Love Your Enemies
A Message by Pastor Eric Chang.
Today we will study the Lord’s words in Mt. 5:43-48. Here the Lord Jesus says this:
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
These are striking and powerful words and we must look into the meaning of these words. What is the message that the Lord Jesus is speaking to us here? Now clearly, this passage and the previous passage that we saw last week are internally and intrinsically related, except that here, the statement is made more positive, more clear and more uncompromising - more absolute. “You have heard that it was said,” the Lord Jesus says, “’You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies....” Love your enemies! If you can love your enemies, there is no one else that you cannot love. In other words, last week we saw that becoming a Christian is not just a question of going to church, not just a question of believing certain things to be true. Becoming a Christian is something so strikingly total in its requirements, that it means a total change in our whole way of thinking. Now this point we must grasp.
To Become a Christian Is To Have a Total Change in Our Thinking
The whole Sermon on the Mount is not giving us an ethical formula, as so many non-Christians mistakenly suppose. The whole Sermon on the Mount is providing us with a description of how a new person thinks. His whole attitude has changed. It is expounding to us the substance of a new way of thinking, that when you have become a Christian, your mind has so completely changed in its way of thought that it bears no resemblance whatsoever to the way of thinking you had before when you were not a Christian. This may sound surprising to people who have gone to church for a long time, and they never seem to have heard anything like this. But that is the teaching of the Lord Jesus - the teaching of the Lord Jesus in the whole Sermon on the Mount. It is not surprising that the Sermon on the Mount is not very often preached today. It is because we have not understood that the Lord Jesus is saying, “You want to be My disciple? You want to be a true Christian? Then I’m going to tell you how a true Christian thinks. His whole thinking changes. Before you were like this, now you are like that. Your whole thinking becomes divine in its attitude.”
Last week we saw the difference between human thinking and divine thinking. I think now you can see how important it is to follow this teaching of the Lord Jesus from week to week. Otherwise, you lose something of the connection, and I of course cannot repeat everything that was said before. But still, you will be able to see sufficient to realize that the Lord Jesus is saying that to be His disciples means not just accepting certain doctrines to be true. I think those of you who have been coming from week to week have begun to see this very clearly. It is that our whole mental process has changed. Our whole attitude changes. We become a new kind of person, not just in name, but in the whole way of thinking. The Communists speak of ‘thought reform’. We do not speak of a reform; we speak of a transformation. The Lord’s revolution is far more complete than any Communist revolution could make it. The whole attitude is changed utterly and completely. I think Bro. John Chin will share with you that recently he has been in China, and he was amazed by the fact that he did not see a great deal of change in the mental attitude of the people after 20-odd years, 28 years of Communism. He did not see any great change in the mental attitude of the people. He found that their thinking was just the same sort of thinking that he saw outside of China. And he thought to himself (he was talking to me on the telephone the other day), “It’s so amazing!” He thought that after 28 years of Communism, [there would be a change]. Anyone who is under 30 years of age cannot remember any other type of thinking. Yet their mental attitude has not changed. You cannot reform people’s thoughts basically. That is the lesson.
You can change, by the pressure of the system, outward behavior. It is very difficult to change, even to reform, a person’s thinking. But what Jesus is saying is this: when you become a Christian, you do not just accept certain things to be true, but God is going to change your life so that you become a new person, and this can only be accomplished by God’s power. Now, if there is no God’s power operating, if God is not working, we preach the Gospel in vain because all we are saying are very nice thoughts, very ideal thoughts, but impossible to fulfil. In this case, I might as well resign myself to a department of philosophy in some college or university and teach there. There is no point preaching the Gospel anymore because all you can do is provide philosophical ideas, ethical ideas, moral ideas - incapable of fulfilment. But I know that God can accomplish this! I have seen what God has been doing in other people’s lives. I have seen what God has been doing in my life. I know that God has the power to change even people like me. So He can certainly change every one of us. It is only my conviction in God’s transforming power that keeps me preaching the Gospel. So the Lord Jesus is saying here: “When you become a new person, I’m going to tell you how different your thinking is from those people who have not come to God, who have not repented of their sins, who have not been born again.”
You see, so often, as I have said, the phrase ‘born again’ is used again and again and people just do not know what it means. Does it mean just some external legal formula, by which you become a Christian? You are baptized - does baptism mean ‘born again’? At what stage are you ‘born again’? When you received Jesus, when you believed in Jesus, you are born again - and what happens to you? There must be some fundamental change, something very drastic that happens to you, that you can describe it as ‘born again’, as that you become a new person, because that is what it means. To be ‘born again’ means you become a new person. That is what Paul says again and again. Many people know that we need to be born again, but when you look at Christians, you do not see any essential difference between them and a non-Christian. What do you call these people? Are they Christians or not Christians? This is exactly what our passage is dealing with. It says, if you are still like any non-Christian, you do not know what it means to be a son. You do not know what it is to be a son. To be a son means that you have been fundamentally revolutionized! You have been utterly changed! Now this point we must clearly grasp as we enter into it in this passage.
What Does the Old Testament Say about ‘Hate Your Enemy’?
Now let us pursue the meaning of this as we say here: “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy”. Here we need to go carefully in our exegesis, in our exposition. “You shall love your neighbor...” - we know this is taught in the OT. “...and hate your enemy” - is that also taught in the OT? Now, specifically, it is not taught in the OT. In fact in the OT the teaching is contrary to this. So the quotation here, when it says, “You have heard that it was said” is clearly not a quotation from the OT. It is a statement regarding the way of thinking among religious people at that time.
But that is not accurate enough as an exegesis, as an exposition, because we must take into account a fact, that whereas, for example, in Ex. 23:4-5 it says this: “If your enemy’s ox or goat or sheep or ass or donkey, whatever it is, if that falls into a ditch, you shall not leave it in the ditch, you will rescue your enemy’s animal, your enemy’s property.” Or, it says: “If you see the animal of the person who hates you - his donkey or whatever it is - if it is crushed under the burden that has been put upon it, you shall not leave the animal there under its burden. You shall relieve the animal of its burden, even though that animal belongs to the man or to the people you hate.” So you can see that there is some reference there to a kind of loving of the enemy even in Exodus Chapter 23.
But when we come to Ps. 139:22, we come to a very striking verse, which shows how carefully we have to move. Now if you read this Psalm, Ps. 139:22, which I shall read to you here, you will see - and I think this is the kind of Psalm that has caused many people to stumble, in the sense that they could not understand the attitude here. Ps. 139:22 - we can read from v21.
Do I not hate them that hate thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe them that rise up against thee? I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies.
Then he goes on, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any wicked way in me....” Now it follows from this that he does not see anything wicked in hating them with a perfect hatred. You see, ‘hate the enemy’ does come out in the Psalm here. And it could not be stated more forcefully: “I hate them with perfect hatred”. Striking contrast to hear: “Be ye perfect”. Wow! This is perfect hatred! You cannot be more perfect than that: “I hate them with perfect hatred.” Now notice here. You say, “Well, hasn’t this psalmist ever read Exodus Chapter 23? How can he say things like this?” But please notice that Psalm 139 states not that he hates his own enemies, but that he hates God’s enemies. And Exodus Chapter 23 says, “You shall not hate your enemy.” That is to say, if he is in trouble, you help him. But it did not say, “You shall not hate God’s enemies.” So the psalmist sees that we should hate God’s enemies with a perfect hatred. That is exactly why the Lord’s teaching has stated: that attitude may have done for the OT; it does not apply to the New.
Some Teaching in the OT Apply to Israel, But Not to Us in the NT Times
Here I must immediately point out to you a principle for all Christians: that there is a lot of teaching in the OT that applies to Israel; it does not apply to us. We live in a different period of time; a different ‘dispensation’, as it is called. We live in the Dispensation of Grace; they lived in the Dispensation of Law. Why did he hate this people? Because they disregarded God’s law. They persisted in evil. He did not hate them as his personal enemy. He did not do that. But he hates those who hate God. Now we find this attitude very common in the NT times.
When I examined the background to this, I found it very, very common in the Lord Jesus’ time. For example, in the Qumran writings, that all of you would probably be familiar with by now - the writings of the Dead Sea sects - we see exactly the same thing. Here, for example, [is what] comes from first Qumran scroll, 1324; it says this, “To love all that He, God, has chosen and hate all those whom He has rejected”. So the Qumran people, the Dead Sea Community were being taught to hate all those who rejected God, to love those whom God loves.
The Rabbis, to whom the Lord Jesus is often speaking in His teaching, the Jewish Rabbis, the Pharisees and scribes - the scribes are really the rabbis - they taught this in the Mishnah. In the Mishnah we find this striking, rather frightful teaching, which says that if a heathen mother is in the hour of her need, you shall not give her any help. You shall let her perish in her need. That is, especially if a heathen mother, a non-Jew that is, is in the hour of distress, say, she is with child, she is about to deliver, she is in travail, and if she is alone, you do not bother with her. You just leave her there. She can die - she and her baby together. The Jew will not give help to a heathen mother in the hour of her need. That is dreadful teaching, and yet it comes straight out of the Mishnah, the most authoritative law book of the rabbis. It says, too, that you shall not nourish her babe in the hour of his hunger. That is, let him starve to death, so that you may not raise up a child to idolatry. Oh, dear me! So you can see in what context, and to what kind of people the Lord Jesus addressed these words. You can see the thinking of those people at that time. If the heathen mother has a child and she is in distress and about to deliver her baby, you do not give her any help. And if she dies in childbirth, then that is it! Let them both die. That was the attitude of the people to whom Jesus was speaking at the time - the scribes, the Pharisees. You can see why He was so bitter in His denunciation, sometimes, of them. Bitter not against them as persons, of course, but against the false teaching. And if their baby is hungry and has no food - there is no mention of the mother - not even the baby you will give that child anything to eat. Let the baby starve to death, so that you will not raise a child to idolatry. This is frightful! It almost disgusts you to hear such teaching coming from religious people, from Pharisees, from people who claim themselves to be righteous before God. But what were they doing? You see, they were fulfilling the same part of teaching that is already we find hinted at in Ps. 139:22: “I hate them with a perfect hatred. Let them all perish! Let them go.”
Now, let me say this, what is true of the law and right under the law is not right for us. We do not judge those under the law. They lived under a different standard altogether. So do not judge backwards! We are not given the job of judging. We have entered a new era. That was a period of law - the period of the sword - where anyone who sins was put to death mercilessly. And there was no more serious sin than hating God and disobeying His law. But today, God has taken us into the era of love, of mercy.
We Must Understand Justice Before We Understand Love
Now, as we examine this important teaching then, we find that what the Lord Jesus now is saying is this: “All the way you have thought before must radically be changed.” Before you get all self-righteous in your thinking, remember this: that loving the friend, the neighbor, and hating the enemy is perfectly reasonable. It is reasonable as we saw. It is the acme, the perfection, of human thinking. It is right to do this, especially when the enemy is the enemy of God. It is right to deal with them in this way, right in terms of justice. That is why I say, you must understand justice before you understand love. You cannot use love to criticize justice. Otherwise, where is justice going to come up?
You will say, that is, today you have people who are saying, “Well, here is a criminal who has murdered many people, but you have to understand his psychological problems, you see.” What about those people who have been murdered? Their psychological problems do not count? Now you have got to look and understand this poor guy. You have got to pat him on the back; you have got to be nice to him. That is fine, but justice comes nowhere into the picture. We are confusing love with justice. Justice demands that life is for life. We saw last week that that is perfectly reasonable. Eye is for eye, hand for hand, that is justice that must be fulfilled. Under the OT, justice was demanded and must be fulfilled. So, never use love to criticize justice. The OT is concerned with justice and justice is essential for the continuation of human survival. If you let every maniac to run on the street, we will not survive. If justice were taken away, as we saw last week, you remove the police force who are there to enforce justice, law and order, as they speak about today, the whole human society would collapse. You cannot live in this kind of society without law, without a police force, without the carrying out of some sort of justice. So never be self-righteous and criticize the OT, because justice is a principle of the OT. And justice is the foundation of human society.
But the Lord Jesus is taking us further on from there, taking us to a new stage of thinking, and saying justice, He is not condemning it; it is essential. “But as for you,” He is speaking, as we saw last week, to His disciples, “ you are going to change completely in your thinking. You are going to, from now on, enter into a revolutionary new way of thinking, that is to say, you will love your enemy.”
We Are to Love Our Enemies Because God Loves His Enemies
I am concerned to press this point, because the reason for this that the Lord Jesus gives us is this: in v45, “because God loves His enemies.” That is a surprise to many people: God loves His enemies. It is strange how many Christians have not realized this yet. They thought we are required to love our enemies and God hates His enemies. If we love, we somehow even got better than God! God punishes the enemies and we love them. So we are getting well ahead of God in this matter. Don’t be mistaken! We must understand that justice and love are not incompatible. A father who punishes the child does so out of love for that child, even if he punishes the child severely.
Here, for a few moments, we need to ponder about this: God’s love of the enemy. How does the Lord Jesus establish this statement? He uses an illustration that we can all see for ourselves. He says, “Look! The sunshine - do you see a ray of light just shining on the Christians and not on the non-Christians?” You see sometimes in these Sunday school pictures a ray of light shining on one person - some saint of God. Now, that is typical human thinking. God’s mercy is focused only on this one person, only upon the Christians, and we like to think of that. We like that. The non-Christian, he gets nothing. So, God’s sunshine, the Lord Jesus says, shines - remember that - on Christians and non-Christians alike: “upon the good and the evil”. Have you pondered about that?
You look at the rain! Does the Christian farmer get more rain than the non-Christian? No! They get the same amount of rain. The rain comes down on both. It would be very nice, wouldn’t it, if we were walking along the road, and the rain can just fall on the non-Christians, and we get the sunshine. It is strange how many Christians like to expect that. In my holiday, I hope it is going to be sunny. And so when the non-Christian goes, I hope he has a good rainy holiday. As for me, sunshine! Maybe Saturday you went for the outing, and you said, “Ha! The rain comes down! Dear me! Doesn’t God know that we are Christians? Does He know that we are NCCF (or whatever we are)?” A lot of rain coming down on our head! We only want the sunshine; that is the way it goes. Our whole thinking is that we think rain is not blessing; sunshine is blessing. That is our way of thinking. So we would like God to suit our way. You know this is what happens.
Some Have Formed God in Their Image Resulting in Predestinarian Thinking
A serious principle derives from this. It is that Christians have formed God in their own image. We have made God to think like we think. You know, the lower your spiritual life, the more the God that you believe in is more like you than the God of the NT. Do you realize that? That is why J.B. Philips once wrote a book, Your God Is Too Small. What kind of a God have you got? That whole book is concerned with the kind of God [people have]. You see, some people have a notion of God like this; some people have a notion of God like that. In the end when you examine their notion of God, it turns out that their God is made in their own image. Because you hate your enemy, you make God to behave like you. You hope that this guy is going to have a bad time of it. He deserves the judgment of God so that he will learn to fear! What about you? Don’t you deserve some judgment of God when you do the wrong thing? “No, no, no! God is merciful to me; I’m a Christian.” We have changed God’s image to something that is very distressing.
Why I am saying is this: when I listen to some Christian teaching, I wonder what kind of a God they are really talking about. I mentioned, for example, the people who maintain an extreme predestinarian teaching. I really wonder what sort of a God they are talking about. The teaching here is this: that God loves those who love Him and hates those who do not accept Him. They are all going to hell. I am puzzled, where did they get their teaching from? Is this supposed to come out of the Bible? And when they expound the words “that God so loved the world”, they say, “The ‘world’ does not mean non-Christians. It means those people who are the elect.” Well, I have never discovered that the ‘world’ means anything like that anywhere in the Bible. But they have twisted the Scripture to suit their own taste, their own understanding of God. Beware of a predestinarian teaching. There is a right kind and a wrong kind.
The wrong kind says that God has predestinated everybody - the saved will be saved; the lost will be lost; and God has predestinated the lost to be lost. In other words, you look at this teaching of the Lord Jesus, and ask yourself, “How do you make this kind of teaching compatible? How do you derive this kind of teaching from the Lord Jesus, that God created some people to go to hell and some people to go to heaven? Is that from the Bible? I tell you, such teaching I will attack mercilessly out of the Word of God. If you call that Calvinism, and I do not know that Calvin taught anything like that, but if you call that Calvinism, then I do not want to hear it because it does not come out of the Word of God. The Lord Jesus - does He really say that God loves His enemies or does He not love His enemies? Let us make up our minds once and for all on this issue. If God does not really love His enemies, okay, we settle the matter there. But the Lord Jesus says, “We must love our enemies because that is what God does!” And these people are telling us that God does not really love His enemies. He had created them to throw them into hell. What kind of a God do they teach, I ask you? Where does this teaching come out of the Bible? I am so embarrassed by people who go around with this kind of teaching, that it distresses me.
God Loves His Enemies - He Has Predestinated Nobody to Hell
I want to show you that God’s Word says nothing of the kind. You cannot say that God truly loves His enemies, and yet has predestinated them to hell. Can you? By what mental distortion can you come up with this kind of conclusion? You tell me, how do you do this? By what kind of mental trick can you play: that God truly loves His enemy and predestinates them to hell? I do not understand how you can do this: “I can surely love my enemy, but I am going to stab him in the stomach. Oh yes! Wait till I get him, I’ll wring his neck up and stab him.” You say, “Hey! Hey! Don’t be so...”. And I say, “Ah! I really love my enemy, you see. That’s the way I love him - with a knife!” If we are going to play around like this, we are going to just remove the whole meaning of love. We have destroyed the contents of God’s Word. The reason why I want to say this here, and I put my own position clearly on the table, I am going to follow what the Word of God says. And I have spoken to people - very sincere Christians - who have told me all these business about predestination: the predestination of people who are predestined to hell. I tell you unequivocally that I have nothing to do with such teaching. God has predestinated no one to hell. But if He did, then all this teaching the Lord Jesus gives us here has gone down the drain. This is just so much rubbish. Let us not mince our words - this is so much rubbish! You cannot love your enemies and predestinate them as to hell in one and the same way. There is no way to do such a thing.
I have said before, and I say again, nobody gets to hell except he goes past the outstretched hands of the Lord Jesus - the hands that was stretched out upon the cross. Nobody gets to hell except past those outstretched hands. You are going to brush your way past His bleeding hands to get to hell. God has predestinated nobody to hell. I have seen nothing of the kind in the Bible. He died so that we, His enemies.... We are His enemies! If God did not love His enemies, where would I be? Where would you be? I was one who ridiculed the Christians. I derided the Christians! And I have received God’s mercy, as an enemy. Paul says, “Look at me! I crucified the Christians! I threw them to hell; I executed them, like Stephen.” He persecuted the Christians, and said, “I was an enemy, but I found grace.” God loves His enemies - people like us, people like me. I think with shame at the attitude I treated Christians before. And Paul could never forgive himself what he did to the Christians: the damage he did to the church, to families who lost their fathers, their mothers, through his persecution. God loves His enemies. Let nobody contradict those words because there they stand, written in God’s Word.
We Are to Become Different - to Become Sons of the Heavenly Father
Now we need to press on and come to realize a further point. It is this: here the Lord Jesus says that we are to become totally different. And here in v45 I would like you to notice a particular sentence: “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven”. I have to point out to you here a mistranslation. Unfortunately, it is my job as an expositor of the Word of God to point out this kind of thing, though it gives me no pleasure whatsoever. “So that you may be”? No! “So that you may become” - that is the correct translation. The Greek word in this passage is not the verb ‘to be’; it is the verb ‘to become’; and the 2 words are entirely different. Sometimes it really puzzles me as I read these translations, why the translators - surely they know Greek - why is it that they put in and compromise their translation? Is it because of certain doctrinal interests that they compromise the translation, that somehow they do not like the term ‘become sons of God’ but ‘to be’. I find that, here, too often in these translations, doctrinal, dogmatic interests have prevailed. Now when we come to the Word of God, we must be absolutely honest. Even if it seems to go against our doctrines, we must accept the Word of God, as it stands. No fast and loose playing around with God’s Word! No fooling around with the Word of God! No slightly changing the interpretation - the translation - “to suit my purpose”. We must be absolutely honest with God’s Word. That is a basic principle. When you study the Bible, be honest. Don’t twist it around.
I want to say to you that some evangelical expositors are dishonest with the Word of God, and I am very distressed about it. They find a passage does not seem to harmonize with their particular doctrine, so they twist it around. They say, “Well, it actually does not mean this; it means that.” “’Fallen from grace’ does not mean from ‘saving grace’; it means from ‘sanctifying grace’” and things like this. This kind of twisting around of the Word of God - how do you separate ‘sanctifying grace’ and ‘saving grace’? How do you manage to play that kind of a game? Where in the Bible can you separate 2 kinds of grace? What gives us the rights to separate them?
So I show you from these examples that many times commentators are not entirely honest with God’s Word. We, when we come to God’s Word, brothers and sisters, we must be absolutely honest and take it as it stands, even if it seems to shatter our own doctrinal position. I tell you that I came to the Bible with many preconceptions. And the Bible just knocked them out one after the other. Sometimes it is a very uncomfortable process. They just knocked them out of me. The Word of God penetrates as a sword. We can either evade it and so its healing effect is not accomplished, or we let it deal with us, as it must be done. When you come to the Word of God, I hope you will let it come as a surgeon’s knife. You can side-step it and it does not cut you, but neither will it save you; neither will it take out the cancer in your body. You have to submit to that knife if you want to be healed of that cancer.
What it says here is not that you may ‘be’, but that you may ‘become’ sons of God. No matter how uncomfortable that word is, that is how it is. If any of you know any Greek, by all means, go back and check your Bible and see for yourself. I assure you that there is nothing that I have preached from this pulpit that I have not checked with the utmost care. If anybody can point out to me anything that I have said that is unscriptural, I will be most grateful, utterly and sincerely grateful, to you that you will point out to me any error. Because of my exceeding great care in my exposition, in all the years that I have preached the Gospel, no one has ever once faulted me on an error of exposition, no matter how learned the person may be. No one has ever challenged me on a point of exposition because I have checked out every detail before I will ever present it to you. But if you can find anything that I have said, and there are some people who might say, “Well, I don’t agree with your doctrine” that is fine with me. You can disagree with the Word of God; that is fine with me. But it is no use saying, “I disagree with you”. I have no opinion of my own; I have only the Word of God to speak. If you can find anything that I have said which is not in the Word of God, then I beg of you, as a matter of Christian duty and love, to point out to me my error, if you can find that error.
So here what it says in v45, “that you may become sons of your Father who is in heaven”. What does that mean? What exactly does this mean? Well, when we have followed the teaching so far, we have begun to see one thing. We have begun to see the point that we have established so far, that we have to have a completely new way of thinking, which is God’s way of thinking: that God loves His enemies. He always loves His enemies. That is why Christ came into the world to die. What do you think Jesus came into the world to die for? Why did God establish this amazing kind of salvation if He did not love us? “We love Him,” the Apostle John said, “because He first loved us.” [1 Jn. 4:9] This we must clearly grasp. But if that is the case, then the second point in v45 says this - I think by now if we have followed the first point, the second is not difficult to see - only when you have this new way of thinking, when you have been born again, when you have been utterly renewed, only so do you become - the son of your Father in heaven.
You see, we do not become God’s sons by just accepting certain evangelical doctrines. No, no! Becoming a Christian, my friend, is not so easy, not so oversimplified as that. “I just believe in certain doctrines to be true” - that saves nobody! I say that to you again, it saves nobody! Don’t you go out and preach false doctrines to people, and say, “All you have got to do is believe in Jesus; accept these doctrines to be true.” That is true as far as it goes, but it is not sufficient! It is nothing as simplistic as that. What did the Lord Jesus say? How do you become the son of your Father in heaven? By being utterly renewed, transformed! Paul says exactly the same thing, as we have seen before in Rom. 12:1-2, especially v2: “that you be transformed in the renewing of your mind”. Becoming a Christian is to become utterly changed. If you are not changed, you are not a Christian, no matter how many times you have been baptized. If you are not changed, you are not a Christian. Understand this thoroughly. How are you going to become a Christian? Only by being utterly renewed by the power of God, being born again. And if the word ‘born again’ has any meaning at all, and we see from the teaching of the Lord Jesus, it means that your whole way of thinking has changed, the whole attitude has changed. You do not love people because you like their face. You love people because you have now a new nature inside of you, which is to love. Examine yourself in the light of that teaching. Are you a child of God? Are you a son? Are you a daughter? So do not congratulate yourself on having being baptized only. Baptism is essential, but unless you are transformed, you are not saved. Becoming a Christian means then, that you are utterly different from anybody else. You become a different sort of person; you stand out in the world as something different. Thus, we see that the Lord Jesus is saying to us, we must become utterly different from the non-Christian. The challenge is enormously high, but it is accomplishable only by God’s power.
How to Love Our Enemies If We Are Also to Be Separated from Them?
Now, I must deal briefly with one question. You will say if this is so, we are to be so utterly different from the non-Christian, we are to love our enemies, how is it that the Bible also says that we are to be separated from the non-Christian? How can we love the non-Christian and still be separated from him, not to associate with him in any kind of business, commercial or marital relationship, i.e., that a Christian is not to marry a non-Christian. Paul says in 2 Cor. 6:14-18: “You shall not be unequally yoked with the unbeliever.” Now, I would like to say to you, brothers and sisters, as I am trying to cramp in as much teaching as possible, that being yoked with the unbeliever does not merely mean whether you marry the unbeliever or not. It does not mean just the matter whether you marry an unbeliever or not. It is that you have no business relationship with him either. Did you know that? You must not be associated in a business relationship, in which you are partners. That does not mean you may not be employed by him, but you are not associated with him in capital business. ‘Yoked together’ means that you have a legal contractual bond in business, or in marriage, or in anything else. The word ‘yoke’ is very wide in the original meaning. Some Christians, not realizing this, have fallen into grievous error. Unfortunately, very recently, in this very church, we had a case of this thing happening, in which a Christian has yoked himself in a business matter with a non-Christian and ended up in a disaster - spiritual disaster.
We must be separated from them in the matter of life, and yet to love them genuinely and from our hearts. You say, “How can this be done? How am I to understand this?” Quite simple! For example, if a person were sinking in quicksand, how do you love the person? Do you say, “Okay! Here I am jump into the quicksand. I grab hold of this guy, and say, ‘I love you! You know, I really love you!’” until you both sink in the quicksand and go down together? You say, “This is really wonderful love. Look at this - this poor guy was sinking in the quicksand and you loved him so much, you jumped in the quicksand and so you died together with him. That is wonderful love!” How can you do things like this? What kind of love is this? If you love him, then drag him out of the quicksand, rather than going down with him, and with two of you disappearing at the same time.
Now, many people have not the understanding that to love does not mean that you have to get into the same mess with them. In fact, if you want to love the person, the only way to help that person is to stand outside the mess. So, if you want to help the person in the quicksand, the thing to do is not to jump in the quicksand and get down into trouble, but to stand on solid ground and pull the person out! That is love! So you see, you must understand this clearly. Many Christians simply do not understand this. They cannot understand that if you want to help the person, you must stand on an entirely different ground in order to help him. So to love those who are in darkness, how do you love them? You say, “I turn off my light too, so I identify myself with them.” What a way to love them! They want light! You do not help the people in darkness by turning off your own light. So we have to stand as separate, not in order to be exclusive, but in order to be able to save them. Do you understand? That is the way of God. So the scriptural teaching is to be separated from them, what happens?
We have our good friends, the Plymouth Brethren, what did they do? Oh dear me! So they separate themselves and have nothing to do with the non-Christians. They have nothing to do with these people - whatever. Paul says, “If you want to behave like this, the best thing for you to do is get out of the world altogether.” Because so long as you are in the world, you are going to be associated with these people! As he says in 1 Cor. 5:10: “If you do not want to associate with any unbeliever, you have to get out of the world.” We are in the world to do a job, to help these people. And the only way you can help them is to be different from them. So being different is not in order to have nothing to do with them, but being different is the only useful way you can love them, to help them to come into the light. When the person is in the quicksand, you stand on solid ground, and you pull him out. That is the way. So, being separated does not mean that, “Okay, you are going down in the quicksand, bye-bye! You deserved it, you know? You didn’t believe in God; that’s for you. That’s too bad. Now while you are going down, listen to the Gospel while I am telling you, when you have a chance. Now hear, this is the way.” This is how many Christians are calling ‘love’.
In fact, I heard the other day, there was a man on the airplane who was preaching to all the air hostesses. He was giving out the Gospel and preaching to them. He says, “You have to believe in Jesus”. The airline stewardesses were very busy trying to serve their meals, and there he was, holding them back, saying, “No, no, no! There is nothing more important than listening to the Gospel. Now you stand here.” The stewardesses did not want to offend the passenger, and so they tried to stand there and listen to him as he was preaching to them. Eventually, there was one stewardess trying to open a drawer that was stuck in the airplane. He looked at her and did not bother to give her a hand, and kept on talking to her about the Gospel. “Now, you know, listen to this.” She was tugging at this thing, and he was saying, “Now, here’s what the Gospel says...”. Finally, she pulled this drawer with such force that she went backwards. The drawer landed on top of her; she was flat on the floor. And do you think that he went over and helped her to pick up the drawer and put the things back in the drawer, give her a hand to help her up? Nothing of the kind! He just bent down beside her, and said, “The Gospel says, now...”. It is just incredible! You cannot imagine that there are Christians who will do that, and yet they will do exactly that. All the passengers on the plane watching this spectacle were disgusted with this man. Well, surely you want to preach the Gospel - here was his chance. Help her to put the things back in the drawer, pick her up, get her on her feet, help her to put the drawer back, and then talk to her about the Lord. No, no, no, no! He just left her on the floor. Isn’t that incredible? And that is how many Christians behave. “You are sinking in the quicksand. Now I’m going to preach to you. But I’m not going to drag you out of there; I’m not going to give you any help.” So let us understand this: we are different in order to be able to save.
We Are to Be Perfect in Love
Our time is rushing by quickly, and we must conclude. It says here that in all our conduct then, we must become different. Only so do we stand out from the non-Christian. And we are to become perfect. V48: “You, therefore, must be perfect...”. Please notice the word ‘must’. It is not an option for us. It is not a recommendation, that it is rather a good idea that we should be perfect. It is a command that we must be perfect. Now, how to be perfect? Well, if you have followed the Lord’s teaching so far, I think you are clear about one thing and it is this: the perfection here is not moral perfection in the sense that God is perfect. The whole context is talking about love, that we are to love perfectly, not that we have no fault in ourselves, that we have no shortcoming in ourselves, but the whole meaning is this: that we are to be perfect in love. This is what the whole context is about. We cannot be morally perfect. We will always have shortcomings. Becoming a Christian is not to become morally without fault. There is no such teaching in the Bible. In 1 Jn. 1:8, it says there, “If any man says that he has no sin, he is a liar and the truth is not in him.” No Christian is perfect! None of us are perfect. We all have many, many faults, many weaknesses, many failings. But what we must aim to be, by the grace of God, is to be perfect in love. In all our attitude towards other people, we must aim, always, to be perfect in love. To be perfect, now, is totality! Thus, we must conclude on this point and realize what God then requires of us is total Christianity. No partial Christianity! There is no kind of Christian who is a partial Christian. In the Bible I see only one kind of Christian - the total Christian. Love is always total. It is either all or nothing. By definition, love is total. You may sometimes exercise it, and other times you may not exercise it. But when it is love, it is perfect. It must be total. You cannot say, “Well, I love you a little bit.” That is not love in the Bible.
This brings us to another point. There is a vital difference in the Bible between liking and loving. And this point also needs to be mentioned. The teaching here is not to say you must like everybody. We cannot like everybody. We do not like everybody because ‘like’ is my personal feeling. I am not asked that my personal feeling is the standard by which I deal with other people. I am to love the person. Like is a matter of feeling; love is a matter of action. The person who is sinking in the river, who is drowning, you do not ‘like’ the person. You have not even met the person; you do not even know the person. How can you like the person? So the feeling, the liking, does not come in to it at all. You jump into the river to save that person, not because you like the person - you do not know the person - but because love requires it.
Love is action. Liking is only a matter of feeling. The command then here is to love - that you go into the river and help that person. Whether you know the person or you do not know the person, whether you like the person or you do not like the person, it does not matter whatsoever. So here we must understand the vital distinction which so many Christians confuse. It is the distinction between liking and loving.
So, understand that this refers to perfectness in love, not a perfection in the matter of our inner moral standard, whether we have faults or no faults; that is not the point here. The point here is our attitude towards other people. But one last point of great importance. When you look at all these teachings, you say, “How can I fulfil such teachings? How can it be done? It seems almost impossible. You are going to ask me to go out of here and I’m going to love my enemy? I can hardly love my friends. I can hardly love my roommate. She gets on my nerves every day, or he gets on my nerves everyday. I can hardly love these people, the people that I know, and I am going to love the enemy?” That is why we need to be transformed. And there is here an amazing principle in the Lord’s teaching that we need to look at in a moment.
The Lord Jesus Always Puts Our Faith to the Test
Now, our last consideration then is this. I want to show you one last principle that is of great importance. And it is this. We speak about faith and the Lord Jesus in His teaching always tests our faith. If you think that you can become a Christian without your faith being tested, then you do not know what a Christian is. A Christian’s faith will always be put to the test. Let me give you a few examples of this. The Lord Jesus always works in this way.
For example, in John Chapter 9, we read of a man who was born blind. And what did the Lord Jesus do? He healed him instantly? No! He put his faith to a test - a very tough test! What did He do? He put clay on this man’s eyes. Remember? He mixed some clay with His spittle on the ground, and then He put it on his eyes, and what did He say? He says, “Go down to the pool of Siloam and wash your eyes.” Now think a minute. A blind man with clay on his eyes is going to walk at least half a mile. I have calculated the distance from where the Lord Jesus was down to the pool of Siloam, at least half a mile, if you go by miles. As you go around the streets, it will take you probably a mile. Now think of the thoughts going through the blind man’s heart. Here is a Man who came up to him and put something on his eyes, and says, “Okay, you want to see?” He says, “Yes, of course, I want to see.” “You go down to the pool of Siloam and wash your eyes in the pool.” He may say, “If He had the power to take my blindness away, why did He not say, ‘Open your eyes!’ and the eyes open. What is He putting all this clay in my eyes for?” And in fact many commentators cannot understand this. What is this clay doing? Has it got some medical efficacy? Well, I have never heard of any medical efficacy in clay. By the time spittle got mixed with it, I am not so sure how much bacteria there is in the clay. So to say that there is some kind of medical efficacy is sheer nonsense, of course. The whole point here is that this man - his faith - was being put to a test. Now what could he do? He could say, “Well, if He had the power to open my eyes, why didn’t He open my eyes? Why does He ask me, a blind man, to go down to the pool of Siloam?” You think of a blind man walking down the crowded street, walking his way to the pool of Siloam, how many thoughts would have crossed his mind on the way, and said, “Hey! This must be just a cruel joke on me!” This is sheer nonsense. I mean, bumping your way through the streets trying to find where is this pool of Siloam. He has to ask the way; he has to grope his way down there, finally coming to it. How many times along the way he must have thought to himself, “No, no, no, no! This must be just a cruel joke. How can it be that this clay on my eyes, I am going to wash it off, and my eyes are going to be opened? Have you ever heard such a thing in your life?” I am sure this kind of thoughts were going through his mind, “And this man, Jesus, who is He after all? This Jesus asked me to go and wash my eyes. I know nothing very much about Him.” Remember, this man said, “I did not know who Jesus is. But He told me to go and wash my eyes, and I did, and so it is! Here I see.”
Why did the Lord Jesus do it in this way, why? Test of faith! A very tough test, too. It is a long way for a blind man to go. I am sure he had quite a few doubts in his mind as he went along the way. But God puts our faith to the test. “Have you got faith in Me? I want to see it in action. Walk down to the pool of Siloam. Will you listen to Me or not?” Oh, we would like God to make it easy for us. “Let your eyes open!” Ah! It is open! That is good. That is quick going. Well, we find that the Lord Jesus works in this remarkable way. As I study the Lord’s ways of action, He does this again and again.
Take another example very briefly, John Chapter 5, there we read about a man who was paralyzed for 38 years! 38 years he has been paralyzed. What did the Lord Jesus say to him? He says, “Do you want to be healed?” He says, “Yes, I want to be healed.” But he says, “You see, I can’t get into the pool because I’m crippled. Nobody carries me there at the right time.” The Lord Jesus says, “Well, take up your bed. Take up your bed and walk.” You say, “Hey, is this a joke? I have been sitting here 38 years, lying here by the pool. I have been crippled for 38 years and You ask me to take up my bed and walk?” Wow! That is quite a test of faith. The Lord did not say to him, “Okay, now you are healed. Everything is fine now. You do not have to worry. Just get up!” He just said right away, “Take up your bed. Walk!” “Wow!” he could have said, “What are you trying to say to me? How can I do this? It’s not possible. There’s no way to do a thing like that - take up my bed. I can’t even take myself up. Never mind take my bed up!” And yet that is exactly what [happened]. Can you imagine? He probably sat there thinking for a moment, “Did I hear Him correctly? Take up my bed?” Then probably he made a little stir, made a little struggle. “Hmm. Have a go. Okay, pull yourself together.” You see, had he sat there and said, “Well, this is ridiculous! I’ve never heard such nonsense.” He would not have moved. But clearly he thought, “Well, if that’s the case, I’ll have a go. I’ll have a try. I’ll struggle.” And he found he was coming up. Slowly he got to his feet. It worked! He picks up his bed and thinks, “Do you think I have strength to lift that bed? Wow, it really [worked]; not only me, but my bed, too.” That is what the Lord Jesus does - He tests your faith. You want to have it? Okay.
Well, take His disciples. He does the same thing - to Peter in Luke Chapter 5. He is going to call Peter out to serve the Lord, to serve Him, to preach the Gospel. You know what He says? Peter worked all night - he could not get any fish. You know the incident so well. You catch fish in the night-time. Peter comes back in day-time. The Lord Jesus says, “You caught something?” “No. Nothing!” The Lord says, “Go out and catch the fish.” “What! I just came back! I just came back from there and got nothing! You tell me to go back out there again in the day-time? Look here, Mister. I’m a fisherman. I’ve been fishing for all my life. Have You caught any fish before? No! So You are going to tell me how to fish? Don’t You know that You don’t fish in the day-time? You want to catch fish - you go out in the night-time! And here I am, I worked all night; I come back; I can’t catch any fish; and You going to tell me how to catch fish? Look, if you tell me the Bible, I’ll believe you. But you don’t tell me how to catch fish!” Now, Peter would have thought like that, isn’t it? What did Peter say? He probably thought for a moment, “Whoever heard such a thing? Go out in the day-time and put my net down? You are never going to catch anything in the day-time. That’s why we don’t fish in the day.” But Peter, nevertheless, thought, “At Your word, I go.” He went out there, and he could not pull out the net; there were so many fish.
Faith Is - “At Your Word, Lord, I’ll Do It!”
Now, if you understand this, you understand that principle, that the Lord Jesus always put your faith to the test. Don’t sit there so comfortably, and say, “Ah, hurray! Hallelujah! I’m a Christian now!” He is going to put your faith to the test. You say, “What test?” “Here it is. I am going to tell you something: you want to have eternal life? Yes! By My grace, you are going to have it. By My power, it is made possible. But I am going to require something of you. Here it is. You want to hear it? Go out there and love your enemy.” You say, “Lord, I can’t even love my friends, and You ask me to love my enemies? This is unheard of! It is not possible!” Well, was it possible for the blind man to be healed with some clay? Was it possible for the paralyzed man to pick up his bed and walk? Was it possible for Peter to go out in the day-time and catch a load of fish? “At Your word, Lord! Nevertheless, if You say so, I’ll do it!”
That is the attitude of a true Christian. That is what faith means, brothers and sisters. Faith means, “At Your word! If You say so, I’ll do it!” Have you got that kind of faith? “You asked me to go out and love my enemies. It’s against all my thinking. I am out on foreign territory, but if that’s the way you want me to do it, at Your word, I’ll do it.” Have you got that attitude that you come to the Lord’s teaching at the Sermon on the Mount? Do you come with that realization, and say, “Lord, You command it, I’ll do it. I haven’t the power to do it.” But do you notice that every time they obey His word, the power came to accomplish it. Every time they obeyed it, the thing happened. The crippled man could not walk - at His word it was done! He was able to get up and walk. “Well, nothing wrong. If You want me to get up, I’ll get up. I’ll try!” And he gets up and he finds it works. That is living faith - the faith which says, “Lord, I’ll do what You say.”
Entering a New Area of Life in Loving the Enemy - Like Entering the Promised Land!
We find then, that God, in this wonderful teaching that the Lord Jesus has given us, wants us to enter as new creatures into a new area of life. This new area of life is the area of love. Now, you might find as a young Christian or even as an older Christian who has never practiced the Lord’s teaching, that entering into this new atmosphere is very [unfamiliar]; you are not accustomed to this. You are going to move out of the area of selfishness and hate, and into the new area of love, of God’s love. And you are going to feel just like going into a foreign country. You try to do it; you find, “I’m feeling very much a foreigner in this business. Love is not the atmosphere in which I normally breathe. Love is not the land, the country in which I normally live.” And the Lord Jesus is saying, “I want you to move into this new land, a Promised Land.” See it? We come out of Egypt, what for? To stay in the wilderness like so many Christians do? Not at all! To enter into the new country, the new land, the atmosphere, the new area, the kingdom of God - the atmosphere of love. In there you will find all God’s promises, but only in there. Did you realize that? So we are going to move out of the old way of life, out of the wilderness and into the Land of Promise. Only there God’s promises are yes and amen, in the atmosphere, in the new area of God’s love. And as I have said, when you enter into that area, at first you feel like a stranger, a foreigner, “I have never been in the Promised Land before. Here I am, I don’t even know how to conduct myself here.” Never mind! Just relax there and say, “Lord, You have commanded me. Here I am! By faith, I have entered into the land of God’s promises.”
So in conclusion, let us look at that one marvelous verse which is exceedingly important for every Christian to know, in 1 John Chapter 4. I will just read it to you. You need not turn there if you have not got your Bible ready. 1 Jn. 4: 16 says, “So we know and believe the love God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” I would like you to think about those words very deeply, as you go back tonight. God, as to His character, as to His nature, is love. And he who abides, that is, he who lives in love, who conducts his life in love lives in God and God lives in him. Let us leave out the word ‘abide’ now. It is in old English. Let us get into the modern English. The word ‘abide’ simply means to live. That God lives in you and you live in God. Wow!
That is really a new area of life. Have you tried it before? Well, brothers and sisters, I once tried. When I first tried this and entered into this new atmosphere of life, it was so incredible an experience for me. I remember that my first taste of it was really like entering Canaan, a kind of heaven on earth. And so many Christians, they live in the wilderness. They have never entered the Promised Land. Why? Because they have not entered into the Lord’s teaching, into the whole new atmosphere. This is the Land of Promise, the land of spiritual promise; enter into it. Do not spend your life in the wilderness, for there you will perish in the wilderness. The Lord says, “Go and live like this. Go out there into the whole new atmosphere of love and live in that atmosphere of love. Because he who lives in love will find that he is living in God and God is living in him.” Isn’t that what the Christian is all about? So do not cling to the old country, the old way of life that you have so got used to. The whole tragedy of the OT is that they lived in Egypt so long that they could not get used to another way of life. And they were always longing to get back to Egypt, and I see that is exactly what happens with Christians. They lived in sin and in the old selfish way so long - they have been so indoctrinated by the thinking of this world - that they can only think of the leeks and the garlic that are in Egypt. They are attached to the old way life. But if you want to be saved, it is not enough just to get out of Egypt. Because getting out of Egypt only leads you in the wilderness. You have got to go on into the Land of Promise. And remember: that only in the Land of Promise, there you will experience the promise of God - His saving power, life eternal!
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church