Monday, December 17, 2012

Loving Our Enemies and The Snowball Effect

Review Luke 6:27-38 and Ephesians 3

My thoughts on sermons at Andover Baptist.

Loving Our Enemies
Who do we love? Most of us love many people. Friends and family. But if we carefully think about who we love, we may realize that we don't love many people that don't give us some advantage.  Think about it - who do you love with no advantage to yourself? It is a tough question because it is unpleasant to admit that mixed in with our good and sincere feelings of love are usually selfish motives as well.

For instance, maybe the love we have for our parents is tinged with a selfish emphasis on what we can get from them. Or maybe our love for our children is mixed with a sinful pride in how they positively reflect on us. We would be naive not to admit that our hearts are filled with these sorts of mixed feelings.

But how does God love us?

He loves us in way that brings no advantage to Himself.  Beyond the scope of this review is the teaching of God's contentment within Himself from all eternity.  It is not from a loneliness or lack of companionship that God created the world, because He was satisfied in the relationship He had with Himself within the Godhead. There was nothing in God that was lacking or which would be advantaged by the creation. 

But in God's infinite wisdom He created our world and us.  He decided to take the form of a man and suffer as one of us! Here is reason to be Merry this Christmas.

He truly did good to those who hated Him.  Look at Luke 6:32-33:

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.

This is the opposite of what Jesus did. He came to earth out of no benefit to Himself. At least there was no benefit to Himself in the way that we get a benefit from others.  For He was not on the same plane as us in the sense of His deity and could not receive a benefit from us as equals. 

And yet He received the benefit of His Father's love and approbation through His obedience and looked to the reward in His suffering. His reward was a benefit and we ought to love from the same motivation. 

Rather than love those who can bring us an advantage in this life we ought to love God who can give us advantages in this life and the one to come.  When we love God we find ourselves loving His Son and following in His example.  A servant is not greater than His master.  And so we are able to love others as we love God.  It is only from the river of our love for God that we can love those who are unlovable.  Those who give us no advantage.  The stinky and abusive.  The hard-headed and unrefined.  Those which our flesh despise. When the river of our love for God is dry, we have no overflow of love for these. But when our love for God flows like a torrent, it overflows the banks of our hearts and reaches others - even those who can give us no benefit.  We need to love like God loves.

And this will lead us to love our enemies, not how they wish to be loved, but how they need to be loved.  This may practically be seen in giving handouts of food to those who beg rather than money. They need food. Money may well be used to purchase what is not good for them. Maybe we love others by restraining them from evil or by calling them out in their sin. This is not a love which feels good to them. This is a love which may be called hate. But like Jesus we need to be strong in our weakness and suffer as we do what will bring good to those around us. Even if the recipients of our love rage against us for it. This is much more difficult than giving people what feels good to them.

In our judgements of others we must judge with mercy. For we must judge according to the command "judge with right judgement." "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24 ESV)   We must remember that we are forgiven sinners. We do not judge with right judgement as the judge. Not as the righteous. We are not on the bench with the gavel. No, we are sitting before the courtroom in a group trial. We're all shackled together in filthy rags. There is only one judge. Everyone else in the courtroom is shackled and stinky. We look over on each other as condemned and can either agree with the judge or disagree with Him. And yet, we must agree with the air of one who is also under condemnation.  And we would be under condemnation if it were not for Jesus Christ. It is His righteousness that releases us from our shackles and gives us clean new clothes. Judge with mercy, with the mercy which we would want applied to us. 

And when we are forced to judge, as with church discipline, discipline of our children, or separation from a sinning friend, let us do so as one whose wrists still bear the chafes of our shackles. As one who never forgets where they've come from.

Snowball Effect
In the sermon two weeks ago on Ephesians 3, Pastor David Wilson affirmed that God as Father mentioned in Ephesians 3:14 refers to God being the Father of all things in the creational sense - He is the progenitor of all things. This prayer links the heavy theology of the first part of the book of Ephesians to the practical theology of the second part of the book. And in this way it can be said that it is the hinge upon which the door of the book swings.

The culmination of this prayer (v14-19) is that we, "be filled with all the fullness of God." Since this was preached close to Thanksgiving, Pastor Wilson mentioned that on Thanksgiving we are sometimes tempted to snack.  We snack a bit here and a bit there throughout the day. And then when the culmination of the day comes, the great feast of Thanksgiving to God, we are already full. We come to a table laden with wonderful foods and our appetites have been dulled with the little treats and mouthfuls we've taken throughout the day. 

We can do this spiritually by filling up our hearts with the little trifles of this world.  This leaves our appetite dulled for the rich feast of of the knowledge of God and the riches of His glory. 

Another illustration; our love for God is like the snowball effect. When you start with a small snowball and roll it downhill it gets bigger and bigger. And similarly when we start with a love for God, we find delight in Him. As we delight in Him, we love Him more, and so on and so forth.  This prayer can be thought of as a prayer that this snowball effect would well up within us a great and fruitful love for God.  

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