Connected – Week 5 – Enemies Matter

Matthew 5:43-48

I want to tell you a story about a man. This man was an amazing man. He was known as a man full of grace and power. He loved on people and preached the Word of God boldly, and it is written about him that he did many mighty wonders and signs. When He spoke, he spoke with such wisdom and full of the Spirit. Nobody could argue with him. He always won the arguments in showing people who Christ really was. This made a lot of these people mad, so they made up lies to get him arrested. After he was arrested, as he was standing before the council, they asked him about the accusations made against him, saying, “Are these things so?” And the way he answered them was with one of the best sermons ever preached, proclaiming God’s deliverance through Jesus, and shouting to them that they are stiff-necked people who always resist the Holy Spirit. When he finished his sermon, they were furious! They dragged him off to outside the city and grabbed handfuls of stones and they started heaving them at him, striking him in the face and head and all over. They were killing him. His life on earth was almost over, and as he fell to his knees, too weak to stand, he shouted his last words…a prayer…one of the most powerful prayers to ever have been prayed. He said, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” Right as he prayed this, he died.

Now, why was this one of the most powerful prayers to ever have been prayed? It’s because the man that was standing there, happy about and approving of them stoning this man…he ended up getting saved. Not only that, but he ended up becoming a preacher. Not only that, because of him…this man that was happy and approving of this execution…because of him, millions have come to faith in Jesus.

The man that gave his life was a man named Stephen, and one of the men that Stephen prayed for, for God to not hold the sin against him…one of the men that was killing him…one of the men that was in charge of all these people killing him…a man that was zealous and happy about these people killing him…His name was Saul. And He became Paul. And God did not hold this sin against him.

Now, how can anyone pray such a prayer?

We’ve been in a series called Connected. We’ve been looking at relationships. And, it’s all based off Matthew 22:36-40. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

* Summarize the series up to this point *

Tonight, we are going to look at the hardest relationship that we will have to deal with – Enemies.

Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he talked about this, in His sermon on the mount. Turn to Matthew 5:43-48.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Here, Jesus is quoting the same verse of Leviticus 19:18 that He did in our Matthew 22 passage. But He’s clearing something up – He’s clearing up a common misconception…one that we have as well.

He’s saying that your neighbor does not only include your friends, your parents, your loved ones, or strangers (which we will look at next time), but it involves someone else…your enemies. It’s easy to seek a good relationship with all these other people, but Jesus says that you are skipping one important relationship! Your enemies! And Jesus is not just saying that we should seek good relationships with our enemies…no…He is saying that we should seek good for our enemies! What?!

Vs. 44“Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.” Praying for someone is the greatest form of seeking good for that person. Now, I don’t believe Jesus is talking about praying for harm to come their way. Remember, He says to love your neighbor as you love yourself. Imagine praying, “God, please give me a bad day today. Please let me go hungry today and get some sort of illness. I just would love that. And please let my friends turn on me today. That would be great. Also, while you’re at it, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble, let me slip and fall. I would LOVE to break a bone! Thanks God. Amen.” No! You pray for good to come your way. Every time. Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.”

This word persecute doesn’t just mean kill – it means anyone that brings you harm. Someone who’s mean to you…Someone who spreads rumors about you…Someone who bullies you…Someone who has hit you…Someone who stole your innocence…Someone who flat out doesn’t care about you. Jesus says, “Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you.”

Now, how in the world can we do this? Here’s three ways from this passage:

1. Simply greet them – vs. 47

We avoid those we don’t like or that don’t like us.

2. Help them – vs. 45

Practically meet their physical needs. 3Paul tells us to do this in Romans 12:20 when he says, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Kill them with kindness.

3. Pray for them – vs. 44

We covered this earlier – praying and seeking their good, and ultimately their salvation…their greatest good.

I think this question can be better answered by answering another question though: Why should we do this? We know we CAN do this, but we don’t feel like doing it…so WHY should we do this?

Jesus did it for us.

Who are we to not forgive when Christ forgave us? Who are we to not show grace when Jesus has showered it upon us? Who are we to not seek good for someone when Jesus did everything in His power to give us good? Who are we to not pray for an enemy when Jesus prayed for us as He was nailed to a cross?

This is what I want us to see tonight. This is what will change your whole perspective on how you see Everyone. You are an enemy of God. Now, I’m saying “are” here when I know that some of you now aren’t, but you were…

We are enemies of God. We killed Jesus. We spit in His face. We mocked Him. We pulled His beard out. We slapped Him in the face. We whipped Him. We ripped His flesh off. We tortured Him. We made Him bleed and bleed and bleed. We put a crown of thorns on His head. We made Him carry His cross till He couldn’t carry it anymore, and we made Him carry it some more. We laid Him on that cross. We took the nails and the hammer. We jammed the nail through his left hand into the wood. We jammed the nail through his right hand into the wood. We put His feet together and we jammed the nail through the tendons and flesh of both feet into the wood. We made Him scream. We tortured Him. We mocked Him as He suffered in agonizing pain. We lifted him up and jarred his body as the cross slid into the hole into upright position. And we stood there… looking… laughing… jeering. And we celebrated as He breathed His last. We killed Jesus. We are enemies of God.

You may be thinking, no…I wasn’t there. No, you weren’t there, but He Was there, because of you.

We killed Jesus.

But, as Jesus hung there, bloody and beaten, about to breathe His last, He said these words…He prayed this prayer…for His enemies…for His persecutors…for us…“Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

James 4:4“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

Romans 5:6-10For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

We are to love others as God loves others. We are at enmity with God. We are enemies of God. But God loves us and showed it in action.

We should love our enemies, 1) because God loves our enemies 2) Because God loves us, who are His enemies 3) To be a light of God’s love (Matt 5:16). What is a light for if it’s not used in the darkness? What darker place is there than with an enemy?

So, what do you need to do? Some of you are still enemies of God. You need Jesus. You need His forgiveness. Some of you need to shine your lights in the darkness and love your enemies to Jesus. Some of you need to cry out in forgiveness to God and someone else because you have been acting as an enemy to that person. Some of you need to cry out in thanks. That though you nailed Jesus to the cross, He does not hold your sins against you but seeks your good and has given you salvation through His blood.


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