International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday November 13, 2011
Purpose: To recognize and expose the divisive work of evil
Scripture Text: Matthew 5:43-48
Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)
(43)“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ (44)But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, (45)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. (46)For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? (47)And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (48)Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
The further we go into the Sermon on the Mount passage, the bar seems to be raised higher and higher. Most of us can deal with seeking forgiveness when we have offended or when we are the object of someone’s anger or angst, especially when it involves family, whether that family is ours by name or Christian. But today's text takes it a step further, “love your enemies.” Is that even possible?
In the history of the Jewish nation, that was a legitimate teaching, taught by Moses in Leviticus 19:18, 34
“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.34The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” In these passages God, speaking like a parent, simple says because I said so. No further explanation was necessary, “I am the LORD your God.”
It is hard to read this and apply it to our current situation in America, where it seems we have so many aliens who are also considered our enemies. September 11, 2001 changed a lot of things for us as Americans; suddenly we associated aliens as enemies. We had been attacked by a group of people whom we thought were indebted to us, or certainly not an enemy. Our reaction was more like the Psalmist in Psalm 5:4-6; 21:8-11; 26:4-5, 9-10 4
For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
8 Your hand will find out all your enemies;
your right hand will find out those who hate you.
9 You will make them like a fiery furnace
when you appear.
The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath,
and fire will consume them.
10 You will destroy their offspring from the earth,
and their children from among humankind.
11 If they plan evil against you,
if they devise mischief, they will not succeed.
4 I do not sit with the worthless,
nor do I consort with hypocrites;
5 I hate the company of evildoers,
and will not sit with the wicked.
9 Do not sweep me away with sinners,
nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
10 those in whose hands are evil devices,
and whose right hands are full of bribes.
We wanted God, at the least, to not bless them. I do not think this is what Christ means when He says, “pray for those that persecute you.”
The God that we worship, like it or not is responsible for all creation. He blesses all of his creation with the sun and rain regardless of their righteousness or unrighteousness. Our challenge is go from just one that receives blessings, to be one that blesses, we accomplish this and do God's work when He becomes our Father.
Loving the lovely is no big deal, loving the unlovely requires a heart like God's. At some time in our life I suppose we are all loved and able to love. But what about loving those that are trying to destroy us, or harm us, or our economy.
Being perfect means to be complete. We become complete when we are able to love as God loves. Reflect on the a few verses from this great old hymn, “Complete in Thee.”
Complete in Thee! no work of mine, May take, dear Lord, the place of Thine;
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me, And I am now complete in Thee.
Dear Savior! when before Thy bar, All tribes and tongues assembled are, Among Thy chosen will I be, At Thy right hand—complete in Thee.
The Chorus goes like this:
Yea, justified! O blessed thought!
And sanctified! Salvation wrought!
Thy blood hath pardon bought for me,
And glorified, I too, shall be!