If you were a 1st century Jew living in Capernaum, life under Roman military occupation was difficult. Talk of revolt and uprising were everywhere. Some had even claimed to be the chosen one to lead Israel to freedom from Roman rule, until they and their followers were crucified. Emotions were running high, like a tinder box waiting to ignite.
Then rumors of a rabbi from Nazareth speaking with authority and healing the sick presented a counter-narrative to the sentiments among the people. His ideas were so counter-culture that everyone had to pause and take note.
In this passage, we come to one of Jesus’ most radical teachings about loving our enemies. Two thousand years ago it would’ve sounded like heresy to a Jew. But Jesus wants to turn our world upside-down if we would let Him with open hands.
The sermon outline explores three main ideas:
- The Power of Non-Retaliation: The Old Testament taught that if someone harms you, it is only fair and just that they suffer the same in turn. The objective was to avoid endless cycles of escalating violence and revenge; and for the most part it established the rule of law, a process for justice, and a punishment that fit the crime. The way of Jesus was much different, it was the way of non-retaliation when someone offended you. This nuanced teaching stopped the cycle of violence, reclaimed a person’s agency, honored the image of God in others, and opened a window of grace towards an offender. When non-retaliation opens of a window of grace for another person’s soul, they’re forced to do something about it. This way allows the offended to act redemptively towards an enemy. This is the kind of heart that Jesus wants to give us.
- The Redemption of Enemy-Love: The Pharisees taught a pattern of reciprocal love—do unto others as they do to you. The problem is that you need a righteousness that exceed that standard. Jesus says that if you have an enemy, He can give you a heart to love them, a hear that prays for a persecutor for their good. The way of Jesus, the way of the Kingdom of Heaven, is a supernatural enemy-love. Jesus is saying that when we follow Him, and take our eyes off ourselves, our rights, and our wounds, and choose instead to do what is best for our enemy’s soul, this reveals a heart that is “at home” in the Kingdom of Heaven.
- The Beauty of a God-ward Heart: This heart that Jesus is describing is beautiful because it’s a heart just like God’s. God loves His enemies, and when you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, you’re imitating your Father in Heaven. The way of Jesus is overcoming evil with good. To do that, we need to drink deeply of the God’s love, and pour ourselves out in love for others, including our enemies.
Takeaway: “Take up your cross and follow me.” -Jesus