Romans 5:7-8 - Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
In yesterday's message, I told you about Jesus teaching, "love your enemies!" So, I thought we would explore that a bit more today. Why? Because it makes no sense to us. Love your enemies? I thought that by definition enemies were people that we hate. Why would anyone make themselves vulnerable to those who wish us ill or wish us harm? So, today, let's put this Word of Jesus to the test. Let's say that He really meant hardcore enemies, people who had it in for us -- enemies because they wanted to be our enemies. When you face people like that, there is only one thing to do, right? Fight, win, protect! Faced with enemies who have hurt you, it's justice that we need, not love. Right?
Okay, the Bible is clear: evil must be punished. And if our enemies wish us ill, justice demands that we are protected from such ill. But here's the point: that justice protects and judges us all the same. It doesn't provide lasting solutions to why we so easily become enemies of each other, and enemies of God.
And that's why Jesus came to love His enemies. It was for their sake. He didn't come into this world to make a sinful world a little more just, or to make a nasty world, a little more nice. He came to do a demolition job and remodel the whole place. I love HGTV, especially those shows about remodeling the house. It's so amazing to see them blow out walls, re-wire, rebuild. I remember in New York City when we remodeled our apartment, our whole building in Gramercy Park. It was in pretty tough shape when we bought it. We literally demolished everything inside, taking the place "back to the studs," as they say. From those exposed beams, a whole new place emerged. There were new walls, new rooms, new floors, new cabinets. Of course, there was a lot of sweat equity and late night effort to get that job done, but it was all new when it was finished.
The Gospel of Jesus is the ultimate remodel job. Jesus didn't just come to be a contractor for our new life. He came as the worker, the skilled tradesman, the foreman, the contractor, the bank loan officer, the quality-control manager, the only One who was not only the only One who could do the job of redeeming and restoring us, He did it. That's the kind of love we need for the job of our salvation and our reconciliation. That's the kind of work that didn't look at us as a hopeless case, but saw what we could become again based on His work on our behalf.
I know it's harsh to hear "Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44b). It's harsh until you realize that your sins made you an enemy of God's righteousness and love. That those sins are the root cause of all the enemy stuff in the first place. What we need is not help for the status quo, but a love-your-enemies kind of love, a love that keeps coming with truth and grace, always encouraging sinful people like us to repent and believe in the One who not only loves us, but can rekindle His love in our lives for others. His love: it endures, it lasts, it fulfills, because it is a love-your- enemy kind of love.
THE PRAYER: Dear Jesus, open our eyes to the power of Your love-your-enemies love for us, and give us courage to love others the way You indeed love us! Amen!
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Rev. Dr. Gregory Seltz
Speaker of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries
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