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By Rev Charles Seet

Preached at / Published Life BPC 8am service, 2002-04-14

Text: Matthew 5:43-48

We have just started last week on a new series of messages on Christian living entitled 'How Then Should We Live?' Let me just give you a friendly warning: a series of messages like this may not be very pleasant to your ears at all, because you may receive a painful rebuke from our Lord for the way you are living right now, thinking that your manner of life at present is all right before God, when it is actually not. It may be hard to take correction which is needed and to make the necessary changes in your life. But we must be willing to change if we are to please God. So I trust that you will listen humbly and carefully to what the Lord speaks to you through these very incisive series of messages. 

Too often we Christians measure ourselves by our own man-made standards. Our idea of living as Christians is limited to just attending the worship service on Sundays, reading the Bible and praying each day. We think that as long as we have done our part in doing some Bible study, in reciprocating the kindness of others to us, in being loving to those who love us, that the Lord will be quite happy and satisfied with us. But we might be quite shocked to find out what God really thinks of us! Let us turn our Bibles now to a passage of Scripture where Jesus speaks about the kind of love that He expects us to have - Matthew 5:43-48. 

These verses should make us examine ourselves - Yes, we may have been showing love to people, greeting people warmly, and we have been nice to people - but is that enough? Jesus says that despite all these, we may actually be no better than the publicans (tax-collectors), and these are the people who were most despised by society for their greed and dishonesty. We may be no better than them, because they are just as capable of showing the same kind of love to each other. 

Are the things that we have done then more than what they have done? Apparently not. Look at the unbelievers around us, and you will see that they do much good to one another, and they even make great sacrifices for one another. In fact sometimes they seem to be doing more good works than Christians! But a person may say, Yes they are zealous for good works, but what about their motive for their works? Aren't they doing these things to earn their salvation? Aren't they actually doing all they do for selfish reasons? It is true that most of the time, people do these things merely to 'ease' their conscience, or fulfil their obligation. What they have then is not love since, as 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us - real love does not seek its own. 

What about us, then? Have we not often fallen into the same trap ourselves? Are we not also doing many things we ought to do merely to 'ease' our conscience, or fulfil our obligation as Christians? If you are convicted this morning, that this is true of you, then take heed to what the Lord Jesus says to you in this passage. He says that you need to go the extra mile. And you need to do all these things out of pure selfless love, a love that is superior to the love that the world has. A love that does not seek its own. This is the kind of love that God expects from us, and it is characterised by three things: 

I. It Is a Universal Love (vv. 43, 44) 

God's commandment to love tells us in v.43 to love our neighbour. And the word 'neighbour' in this commandment is not restricted to any particular class of people. We know this because on one occasion, when Jesus was asked the question, 'Who is my neighbour?' He replied by relating the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). He related how no one else except the Samaritan (whom the Jews regarded as social outcasts) was willing to give help to the Jew who was injured. Therefore anyone who is in need is my neighbour, regardless of his background.

The love required of us is therefore a universal love. It embraces the broadest scope. We should no longer make judgments of people around us according to their abilities, outward appearance, or social position. But regard every person, whether rich or poor, old or young, weak or strong, as someone who deserves to be loved and cared for. We should not regard anyone as not being worth your time and attention. 

One problem that exists everywhere, even among Christians is the problem of discrimination. There is a tendency to limit the showing of one's kindness, love and concern only to those we prefer to be with. The words of our Lord Jesus in this passage reminds us that our love must not discriminate against anyone. Jesus even once said that, 'When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee. But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind: And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.' (Luke 14:12-14) 

The kind of love that Christ expects from you must not be limited to only certain groups of people, but it must embrace the broadest scope. We are to show love not only to our friends and neighbours, but even to total strangers as well, and more than that, even to those who hate us and those who are our enemies. The Jews who heard Jesus say this would react and say, 'How can You say that we must love our enemies?, Are we not told 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy'?' (v.43)

Actually the word of God never says that we are to hate our enemies at all. The commandment as God gave it in the scriptures in Leviticus 19:18 only reads, 'thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.' The clause 'and hate thine enemy' was added on by some ancient teachers of Israel, who had a distorted interpretation of this commandment! Notice that v.43 begins with the clause, 'Ye have heard that it hath been said,' Compare this now with what is stated at the beginning of v.21 and 27 'Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,' Notice that in all these verses Jesus did not say, 'It is written'. That is because He is not citing the teachings of the Scriptures, but the distorted interpretations that were given to it by 'them of old time'

Jesus then gives the correct interpretation of the commandment to love in v.44 'But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you'. How do we love our enemies? One outstanding example is found in the life of David at the time when King Saul was pursuing him with the intention of killing him. David and his men were hiding in a cave and Saul did not know it. Saul went in to that cave to ease himself not knowing that David was hiding in there. 

David and his men were hid by the darkness of the cave and could have easily have taken advantage of this to end his miserable fugitive life there and then by taking Saul's life. But he refused. He said in 1 Samuel 24:6 'The LORD forbid that I should do this thing unto my master, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch forth mine hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the LORD.'

The same thing happened again later on. This time Saul and 3,000 men came again after David. And God caused the whole camp of Saul to fall asleep at night - even the guards - so that David and one of his men were able to come right up to the sleeping king Saul. Once again David had his golden opportunity to take his enemy's life. But he did not, saying, 'The LORD forbid that I should stretch forth mine hand against the LORD'S anointed' (1 Samuel 26:11). When King Saul died on the battlefield, David could have rejoiced that his enemy was dead. But instead, he mourned the death of Saul and composed one of the most moving eulogies about Saul and of Jonathan, his son, which is recorded in 2 Samuel chapter 1. 

These responses of David to Saul exemplify the selfless love that was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ in Matthew 5:44 'But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you' The supreme example of selfless love however, is the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that, 'when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously' (1 Peter 2:23). And as He hung upon the cross, beholding the mocking throng of Jews and Romans He said, 'Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' 

Dearly beloved, perhaps there may be someone you know who has done things against you which you consider to be totally unforgiveable. You feel that the wrong that was done against you is so great that there can be absolutely no possibility of demonstrating love by way of forgiving that person. The scriptures however specifically commands you to forgive those who have sinned against you, since you have been forgiven of all your sins by God. You are constrained to love your enemies because God Himself loved His enemies and forgave them. This brings us to the second characteristic of the love that does not seek its own: 

II. It Is a Supernatural Love (v. 45) 

Let us look at v.45 'That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' Children often bear the resemblance of their parents. If you are God's child you should bear His resemblance of love. Therefore your love must be a supernatural or godly love, embodying the highest standard of all which is God's own love for mankind! 

Ephesians 5:1,2 states the same principle 'Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.' 

What kind of love does God have? According to what Christ said in v.45 God's love is a love that bestows good on all people impartially, whether they are good or evil. Theologians since the time of Calvin have related God's love in vv. 44-45 to His 'common grace'(i.e., the gracious favour that God bestows 'commonly,' without distinction, on all men). He could with justice simply condemn all; instead He shows repeated and prolonged favour on all. It is out of this love, that He offers salvation freely to everyone, and takes no delight in seeing sinners suffering eternal death in Hell. He is not coldly indifferent to their plight. He does not gleefully leave them to suffer for their sins. But as a loving Father, He mourns over them, and is grieved at their loss. God Himself says in Ezekiel 33:11, 'As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live' We realise even more how much God loves sinners when we read what Christ says: 'there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.' (Luke 15:10) 

Romans 5:8 tells us that it was while we were yet sinners - and therefore while we were still enemies of God - that He loved us. 'But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.' 2 Peter 3:9 reads, 'The Lord is not slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness: but is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.' 

Dearly beloved, this then is the standard of love that God expects from you. Since God loves all sinners and longs for them to have eternal life, you should be loving people around you with this selfless kind of love. And this also means that you should love them enough to bring them the Gospel of salvation, which is the only thing that can save them from eternal death. This love should make you zealous to preach the Gospel to every creature. Let us therefore be loving enough to strive for the salvation of all kinds of people we meet. 

Thus far we have seen two characteristics of the love that does not seek its own: It is universal and supernatural. 

We come now to the third and final characteristic of this love, which is highlighted in v.47 - when it says, 'what do ye more than others'. The key word here is the word 'more'. This love demands 'more' from us (v. 47); more of our time, more of our resources, more of ourselves. And this shows that it must be:

III. It Is a Sacrificial Love (vv. 46-48) 

It is a love that ellicits the deepest sacrifice from us! One of the things that is commonly found in society at large, and that stands directly opposed to sacrificial love, is apathy. Basically, each person tends to be interested and involved only in his own concerns. This tendency confines us to our own needs and concerns. It makes us think along these lines: 'So long as my own needs are met, my own rights are not being violated, and I am getting along comfortably in life, there is nothing else that I really need to be concerned about.' And I regret to say this, but this kind of thinking may also be found in the majority of us. Too many are contented just to be spectators, letting others do all the work of ministering to others, and seeking to be ministered to rather than to minister. Although there are a number of people in our church who are always actively sacrificing their time and efforts for others, a large proportion of our church is general plagued by a sense of apathy.

Please ask yourself if you are plagued with this sense of apathy or lack of feelings for others. That apathy is not good. In fact it is abnormal. Please know that it is a symptom of a spiritually sick life. John the apostle stated this clearly in 1 John 3:10 'In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.' 

And also in 1 John 4:7,8 he says 'Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.' When John speaks in these verses of the person that 'loveth not' he is not referring to a person who hates others, but to a person who just has no love, toward others, i.e. apathy. This is why as Christians we cannot reamin comfortable with having no feelings for one another. If we have no feelings for others, we must do something about it. We must strive to develop genuine good feelings for others.

How can we do this? By developing a genuine interest in others. God's Word in Philippians 2:4 commands us 'Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.' Please make a serious effort to develop a sincere interest in others, especially in church. Learn to look beyond yourself, beyond your own little world that you have built around yourself.

Let us do all that we can to develop a healthy interest in others. Then we would be prepared to do more for them, to go the second mile for them, and also to love them the way that God wants us to love: A love that seeks not its own, because it is divine in its scope, in its standard, and in its sacrifice! May God give us this love.

Vision & Mission

 

To build a united church family that is committed to making disciples through Salvation, Sanctification and Service, to the glory of God.

Verse for the Week

October 15 & 22 - The Cost of Discipleship

For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. Matthew 16:25