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: Love on the Cross
Yesterday we looked at the first Greek word for love, which does not appear in the New Testament. Today we will look at the other three.
The second Greek word for love is storgē, and it refers to family love. This is the love that a father and mother have for their children and that children have for their parents. This word is not in the New Testament either, although it could be. The third word for love is philia, which refers to strong affection, and from it we get our words philanthropy (meaning a love for men), philharmonic (a love of music), Anglophile (a lover of England), and the name Philadelphia (brotherly love). This was the word Peter used when Christ had asked him if he loved with the highest of loves and Peter, conscious of his recent denial, replied, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee” (John 21:15-17). It is the highest love of which man in himself is capable.
There is a fourth word for love, however, and it is divine love—agapē. It is the word that Christ used the first two times that he put the question to Peter: “Simon, son of Jonah, lovest thou me?” And, of course, it is the word that Jesus uses here in the Sermon on the Mount. This is a love that loves without variableness and even when the object of the love is hateful or unlovely. You might say that it is love without reason or love even when there are ample reasons to discourage it. It is godlike love. The point is that such love, not erotic or family or even affectionate love, is to characterize our lives as God’s children.
Now we have not really seen the true extent of this divine love until we go one step further. It is true that the love to which we are called is God-love (agapē) and that this is an inscrutable love that exists entirely apart from the possibility of being loved back. But where do we see this love, if indeed, it is God-love? Where is it demonstrated? The answer is that we see it only in Jesus Christ and in Him preeminently at the cross.
Years ago, when I first began to study the subject of God’s love, I made an interesting discovery that is pertinent here. I noticed that there is hardly a verse in the Bible that speaks of God’s love without also speaking in the same context of the cross. This suggests that to the biblical writers God’s love was acknowledged to be seen there, not elsewhere. There is John 3:16: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I John 4:10: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” Romans 5:8: “But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In each case the cross is made the measure of God’s love.
Define the three Greek words for love talked about in this lesson.
Where do we supremely see divine love? How do we see that from Scripture?