February 23, 1997 ~ Pickering Standard Church


Genesis 3:1-15 - Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.


God told our first parents not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Our first parents, however, ate from that tree upon being tempted by the serpent. Yet in spite of that act of rebellion God did not turn His back on us, although He would have been within His rights to do so. He promised instead that the seed of the woman would one day crush the serpent's head, pointing to the future when through the blood of Jesus Christ the serpent's powere would forever be destroyed. Thus is the love of God made manifest: That even though we had rebelled against Him He set in motion the events that would lead to our salvation.


Last week Pastor Bertrim told the story of a pastor who spoke often of love but who, ultimately, discovered that he could appreciate love in the abstract but not in the concrete. I'd like to talk to you tonight about love in the concrete. We have a song "They will know we are Christians by our love," I want to talk about that love, how do we practice a love by which others, when they look at us, may see that we are Christians and, more importantly, to also see our God.


First of all love is commonly held by our culture to be an emotion, and it is true that love has emotional characteristics, but it is much more than simply an emotion. One can easily become emotionally attached to one's friends and acquaintances but it is more difficult do develop an emotional bond with society's outcasts, let alone one's enemies. Yet we are encouraged by God, indeed we are expected by Him to love these people in addition to those whom we have an affection for.


It is quite common knowledge how we are to love those around us


We have often heard the phrase "Hate the sin, love the sinner." This is understood to mean that we are to hate what the sinner does but to love the person who does the doing. Loving the sinner is more than just an abstract concept that sounds good to our friends: "Oh yeah, that's Leroy. He's my enemy but I love him anyway." What loving our enemy really means, what loving anybody really means, is that we will make sacrifices on their behalf: "I thought Leroy hated you, why did you drive him home?" C.S. Lewis wrote in his book "The Four Loves" that:


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken.


When we take it upon ourselves to love someone, be they friend or foe, we set ourselves up for broken hearts. Love can be, and is intended to be for the Christian an exremely rewarding practice, yet there are times when those whom we love let us down. God experienced the same situation many times in the Old Testament and yet He maintained His promise to send a Redeemer to reconcile His enemies with Himself. He did not take pleasure in our distress but took it upon Himself to rescue us


Job testifies to his friends that if he had even taken delight in the evil that befell his enemy, or even wished his enemy ill he would have been denying God and therefore been deserving punishment; showing that we too are obligated through our faith in Christ to treat our enemies well:

Job 31:28-30, 32) - 28 This also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above. 29 If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him: 30 Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul....32 The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveller.


And the writer of Psalm 25 even takes this further by saying that we ought to take care of our enemy's needs:


Proverbs 25:21 - If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.


Notice that this passage does not state what conditions under which we are to care for our enemy's needs, seeming to indicate that this requirement is an ongoing one and which should occur whenever we find that we are in a position to assist our enemy.


Other passages abound that indicate how we are to treat and think about those who hate us:


Exodus 23:4 - If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.


Proverbs 24:17-18 - Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth: 18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn away his wrath from him.


Romans 12:9-21 - Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.


Matthew 5:43-48 - Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.


Christianity is more than any other religion a religion of reconciliation. If it were not we would never have heard of Jesus Christ, whose primary mission was "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:19). That is, He came to reconcile His enemies to His Father. Paul makes the argument that since, when we were still His enemies, God sent Jesus to bear our sins, how much more will God do now that we are His dear children, adopted into His family by that very blood:


Romans 5:6-10 - For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.


If He, while we were His enemies, has given us the greatest of all possible gifts, how much more will He give us all things that He has now that we are His children.


In a similar vein: If we as Christians are expected to follow in Jesus' footsteps and plead for forgiveness for our enemies as they are killing us (Luke 23:34) how much more are we to love those for whom we actually feel the emotional aspects of love, our own brothers and sisters in the Lord. If we are to do good to those who are set on persecuting us how much more good are we to do for those with whom we will share our Father's eternal kingdom.