to remember brethren. “A grudge is as much a spiritual condition as it is a social one.”

“In addition, carrying a grudge is a devastating and a very personal form of revenge. We cannot grow to be like God and sustain an acerbic vengeful attitude. This wrath and resentment is incapable of producing the fruits God wants to see from us, James 1:20 James 1:20For the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God.
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. God’s verdict on revenge is crystal-clear in the Bible: it’s not for you, it’s not for me, ‘“Vengeance is Mine, I will repay” says the Lord.’ Romans 12:19 Romans 12:19Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord.
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. As Christians it is not in our authority. We have no power or privilege to confer ‘justice’ as we see fit. In doing so we elevate ourselves to the realm only God should inhabit. So what does God want us to do?”

“God’s direction for us is not to wish for, to hope for, or talk about, but He wants us to pursue peace!” He says, “This is an active endeavor! And is echoed in the beatitudes, spoken by Jesus Christ: ‘Blessed are the peace makers , for they shall be called the sons of God.’ Matthew 5:9 Matthew 5:9Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
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. Notice again that we are called to make peace, not sit around and wait for peace to come.” But make peace. “‘Make’ is a common word with many synonyms that can be helpful in our self-evaluation.”

And he asked these questions. He asked, “Are you designing peace? Are you creating peace? Are you preparing peace? Are you assembling peace? Are you producing peace? God further directs us to forgive those we have resentment towards and fully resolve our conflicts with them, Romans 12:17-21 Romans 12:17-21 17 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. 18 If it be possible, as much as lies in you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place to wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, said the Lord. 20 Therefore if your enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.
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. Often, this requires us to both ask for and receive forgiveness from the individuals involved. The Bible instructs us to forgive others when we have a grudge against them, but also to approach others who may have a grudge against us and be reconciled to them, Mark 11:25 Mark 11:25And when you stand praying, forgive, if you have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
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.” And the instruction is if you go to the altar to offer the sacrifice to God and you remember your brother has something against you, go and be reconciled to your brother, then offer the sacrifice. And Scripture doesn’t say, “If you have the grudge…” It says, “If you know that somebody else has the grudge against you, you go and be reconciled with them.”

“Jesus states in Matthew 5:23-24 Matthew 5:23-24 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has ought against you; 24 Leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
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, to first be reconciled to the other person and then offer up gifts to Him. God wants us reconciled with others before we go to worship Him. God desires unity in His Church, not grudges, not acrimony. If we subvert this order, we are not doing what God wants us to do. Christians are told to be liberal with forgiveness and mercy, even if we’ve been wronged many times, Matthew 18:21-22 Matthew 18:21-22 21 Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? 22 Jesus said to him, I say not to you, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.
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. Interestingly, our own willingness to forgive is correlated with the forgiveness that God extends to us, Matthew 18:35 Matthew 18:35So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also to you, if you from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
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. Christ taught His disciples to include forgiveness in their prayers: ‘Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.’ How can we pray this prayer truthfully if we’re not extending forgiveness and reconciliation to those we interact with in this life? Carrying a grudge is diametrically opposed this forgiving and peaceful nature.”

He concludes by saying, “You and I are called to imitate God’s perfect, complete character. God’s character is merciful and gracious; He is slow to anger, full of love, Psalms 103:9 Psalms 103:9He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever.
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. But notice also that God does not carry a grudge against us or stoke an angry fire against us forever. ‘He will not always strive with us, nor will He keep His anger forever. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor punished us according to our iniquities’ Psalms 103:9-10 Psalms 103:9-10 9 He will not always chide: neither will he keep his anger for ever. 10 He has not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
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. Instead, what God has chosen to do?” Is this, “‘For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His mercy towards those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far He has removed our transgressions from us’ in Psalms 103:11-12 Psalms 103:11-12 11 For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. 12 As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
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. God has put our faults against Him so unimaginably far away. We too ought to forgive others, pursue peace and never give roots to any grudge.”

Brethren, I thought that was a remarkable article again written by a young adult in the church. And I appreciate the wisdom. Ultimately, it’s wisdom that comes from God and from the Word of God, and it’s something that we must all strive for today both in our relationships in the Church and outside. I’d like to conclude with one scripture. It’s a parallel passage to the passage I started with, the Sermon on the Mount, this time in the book of Luke 6. Luke 6:27 Luke 6:27But I say to you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
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, again, this is a parallel passage to what I opened with, but it’s worded a little differently.

Luke 6:27 Luke 6:27But I say to you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,
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, “But I say to you,” and these are words of Christ, “I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. To him who strikes you on one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes from you your goods do not ask them back. Just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise. But if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, you shall not be judged. Condemn not, you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your bosom. With the same measure that you use it, it will be measured back to you.”

Brethren, loving our enemies is not an easy command. It’s not for the faint of heart, but in Christianity is where the rubber meets the road. God is reconciling the world unto Himself. We need to be active in reconciling ourselves among one another. Loving our enemies is the example that God set, is the example that Jesus Christ set as He walked this earth. And brethren is the example that God expects us to set as the Church of God in this world today.