Feb 19, 2017 "Love Your Enemies", based upon Matthew 5: 38-48

 
Do you remember in Scriptures Jesus says ‘My yoke is easy and my burden is light”.
If that means the expectations and demands of what he asks of us are ‘no sweat’ or ‘no problem’ chores to carry out, then to that I say;….. ‘What a minute.  I beg to differ’!

All you have to do is listen to today’s Gospel reading from his Sermon on the Mt.
Among other outlandish things he says, Jesus gives some pretty hard stuff to do.
He tells us that, when we are struck on the one cheek,… to “turn the other cheek”.
When someone forces you to go a mile,… to “go the extra mile”.
When someone steals your coat,…. to “give your cloak as well”.
Then he says to “give to everyone who begs from you and don’t refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you”.
He concludes with we are to not just love our neighbor,… but also “love your enemies”.
At the end, Jesus says “be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.

Forget about an “eye for an eye” or revenge or getting even.
Forget about trying to not get taken advantage of or doing what is rightfully fair.
Sounds like he wants to permit physical abuse, financial irresponsibility, and injustice.
And to top it off,….he wants us to love those who can cause us these predicaments.

Well,….I’m sorry, but these are all unrealistic expectations for him to have for us. 
I try to give to beggars and the needy,….but there are limits I employ.
I try to go the extra mile when its appreciated,…. but not when I’m pushed to begin with.
And turning the other check and loving enemies not only allows abuse to be unchecked
but it might encourage future acts of the same kind of thing.
And the topper is “be perfect” - Ha! I have a heck of time often just trying to be ‘good’.

I wouldn’t blame any Christian person if they just ignored and wrote these off.
An ‘eye for an eye’ feels better than doing nothing let alone ‘turning the other cheek’.
Doing more than what is asked for should only be for those who’d appreciate it.
Giving/lending only to those deserving can keep us from ending up being a ‘sucker’.
And loving a neighbor is often hard enough, but loving enemies is just foolishness.
These sound like the ideals of a dreamer who doesn’t know how the real world works.

But the problem with dismissing these things that Jesus implores us to do is this;…
Retaliating or acting in self-preserving ways,…usually makes things worse.
Tit for tat generally leads to more conflict, as hostilities rise and deepen.
Hating generally breeds more destruction in our own hearts and the hearts of others.
Being too selective helping the needy can harden our hearts and be worse for all.
Our self interest gets in the way of our ability to do what really is right and effective.

What’s worse is that, when we do that, we push God away and say; ‘Let me handle this’
By ignoring Jesus, we then doubt God can keep us safe, secure, and bring us justice. 
So we push him aside to seek our own solutions and try to orchestrate outcomes.
Then we can be in control and take charge to make sure the right results occur in life.

But then we are, as the apostle Paul says, being foolish instead of wise.
Then our faith is weak and we don’t trust God can bring the justice we think we deserve.
Yet, for all those things described, in Scripture God tells us He will take care of us.
So in order to do these things Jesus asks, we have to trust that God’s got it covered.

If we don’t retaliate when offended and leave ourselves open to another offense,… 
we have to trust the Lord and hear him say, ‘its OK;…I got this’.
We got to have faith that God will protect us and right the wrong.
If we don’t withhold extra effort or giving, worried that we’ll be sorry we did,.…
we have to trust the Lord and hear him say to us; ‘I got this.
We have to have faith that God will ensure our daily bread, etc. 
If we don’t hate our enemies but frustrate them by showing love instead,…
we have to trust the Lord who tells us ‘don’t worry, this will work cause;I got this.
We have to have faith that God will use that love to bring good out of bad.

I’m currently taking a course in world religions and we started studying Hinduism.
They have many gods who, if lumped all together, do what our one God does.
There is a story about one god who is merciful and kind, whom a sage encounters.
When the sage finds this god, the god is sleeping so the sage kicks him to wake him up.
Instead of being angry, the god rubs the foot of the angry sage in case it had been hurt.
The sage says ‘This god is the mightiest;… he overpowers with good and generosity’.
So the wisdom given to us through these crazy ideas of Jesus seems universal.
Not only does this stuff really work, but its the best way to be strong, not weak.

Instead of utilizing our own misguided wisdom, we need to trust in God’s wisdom.
Putting our faith in God to take care of and protect us and make sure we are well.
Trusting God to change people who’ve hurt or taken advantage of our good nature.
Believing that God will bring justice, right wrongs, and make things whole and complete.

When Jesus says “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” that’s what he means. The translation of the Greek word we read as ’perfect’ means to be whole and complete.
Trusting more and more in Jesus can help get us to this better state of being.
So we’ll find wholeness and completeness with ourselves, with God, and with others.

These things Jesus asks of us are not naive ideas or ideals from the mind of a dreamer.
When you look at events of his life and death; Jesus knows how the real world works. 
We can do these things he asks of us by trusting Jesus knows what he’s talking about .
We can let go of bad responses and do what he says by believing that ’God’s got this’.

Amen