Sermon: Love Your Enemies
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-47
In this week’s lessons, we learn how to love our enemies with the divine love that only God gives us in Christ.
Theme: Loving, Not Liking
Now at this point you may well be saying, “Well, if that is the standard, I might as well admit right now that I cannot attain to it.” That is true. You cannot attain to it, not in yourself. That love is only possible to those in whom the Lord Jesus Christ is working and in whom His love dwells. If you are not a Christian (or if you are a Christian but are far from the Lord), you must begin by drawing near to Him and by asking Him to work out that love in you.
It is possible, however, that you are a Christian and that you are attempting to walk with the Lord, and still you find this love remote and unattainable. If that is your case, you may be helped by a very important distinction. Loving is not necessarily the same thing as liking. To like someone is to have a certain emotional feeling toward them. Because we cannot entirely control our feelings, it is not always possible to like everybody. I am not even sure that we should. I believe there is a sense in which we can say that God does not really like you and me the way we are. But He does love us, and that it is an entirely different thing. Love is not a matter of the feelings, but of the will. And because it is of the will and not of the feelings, it is something that is always possible, and that may always express itself in good actions. This we can do, whether or not we feel like it.
Is not this implied in the commands to love that God gives us? If love depended on our feelings, it would be foolish for Jesus to say, “Love one another” or “Love your enemies.” It could not be done. But if love is a matter of the will and if our wills are surrendered to Him, it can be done. We can love our enemies just as we can also bless them that curse us, do good to them that hate us, and pray for them that despitefully use us and persecute us. Certainly, Jesus implied this as he linked these four positive commands together in this saying.
I have found the late C.S. Lewis of Cambridge, England, most helpful at this point. Let me share some of his thoughts with you. Lewis writes:
The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste your time bothering whether you “love” your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less… The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections or “likings” and the Christian has only “charity.” The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he “likes” them: the Christian, trying to treat everyone kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on—including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.1
If you are having difficulty with the need to love others, try this suggestion and see if God will not use it to lead you into a fuller experience of His great love and power.
1C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1958), 101-102.
Why is loving not always the same thing as liking? How do our will and our feelings influence our ability to love or to like?
Reread the C.S. Lewis quote. Does he say anything that strikes you in a particular way?
Application: To whom do you have difficulty showing love? What steps will you take to act as a Christian?