Sunday July 18, 2021 | Greg Boyd
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 children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 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 and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
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.
• What does it mean to you to get your LIFE from Christ?
• What is one way that you try to get LIFE from something outside of Christ?
• What is a practical way that helps you get your LIFE from Christ?
• How does the lack of LIFE lead to hatred of enemies?
• Who is someone in your life right now that God is called you to love, but they appear to be an “enemy” because they are trying to meet their core needs through an idol?
• How would God have you pray for them?