To love our enemy, we must understand two core issues. First, we can only love when we are allowing Christ to meet our core needs. Secondly, all people share the same basic core needs, but they fall into the trap of trying to meet them in false ways.
In this sermon, Greg begins with two preliminary comments. First, while the command to love is central in the Bible, it’s also a command the Church has struggled to follow. To fail to love should be regarded as the worst heresy. The second preliminary comment is that the Sermon on the Mount is not a handbook of ethical rules. Jesus’ teaching invites us to cultivate a character that pushes back against the violence in our culture and reflects Jesus’ peace. It is not a text that serves as fodder for debating questions like addressing threatening situations or vocational choices. Entering into this debate could easily distract us from the task of cultivating a Kingdom character.
The focus of this sermon addresses two core issues. The first core issue is that we must get our fullness of LIFE from Christ. (Greg places LIFE in all capitals to represent the specific kind of LIFE for which we are all searching.) As Jesus said in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” Jesus’ abundant life is a sense of being fully alive, as it was supposed to be. We experience this “fullness of LIFE” to the degree of which our core needs are met, which include: Worth, Belonging, Purpose, Free-Agency (Personhood); Goodness or Justice; Security, and Hope. But only God’s love can fully meet these core needs.
God wants to overflow with his love given to us, thereby satisfying the thirst in our souls, which in turn empowers us to overflow with love toward him, others, and all of creation. In this way, everything is brought into the eternal loving dance of the Triune God. But if we are not getting LIFE from Christ, our thirsty souls will search for false sources of LIFE. We grab onto other things, searching to fulfill our Worth, Belonging, Purpose, Personhood, Justice, Security, and Hope.
When we are not getting our LIFE from Christ, we are pitted against each other, fighting in a perpetual game of King of the Hill. This competitive spirit is born out of our hearts’ unmet longings creating terrible value-laden hierarchies privileging some over others.
This competition lies behind all that is unloving, including human-on-human violence in our world. If we cannot fulfill Christ’s command to love our enemies, it is because we are walking around with hungry hearts, trying to get our core needs met in ways other than God.
The second core point is that our enemies are just other hungry humans. The same core desires drive every person. Different cultures vary significantly on the kinds of idols they chase after and how their hunger is expressed. The New Testament explicitly and repeatedly tells us that we are to leave all vengeance and all judgments to God, no matter the idols that they chase. We don’t know the whole story of a person’s life. We are just called to agree with God about every person’s unsurpassable worth by how we think, speak, and interact with them.
The more we get our life from Christ, the more we can understand broken people, just trying to get their core needs met. By the power of the Spirit, we can view others, even our enemies, the way Christ did, with compassion and hope for restoration, rather than judgment.
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