In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus calls us to radically love our neighbors (Matthew 5:33-48), a seemingly impossible task. Thankfully, He not only modeled this love for us, He lavishes His love on us, and through His Spirit, He enables us to love others just as He loved us.
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Who in your life is difficult for you to love? What’s one way this week you can pray for them, as well as choose to initiate with them as an active choice of love?
What is your first response when you are wronged by someone? Jesus had a lot to say about how citizens of the kingdom respond to those who not just wrong them, but also are their enemies. Harrison Ross walks us through the rest of Matthew chapter 5, verses 33-48, as we continue our series, “Summer on the Mount."
Suggested Scripture study: Matthew 5:33-48; Micah 6:8; Leviticus 19:18; Deuteronomy 32:35; Proverbs 24:29; 1 Peter 2:23; 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; Galatians 5:22-23; Romans 12:18; Titus 3:3-7; Romans 5:8; Matthew 5:20; 1 Peter 1:16
Sermon: Love Precedes Life Change
Sermon: Love Your Enemies
Hello, Watermark. My name is Harrison Ross. I want to say "hi" to my friends in Plano, my home campus, and Frisco, Fort Worth, and everybody watching online. We are excited to be with you here today. Happy Father's Day. I know we've said that already, but happy Father's Day to the dads in the room. It is worth applause again. We love them. Absolutely.
I'm also a dad. I have three young boys under 4, so we are in the thick of it, having a blast. It is a fun stage. It's a full stage, but it's fun because we get to explore all of the toys with them, all the PAW Patrol and what's new today, but I also get to help them explore all of the better toys back when I was in my youth. I get to look at all of the things I loved to play with, all of the things I loved to enjoy and explore as a little boy.
One of those was superheroes. There's nothing better for a little boy than superheroes. So we have the capes and the masks and all of the things at home. I'm not talking about today's superheroes, like, the old-school Avengers now made new school. I'm talking about real superheroes, the good guys, the best superhero who has ever existed, indisputably: Batman. I mean, no doubt. Batman is the greatest superhero who has ever lived, and I've gotten to brainwash my own kids to believe the same thing. They don't know any better.
I've gotten to plaster their room with Batman decals, and I dress them up like Batman, and we go to Home Depot, and they think Batman is the coolest, because he is. Who wouldn't want to be this rich guy who starts to wear clothes that fit too tightly and go save the world? It's awesome! He's awesome, because he's not this guy with superpowers; he's this guy who takes justice into his own hands. Not just because he has gizmos and gadgets, but he goes and saves Gotham City and saves the world.
Really, I think I love it because I want that. I want to take matters into my own hands. I want to go and fight for justice when injustice is done to me. I think I want to do that because I'm angry, because I think injustice has been done to me, and I think I can do it better than anybody else and I can go and take over. It's why we love the superhero movies. That's what we see in front of us on the screen: these guys who are above the law, who will do whatever it takes to go save the world and save their reputation and go take over. It's what we want to do.
Maybe, for some of us, we're too scared to do it, so we just live vicariously through these players on the screen. It's what Jesus addresses: these two extremes of passivity or over-aggression. The over-aggression of the superheroes who go and take justice and get it done or those who just sit passively and don't do anything; being a punching bag or making the world your punching bag; passivity or over-aggression.
If we're honest, it's probably what we saw our dads do in one of the two extremes, either to sit back and do nothing most times or to live in over-aggression sometimes or most of their lives. Jesus doesn't want either of those for us. Jesus doesn't want us to live in these extremes of passivity or over-aggression. He wants us to look like him. He wants us to look like our heavenly Father. The way we look like our heavenly Father is we look to the heart of the Father, of who he is, of how he loves us, and how we can be more like him.
So, today, we're going to look at the Father's heart and how we can be his people, his sons, his daughters, in this world, living it out. Really, we have a chance to do that every week, to look at his Word, to see what he has revealed for us of who he is and how he loves us, and because of that love to live it out. Specifically, this morning, we're going to look at what Jesus says, the Son of the Father, who says, "This is my Father's heart."
He takes us back to who the Father is and what he originally intended in the Sermon on the Mount so we could look like him. Not to just dress our kids up in the things our earthly fathers like, in the little silly superheroes, but so we would be dressed in the righteousness of God. We've been studying the Sermon on the Mount together for the last few weeks, and to just remind us where we've been and give us context, the purpose of the Sermon on the Mount…
Jesus gives characteristics of citizens of the kingdom and the conduct which marks them. It's kingdom living for kingdom people. This is what he does. He starts with the Beatitudes, the foundation, that if you live in this way and do as God does and walk in the Father's ways, you will be blessed. You will be called sons of God. You will see God. You will be blessed by him. Then he calls us to be salt and light. He calls us to live it out in the world. Jesus didn't come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.
Then, specifically, we're looking at six things Jesus corrects from the law, this misunderstanding of the Old Testament law and how they had misconstrued what God had intended, and Jesus takes us back to the heart of God. We've seen over and over the last few weeks where Jesus says, "You've heard that it was said, but I say to you…" and he gives a correction. We've looked at specific things Jesus points out.
We've given you this chart, walking through anger and lust and divorce this last week. Jesus starts and says, "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit murder.' But I tell you, anyone who harbors anger against his brother in his heart has already committed murder. So reconcile. What I say to you to correct and call you to is to reconcile, to live in right relationship with one another and not just hold onto your anger.
You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I say to you, if you have looked lustfully at a woman, you have already committed adultery in your heart. So remove that sin. Cut it off. Get rid of it. Walk in righteousness." Then Todd did an incredible job last week teaching us on divorce. It's not just, "Don't get divorced," but remain in relationship, right relationship with the one you've covenanted with, because that's what God has with us.
Todd last week touched on oaths and briefly read through it, but I want to help fill in the chart. He talked about the greatest oath a man or a woman can take in divorce, but Jesus then spreads it out to all oaths. He says, "Don't just try to skate around and cross your fingers behind your back. Be God's man. Be God's woman. Let your 'yes' be yes, and your 'no' be no." What he says is "Mean what you say."
When you're going to say something, really mean it, because God means what he says. Live like the Father has loved you, and live it out in front of other men. That takes us to the last two we're going to study this morning, the last leg of Jesus' section on teaching and correcting. Some have said that what we're going to study this morning is the most ridiculous thing Jesus asks of his disciples. So, let's check out what Jesus says in Matthew 5, starting in verse 38.
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you."
This is probably a familiar saying. We've heard that before. "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." It was familiar to the Jews back in Jesus' day. This is from the Old Testament law. It's what God put in place to put order in chaos. When wrong was done to someone else, there needed to be justice, so God said there would be equal retribution.
If you were harmed in some way, then that would be taken from that person, regardless of who they are, how much money they have. People started to go, "Well, you took my eye, so I want your head. I want your life. I want to ruin your life." God said, "No, that's not how it should be," so he put justice in place. He put a right way to respond, but what happened is the Pharisees twisted it. They took what God had intended to limit evil and then took it to enable evil and give permission.
"When injustice is done to you, you have every right to go take justice on the wrong done to you. If they take from you, you go take them back." That was the common teaching of the day. The Pharisees were telling them, "Hey, if wrong is done to you, you'd better go make it right." That's not what God is saying here. The Pharisees twisted it, and I think so do we. "Wouldn't God want me to stand up for myself? I don't want my coworker or my boss to just walk all over me."
What Jesus says here is "Do not resist an evil person." Who's an evil person? He gives us four examples of how evil could be inflicted on us: someone who slaps us or sues us or socially embarrasses us or takes advantage of us. That makes us mad. That's injustice done to us, personally, publicly, physically. That makes you want to rise up and bow up and do something about it. All of us do. Take justice when injustice is done on each of us.
Recently, I was in a conversation with my brother, and in that conversation he said something that made me mad. It didn't just make me mad where I wanted to say something. I wanted to hit him in the face. I don't know that I've ever felt more like I wanted to hit somebody in the face ever before, in a public place. I'm glad I didn't. By God's grace I didn't, but I walked away, and I almost regretted not hitting him. I wanted to. I felt like he had wronged me, and I wanted to get back at him. This isn't what Jesus calls us to do. That's what we want to do, not what we're called to do.
He says, "Don't fight back," but not only don't fight back. Be willing to give of yourself, to give up your dignity, to even give up your stuff. All throughout this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been alluding back to the Old Testament commands, commandments six through ten, that you shouldn't murder, you shouldn't commit adultery, you shouldn't steal, you shouldn't bear false witness. Here he gives us the tenth commandment. He nods to it and says, "You shall not covet."
Not only that you shouldn't want what other people have, but you shouldn't care so much about what you have that when it's taken from you it doesn't matter. You don't care about it so much that when it's taken from you you're willing to even give more, because that's not where your hope is found. It's not in your stuff; it's in him. That's crazy. That's ridiculous. Who does this? You're saying, "I'm just supposed to be a doormat? You're saying I should just sit there, that I'm not supposed to stand up for justice?" Oh no. We should fight for justice.
In Micah 6:8 and all throughout the Scriptures, God calls us to stand up for the injustice of others, to fight for those who are wronged, but that doesn't give us the right to fight against others just because we individually are wronged. This is a text that does not give us permission for passivity or even pacifism. Jesus isn't saying, "Just don't do anything." Jesus isn't saying, "Hey, you shouldn't ever fight." This isn't a text even for entire nations. Nations have taken this out of context and said, "We're just not going to fight wars, because we are going to live as pacifists."
Nowhere in the Scripture does it call us to pacifism or passivity. Nowhere will you see that, but Jesus is speaking to individuals, his disciples, the followers of Jesus. As he corrects them, the call to action he has is "Retaliation shouldn't be your first response. When you're wronged, when injustice is done against you, you shouldn't swing back." Who does this? God's people do this. God's people are the ones who are on display and live like this.
There's an old story I heard of an Irish heavyweight boxer in the early 1900s. After a ton of titles, he was at a tent revival in Ireland, and he was radically saved by Jesus. He came to know Jesus, and he felt called to the ministry, so he became a pastor, a priest, there in his small town in Ireland. He was eating dinner at a local pub one night, and some thugs came in, somebody who maybe was hurt by the church, and they see this priest sitting in the corner.
One of the guys looks to his buddies and is like, "Hey, check this out." He starts yelling at this guy, calling him names, hurling insults. "Hey, preacher man!" The guy doesn't flinch. The owner of the pub, the bartender, knows this heavyweight champion. He has seen him fight. He knows what he can do, and he's just sitting here cleaning cups, going, "Uh-oh." The guy keeps throwing insults. Nothing is happening. No response. So he starts to move over toward him. He gets closer and closer. He finally slaps the table to try to get a response and is saying all kinds of names, and the guy never responds.
Finally, he's like, "Hey, wake up!" and slaps him in the face. The heavyweight champ looks at him and stands up. Big, burly guy. He just turns the other cheek. The guy looks at him like he's crazy. He looks at his friends like, "What's going on?" So he just pops him again. The bartender's eyes just go huge. The heavyweight champ looks over at the bartender and says, "The Lord gives me no further instructions." Boom! And knocks him out right there. Levels the guy.
That's what God's people do. Retaliation isn't the first response, but this isn't Jesus' new standard of one, two, and then you just waylay the guy. That's not what he's saying here. This isn't just for people who can fight for themselves and who don't have to fight back because they can level a guy. This is for God's people who know God is going to fight for them. The problem is we miss the heart of God. It's not what you can do.
The law was never there so we'd know what we can do. It's who you should be, and who you should be is like the Father. Who you should be and how you should respond is to reflect the heart of God. So how do we do this? How do we turn the other cheek? How do we live joyfully when everything could be taken from us? We trust in the Lord. We rely on who he is. We trust in his promises that he has given us. We trust in the character of who he is.
This is what Jesus is leaning on. This is how Jesus lived his life, because he knew his Father. He's talking to his disciples who also know of these promises, and he just says, "You don't have to retaliate. You can rely on the Lord. You don't have to take personal revenge, but you can trust in the Lord, because he personally watches over each of you." Jesus looks back at those Old Testament promises.
In Leviticus 19:18 it says, "Do not take vengeance." That's pretty clear. "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord" in Deuteronomy 32. Proverbs 24:29: "Do not say, 'I will do to him as he has done to me. I will pay the man back for what he has done.'" Proverbs 20:22: "Wait for the Lord. He will deliver you." That sounds like Jesus. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account, for great is your reward in heaven."
The problem is we don't want to wait for our reward in heaven. We don't want to wait for what God has for us. We want to give people what they deserve. We don't just want our reward; we want to go get back at them. We want to go get revenge. We want to go get even. "You key my car? I'm going to key your car." Hopefully we're not doing that. Jesus just says, "Trust in me." Our first response ought to be to respond in grace and love to others.
So, how do you be more of a gracious person and not just somebody who's trying to get even? Most of us are probably not going to go out and take revenge and take this lashing-out retaliation against somebody, because we're Christians. We don't do that, but we want to. You're human. I want to. I may not actually punch my brother in the face or yell at somebody I think has wronged me, but I'll yell at them in my car by myself.
I'll have this conversation with my invisible adversary, and I win every time. I'm amazing at it. I may not flip off another driver or the coach, but I cuss him out in my mind. You may not actually take retaliation, but will you act out of your redemption and respond in love? Because that's what Jesus does. That's what he does for us. We're called to be like Christ who looks like the Father. Jesus modeled all of these four things that he calls us to that seem crazy, that seem ridiculous.
Jesus turned the other cheek. In 1 Peter 2:23 it says, "When reviled, he did not revile in return." He didn't just take two punches to the face; he took 40 lashes, and he didn't lash out on us. He had his clothes taken from him, but he willingly gave himself. He willingly gave his clothes. He willingly gave his dignity. He willingly gave his life so we could have life in him.
Not only was he asked to walk a mile; he carried his cross for a mile, to go to the cross on our behalf so we could cross from death to life, and then we watch him be gracious and giving in everything, to give of his life, of his love, of his gifts, and his life then lives in us. His Spirit lives in us so we can have that same life and give that to others.
This is crazy. This is crazy love. This is alien. It's foreign. It's otherworldly, other-kingdom. This doesn't make sense, but this is what Jesus does. This is what Jesus calls us to. Jesus doesn't call us to be right. He calls us to walk in righteousness even when we're wronged, even when it hurts us, because that's exactly what Jesus did. So he says, "Don't retaliate. Love. Don't respond in revenge. Respond in love."
Jesus doesn't stop at "Don't take action." He doesn't stop at "Don't retaliate" and then move on. "Okay. To fasting. Here we go." He goes even beyond that. These two sections are connected. It's not just about what we're not supposed to do, but he calls us then to take action, to take initiation, to respond by loving, by engaging with those even if they've hurt us instead of living in rage. It takes us to the next section of Matthew 5. In verse 43 it says:
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?"
He says "Love." He looks back at something familiar: Love your neighbors. The Jews know this. We know this. Love your neighbors. But nowhere in Scripture does it command the Israelites to hate their enemies. Jesus is not quoting an Old Testament command. Jesus is quoting the common teaching of the day, and he quotes it to correct it, to get rid of it, to take them back to the heart of God.
What the Pharisees did was they took this natural thing of "Okay. Well, if I'm to love my neighbors, the opposite is that I'm to hate my enemies. If I'm to love my neighbors, then I must hate my enemies, to get rid of them, to push them away." Jesus says, "That's not what I'd have you do. I want you to not only love your neighbors; I want you to love everybody, even your enemies." Not to just not take retaliation, not to just kind of like them, not to just tolerate them, not to just not hate them and act out on them, not to just kind of pretend like you get along with them…to love them.
Jesus' call for those who love him and follow him, his disciples, is to radically love. Love my enemies? What? That's crazy. I get loving people I like, but my enemies? Yes. If you're going to love your neighbors, everybody is your neighbor, people you like and people you don't like. Your neighbors are people who are white, black, rich, poor, Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, obnoxious neighbors, coworkers you don't like. They're all around you, and Jesus' command is to love them, to be with them.
When I hear that word love, it reminds me of 1 Corinthians 13. This isn't just a passage of lovey-dovey marriage love. This is a passage about Jesus and his love for his bride, his church. This is a passage about the church, the way the church is to love one another. Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It keeps no record of wrongs, even for our enemies. Another passage that comes to mind is Galatians 5:22-23, the fruit of the Spirit.
For those of us who know God, by the love of Jesus in our lives and his Spirit that lives in us, we are sons and daughters of God, and what naturally flows from us, what is produced in us, the produce, the fruit of our lives is love. It doesn't give a caveat. It doesn't say, "Love…unless your boss is really a jerk. Love…unless you were really hurt as a child. Then you're exempt. Love except if you have some reason really not to." He says, "Love."
That's what naturally flows forth, period, without exception. He doesn't give a caveat for any of them. He just says there should be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. "Well, unless your life really stinks, unless you really got the short end of the stick. Then, by all means, you have every reason to complain, to be anxious, disgruntled, mean, harsh, and give in to whatever you want." That's the rottenness of our sin. That's not the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus says to love our enemies.
Recently, I went on a road trip with my family. Road trips are a blast, especially with young kids and getting to explore all of these new things. What's not a blast is when you get to stay in a hotel along the way and you have three under 3 all staying in a hotel room together. It's a miserable experience. That is not fun, if you've ever done that. Trying to get them to sleep and getting everybody down.
You're just kind of in survival mode in your own little room, and you don't really care about who else is around you unless they're kind of weirdos down the hall. You're just focused on your people in your little room. We kind of live that way, focused on our family or our friends and our party that we're in, and we don't pay attention to anyone else who's around.
But sometimes when you get in a hotel you have that awkward experience where you get in an adjoining room. You know what I'm saying? There's a room that also then connects to the other room. Not because there's a wall and a door outside, but there's a door inside. That's great if you have a large family and you get both of those rooms and you get to spread out more. It's not great if the person on the other side is really annoying or, worse, your enemy.
What Jesus is saying is your neighbors are also probably your enemies, and you're called to love them. In the adjoining rooms, there are two doors. There's the door to your room and the door to their room. Jesus is saying, "Keep your door open." You're to love them. Don't shut yourself off from them. Don't try to protect yourself from them and push them away. Keep your door open. Love them. Keep yours open, and don't try to kick theirs down.
Don't try to get in there and tell them they're wrong and tell them they're too loud or call the front desk and try to evict them and get rid of them. Love them. Regardless of how they respond, regardless if they're ever going to respond in love or if their door always stays closed, we are called to love. Now, if they open the door and they run through and try to murder you, well, then you need to stand up and not just go, "Come on in." You need to fight back.
We're not called to stand for injustice. Don't be a punching bag; be a peacemaker. Be someone who stands for the things of God and lives in the ways of God. We are called to love. This is the expectation Jesus has. Last week, Todd talked about divorce. The expectation for marriage is that they would remain in marriage. There was an exception clause, and what the Pharisees started to do was make the exception the expectation.
God's expectation is always radical love, repentance, reconciliation, and here we see clearly in this command to radically love. Jesus calls us to an expectation without exception because of his great example for us so that others might experience the goodness of God and exalt him for eternity. Let me say that one more time.
Jesus gives us an expectation without exception because of his perfect example so that they, your enemies, everybody, might experience the goodness of God and exalt him for eternity. In other words, that they might see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven. See also earlier in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus' expectation for his followers is radical love.
Who does this? Who actually lives this way? Who could actually love those who have hurt us the most? Who could actually love their enemies? That's crazy! Who does this? God does this. We can love our enemies because that's exactly what Jesus did for us. Titus 3:3 gives us an explanation of enemies. It says they're "foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing their days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another." Yeah, that sounds like one of my enemies. This isn't what it says, though. It says, "So were you."
"For we ourselves [everybody in this room, outside of the love of the Father] were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life."
Romans 5 says we were once enemies of God, running from him, running far away from him in what we were choosing, and choosing to be outside of relationship with him, enemies of God. But Romans 5:8 says that God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. God didn't take vengeance upon us. God didn't smite us. God doesn't give us what we deserve. God doesn't leave us when we are enemies. He pursues us. He loves us. He forgives us. He then does all the work to reconcile so we might be in right relationship with him. Who does that? I'm so thankful my God does.
If you're in here and you're angry at God for all kinds of reasons, you need to know God is not your enemy. He is your greatest lover. He loves you and wants relationship with you. This kind of love is what has changed our lives. It's what has changed my life. This love could be the same thing that could change the life of the one you hate most, your enemy, by the way you love them and the way Jesus loved you.
Not only could it change their life, but in the process, God will continue to transform your life as you move toward loving them. This is crazy. Love like the Father loves. That's what we're called to do as his disciples. Love like the Father loves you. These are the characteristics of the citizens of the kingdom. This is what he's talking about. If you're sitting here and you're listening to this and going, "I can't do this; this is impossible," then you're getting the point.
None of us can do this on our own. None of us can do this outside of the Father's love for us, outside of the Father's love in us as we accept his gift of grace and love. His Spirit then lives in us so we can live in love like he lived, to love like the Father has loved us, and then to love others the same way God loves them. Even your greatest enemies are children of God, those God has created, who he loves, who he pursued in their sin, who he came and died for so that they, too, might be in right relationship with him. We don't wish hell on anybody, even our greatest enemies.
So how do we do this? Well, Jesus then, in the next sentence, gives us how we should. He says, "Pray for them. Pray for those who persecute you." Prayer is a form of love. We're not called to enable our enemies in their sin; we're called to pray for our enemies in their sin. Who do you hate most? Who has hurt you the most? Who do you want to hurt the most? Have you prayed for them? That's what Jesus calls us to do: to start there, to love them, to intercede on behalf of someone else, and to ask that God would transform their life, whoever they are.
It's by loving and praying for even our enemies that we show we are children of God, sons and daughters of him, because that's what a son does. A son learns the ways of the father and walks in his ways and does as he does. I told you I have three young boys, and they're watching me. They're mimicking me. They're doing the things I do. When we go out to a restaurant or a store, my oldest will hold the door open. He's like this. It's way too heavy, but he's trying, even though it's crushing him.
Or we'll go to a grocery store, and he'll say, "Daddy, we need to get flowers for Mommy," and I'm like, "Buddy, those are plastic. She's not going to like them, but I love that you're seeing that." Or when we're driving in the car and he hears the honk of a horn and he goes, "Oh, come on!" At least that's all he's picking up on. Right? He's watching, he's learning, and he wants to do the things his father does. Not because it's initiation into the Ross family, not so his father will love him, but because of his father's love for him and for others, he wants to walk in those ways.
Likewise, because of who God is, we get to live as the Father lives and love as the Father loves so that a watching world may see the goodness of God that lives in us. A lot of us foundationally believe it, but then functionally we act like atheists, that God isn't good. But Jesus calls us to love as he loves, even those who are far from him and enemies of God. That's crazy.
Then he wraps up this section, not only this teaching but the entire correction passages as we close Matthew 5. In verse 48, he says, "You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." This is a high bar. He basically is saying, "Be like Jesus." We've already heard crazy things, but this is crazy.
Really, he's bookending this entire teaching. He's rephrasing what he has already said in Matthew 5:20, which says, "For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.""Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
What he has just shown us, in six different ways, pointing back to the Old Testament commands, is you're not perfect. You can't be. You never will be, and you don't have to be. What he does in verses 21-47 is he shows us our own imperfections, our own ways that we fall short, so that we would be poor in spirit and pour ourselves out in gratitude for a God who is all of those things and who loves us. He doesn't try to push us away because we're not good enough. He says we're worthy and valuable because of his Son Jesus.
So what do we need to do? We need to see our imperfection. Wherever you're at here today, whether you know Jesus or this is your first time in a church and hearing the things of God, you need to acknowledge that you are not perfect before a holy and loving God, and you don't have to be, because Jesus is, and he has paid the perfect price for your life so you could have life in relationship with him, not just for forever but for today.
Jesus just asks us to take his perfect provision that he did on the cross to die for our sin, to die the death we deserve and rise to new life…to accept that provision and then follow his perfect example, to walk in his ways. If you have been radically redeemed in that way, if you are now called a son or daughter of God, the heavenly Father, then do as he does and walk as he walks. Be perfect as he is perfect. "Be holy as I am holy."
What Jesus is doing here is he's done correcting. He's done saying, "Okay. You hear this, but I'm saying do this," and he just says, "Go live it. Go be like me in the world. Go be my hands and feet. Go be my church, my disciples, my followers, the body of Christ lived out to a hurting and watching world that desperately needs the love of the Father." To not just go and speak the truth in love but to be the truth in love, as we live as he lived, as we love with the same heart the Father loved us with.
So, how are we doing, church? How are you doing at loving your obnoxious neighbor, your brother who's far from him, or loving your enemies? How are you doing at living like him, loving like him, being like him, radically loving a world that desperately needs the crazy, ridiculous love of our heavenly Father?
I don't want my kids to just grow up and be like me. I don't want them to just grow up and like the things I like and these petty little superheroes. I want them to look like my heavenly Father. I want my kids to grow up and look like the heart of God. For them to look like my heavenly Father, their earthly father has to look more and more like his heavenly Father every single day.
The way I can look like my heavenly Father is by looking to Jesus, who perfectly lived it out for us, and to follow his perfect example, because I've taken his provision, because I'm well aware of my imperfection. I am so unworthy, but he loves me. As I live with him and love like him and abide with him, I can go and love like him, even for my worst enemies. I can look to Jesus, because Jesus isn't just the one who gives the Sermon on the Mount; Jesus lives the Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus embodies the Sermon on the Mount. Because he embodies it, we can too. He is the one who reconciles. He is the one who removes our sin. He's the one who remains faithful to us even when we're unfaithful. He's the one who really means what he says and holds to his promises. He's the one who takes our retribution that we deserve. He's the one who radically loves, and because of all of those things, he's the one we can rely on and trust in, rest in.
This is what we have been studying the last few weeks. This is what Jesus is teaching. I want to show you the charts and let you hear that one more time. When we were murderers, he reconciled us to himself as we're running amok throughout the world. When we were adulterous and lusting for the things of our flesh, he removed our sin. When we were wanting to break the covenant and divorce our spouse or separate in relationship with others or with God, he remains faithful with us.
When we say one thing with our lips but do the very opposite in our lives, he really means what he says and holds to his promises. When we want to take revenge on others for our injustice, he doesn't retaliate but takes our retribution that we deserve. When we were enemies of God, running around doing all of these things, he radically loves us and goes to the cross. This is Jesus, the Perfect One, who perfectly lives it out so we can follow his example and love like the Father loves, as the Father lived in him and now lives in us.
It's a happy Father's Day indeed, because we have a heavenly Father who has not abandoned us, who has not abused us, but who lavishes his love on us through Jesus so that we might have life, so that we might not only have this love from the Father but live with that love from the Father so that the world may be different. That's the church. That's us.
To be that hope to a watching and hurting world so our kids might know the love of the Father, so our own dads might know the love of the Father, so our neighbors might know the love of the Father, so our Community Groups might know the love of the Father, so even our enemies might know the love of the Father because of his crazy, ridiculous, radical, unbelievable, unfathomable love that he would have on us, on me.
In a second, we're going to sing about that, the reckless love of God. God is not reckless. He is just, he is intentional, he is purposeful, but the love he has for us does not make sense. It is crazy, it is radical, it is ridiculous, and in our view, it doesn't even make sense, but I am so glad he loves me.
If you're here and you don't know this God, we'd love to help you know more about him, because he loves you. It's through Jesus that you can know him…not to appease him, not to just kind of feel like you're even. None of us in here are worthy, and because of that we're called to see our imperfection, to take his provision he has given through himself on the cross, and then to follow in his perfect example as we love and live like our Father did through Jesus on earth.
Heavenly Father, thank you for the perfect picture of your love in Jesus, and thank you that we can love because you first loved us. None of us are deserving of this love, but I'm so thankful for what you did on the cross, that you came, you lived a perfect life on this earth, you stepped into our life, our hurt, our brokenness, the craziness of this world, and then you willingly went to the cross to pay the penalty we deserve and rose to new life so we might have life in you. That's crazy.
Then, Lord, because of your love that lives in us, we are called to go and crazily love those around us. Lord, we love you. Thank you for your crazy, ridiculous, unbelievable love. We worship you. It's in Jesus' name we pray, amen.