Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Love Your Enemies: Sermon on the Mount Series

Love Your Enemies
Sermon on the Mount Series: Matt. 5:43-48

            We are continuing on in our journey through the Sermon on the Mount, asking the question, “Can anyone live out the requirements Jesus laid out in that sermon in today’s world?” Last week we discussed turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, and what you should do if someone demands or asks something of you. We finished off with a story from Matthew 15 where a gentile woman had the opportunity to be offended and fight back when she requested help from Jesus to heal her daughter. Remember Jesus first ignored her, His disciples asked Him to send her away, He separated himself from her due to her race, and finally He called her a dog. She took all of those insults and pressed on, because if she got mad at Jesus, mumbled something under her breath about how Jesus is all uppity, or how he ain’t all that and a bag of chips, she would have went home and her daughter would still have been demon possessed, and she would have lost all hope. What would she have lost if she did not turn the other cheek? She would have lost everything.
            Today we’re going to talk about loving our enemies. We won’t ask what will we lose if we don’t love our enemies, we’ll ask what will we gain if we do.
            Matthew 5:43-48 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies[b] and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
            In the 1950’s there were five men and their families who set out to bring the gospel to a primitive, stone-age Amazon tribe. The five men were Nate Saint, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Pete Fleming, and Roger Youderian. There main problems were that nobody knew where they were and that they were extremely violent. They were a nomadic tribe, which means they roam around depending on their need, in the rainforest of Ecuador. They were so violent that nobody wanted anything to do with them. So violent that nobody got close enough to them to know their real name. They were known as the Aucas, but their real name was Waodani. It would be like the boogey man’s real name was Walter but everybody avoided him and didn’t know that.
            They were so violent that it was unheard of to live long enough to be a grandparent. When scientists eventually were able to study them, they were able to go back five generations in their research and killings and revenge killings were everywhere. Six out of every ten deaths were homicide. That is extremely high, when you realize that they had no hospitals, doctors, or basic medical supplies. A lack of basic healthcare should have resulted in six out of ten people dying.  Everyone had a story about how a loved one was killed, and how they got revenge by killing someone else. It was a part of their lives. In fact, they had a motto, “Spear and live, or be speared and die.”
            In 1937, the Dutch Shell Oil Company cleared out a landing strip and set up business to drill for oil. A few years later, they abandoned the project because too many people were getting killed by the Waodani. When they left, an opportunity arose for missionaries to use the landing strip as a base for flying in supplies, and missionaries. A plane had crashed and Nate Saint became the new pilot/ mechanic for the base. He talked a few others into joining him, and eventually he had his group that would change the world.
            Around this same time, a young Waodani women named Dayumae, escaped from her tribe when she saw a canoe with foreigners in it. She ran to them. They obviously were frightened of the Waodani tribe and raised their gun at her. She still ran to them. She got in their boat and they took her to a missionary base. She learned English, but the missionaries learned the Waodani language.
            One day when, Nate was flying Dayumae over the rainforest, she spotted a Waodani village. They marked it on their map and made plans to make contact. They adapted a plan that one of them came up with years earlier. When he was in school, he tied a pencil on the end of a string. He noticed that if he made wide circles, that the pencil also made wide circles. But if he made tight circles, the pencil would barely move. He even said, “Someday, I’m going to use this method to deliver supplies to missionaries.” They flew over the village with a bucket tied to a string, and slowly dropped it as they made tight circles. The Waodani took the gifts from the bucket. After a few weeks, they began to put gifts back into the bucket. After 13 weeks, they decided it was time to make contact. They found a sandbar in a river that they thought they could land on.
            They made contact with three Waodanis and set up camp. The initial contact went really well, until the next day when some of the tribe became very angry that one young man was walking alone with a young woman. The young man lied and said they had to be alone because they ran away from the foreigners who were trying to kill them. It wasn’t more than a few hours later that all five of the missionaries were dead.
            It seems like such a waste of life. Why would God send five of the brightest missionary minds to a remote part of the rainforest and have them killed within a day of making contact? All of them had wives, a few of them had children.
            Elizabeth Elliot, wife of Jim Elliot, was invited by her parents to come back home to the states, and they would help her raise her two children. She said it sounded good at first but she turned them down, because she was a missionary before this tragedy happened and she would be a missionary afterwards. So she went to a missionary medical clinic where Nate Saint’s sister Rachael was working. Around that time two more Waodani women showed up. Elizabeth and Rachael made quick friends with them. Eventually the Waodani women said that they wanted to return to their village and that they wanted Rachael, Elizabeth, and her family to come and live with them. Elizabeth asked, “Do you think they will spear me like they speared my husband?” The two women laughed and said, “Of course not! You are our friends.”
            Dayumae became the preacher and gathered everyone around her on Sundays to hear about God, and all throughout the week, Rachael was teaching Dayumae. In a few short years the village became a Christian village. The homicide rate was reduced by around 90%. One tribe decided to stop killing and revenge killing, and so the other tribe did as well. Revenge killings documented for five generations disappeared completely.
            Steve Saint, and Valerie Elliot, two children who lost their fathers, both had a strong connection to the Waodani. Steve said he felt an immediate bond because everyone in the tribe had lost someone close them. And Valerie, when she decided to get baptized, she wanted it to be significant, so she was baptized in the river where her father’s body was dumped, and standing on both sides of her were the men who killed him.
            Their entire village was changed by the power of the gospel. What would have happened if the missionaries, who had a gun but refused to shoot at the Waodanis because “They aren’t ready for heaven but we are.”? Could they have made peaceful contact after killing off a few of them? No. What would have happened if the families would have turned their backs on the tribe that killed their loved ones? They would have kept on killing each other and when they were all killed off, they would ultimately spend an eternity in hell, separated from God. But these men and women loved their enemies, they blessed those who cursed them, and did good to those who hurt them.         
            Who are your enemies? How can we love them? Well, we can pray for them—that they receive Christ and that they might be blessed. Here are three more ways we can love our enemy: 1) Respond to the harm done to us in a non-violent way, just as the missionaries responded to their loved ones being killed, by teaching them how to live according to Christ’s commandments. 2) We must completely and unconditionally forgive them for the wrongs they have committed. This is easy to say from the pulpit, but much harder to do if you were the one who was raped, abandoned, or had your family member murdered. 3) Serve them. Just as Jesus washed Judas’ feet after the last supper, we can serve them by providing for a need. We can give them food, clothing, shelter, money, and help them during a time of distress.
            But to be quite honest, loving your enemy is an impossible task if you do not have the Holy Spirit living inside of you. And the only way to have the Holy Spirit alive inside of you is to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior.  

Turn the Other Cheek: Sermon on the Mount Series

Turn the Other Cheek
Sermon on the Mount Series:
Matt 5:38-42
            One of my favorite movies is The Last of the Mohicans, a movie about the French and Indian War. There is a scene where Nathaniel, the adopted son of the last living Mohican, walked bravely into the enemies camp with a Wampum belt held out to his side, which was a sign of peace. As soon as he was seen, he immediately started an uproar. People clamored to him, he was surrounded and yelled at in their native tongue. A man approached him, hit him and pushed him over, but Nathaniel calmly got up. Another man stood in front of him, blocked his way, and cut him with a knife. In pain, he moved forward. A third man clubbed him in the back of the head. This dropped him to his knees, while he grimaced in pain. All the while, he calmly walked forward, never raising his hands to defend himself or strike back. He was on a mission, and that mission could not be compromised.
            His mission was to rescue a British officer, and two daughters of a British general—one of whom was his girlfriend. Nathaniel knew that if him, his father, and his brother would to attack the camp all six of them would be killed. He had too much to lose if chose to fight back.
            There is an Old Testament law known in the Greek as, lex talionis, “the law of retaliation.” This law determined what amount of retribution an offender would have to endure if he harmed someone. Does anybody know what that law is? “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” Quite simply, if you knock someone’s tooth out, you have to endure your tooth being knocked out. If you cause someone to lose an eye, you will lose an eye.
            But as we have observed over the last few months as we studied Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, that He may not have changed the law, but He change how we apply the law. For instance, the law says not to murder, but Jesus said, if you hated someone murder has already begun in your heart. The law said do not commit adultery, but Jesus said if you look at someone with lust in your heart you have already committed adultery. Here we have an old law and a new application. The law states how you are allowed to retaliate, but let us see how Jesus said we should apply it.
            Matthew 5:38-42 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”   
            Quite clearly, Jesus laid out the situation: “Here is what you are allowed to do, but here is what I suggest you do; Here is what you are obligated to do, but here is what I suggest you do. These are just suggestions but, if you are going to called one of my followers, I’m going to have some expectations of you.”
            There are four mandates Jesus laid out for His followers.
1) Physical Attacks: Has anyone here everybody maliciously hit by someone? How did you react? Did you fight back? Did you turn the other cheek, and allow him or her to strike you again? What is gained if you fight back? What is gained if you don’t?
2) Legal Suits: Here is an example of what to do in a legal situation. A tunic was like a shirt, but a cloak was an outer garment like a coat, that could be used as a blanket. A man could take your tunic in a lawsuit but he could only keep your cloak until sundown. Jesus said if someone takes what he is legally allowed to take, give him what he is not legally allowed to take, too.
3) Government Demands: The Roman soldiers could make any citizen carry their heavy bags for exactly one mile, but not a step further. Every Jew of the day knew exactly how far one mile was. Jesus again said do more, go farther than what you are obligated to do and go.
4) Financial Requests: Give to those who ask.
            But let us look more closely, at the physical attacks. There’s more than one way to be attacked. You can be physically attacked, verbally attacked, and emotionally attacked. Just like in the scene from The Last of the Mohicans, there’s a story in the Bible of a woman who was attacked four different times, but the mission was to important for her to fight back. She had to turn the other cheek.
            Matt 15:21-28 “Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”
23 But He answered her not a word.
And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
24 But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
25 Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
26 But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”
27 And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
28 Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.”
            She was attacked when they ignored her, wanted her sent away, put her down because of her nationality, and called her a dog. What would she have gained if she fought back? What would she have lost?