March 12, 2020 – Thursday
Matthew 5:43-47 NIV
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
If you have read the verses above, I want to provide a few quotes from Richard Wurmbrand, author of Tortured for Christ, who was imprisoned and tortured for fourteen years in a communist prison.
First, God will judge us not according to how much we endured, but how much we could love.
Next, These are the last words of Iuliu Maniu, a Christian and the former Prime Minister of Romania, who died in prison: “If the Communists are overthrown in our country, it will be the most holy duty of every Christian to go into the streets and at the risk of his own life defend the Communists from the righteous fury of the multitudes whom they have tyrannized.”
And finally, I have seen Christians in Communist prisons with fifty pounds of chains on their feet, tortured with red-hot iron pokers, in whose throats spoonfuls of salt had been forced, being kept afterward without water, starving, whipped, suffering from cold —and praying with fervor for the Communists. This is humanly inexplicable! It is the love of Christ, which was poured out in our hearts.
Why did I start with these quotes from Wurmbrand’s book? Because they exemplify the very idea Jesus was explaining to those listening to His Sermon on the Mount. Consider the first verse when He said You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ Many might think this was Biblical from the Old Testament, but it was not. The Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18b said love your neighbor as yourself and made it a command by concluding with I am the Lord. The problem was many Jews and especially the Pharisees only considered other Jews as their neighbors. Samaritans and Gentiles were not included and even considered to be enemies.
So Jesus set everyone straight on this, making sure everyone is to be considered as your neighbor even your enemies when He said But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and in case that didn’t make it clear enough He added that you may be children of your Father in heaven. In other words, this is what the Lord our God wants us to do as His children. If you watch the movie on youtube at the 48-49 minute you will see one of the guards asking Wurmbrand what he could possibly be praying for as his wife is also in prison and his son is an orphan? His reply, I was praying for you astonishes the man and seemingly causes fear to play across his face.
Jesus tells us He (the Father) causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. This tells us God loves all of us, no matter how great our sins. Jesus did not die for the only for those who committed little sins, but for everyone’s sins. All had and have an opportunity to accept this free gift of grace – unmerited favor – from God. Everyone will have a chance to accept this incredible gift of forgiveness. Then to drive His point home Jesus in the next two verses says If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? It is easy to love our own family, but God loves everyone and offered His Son so that all could come to heaven. He is asking us to follow His example and do our best to do as He has done. We will fail, but making the attempt surely pleases God.
The last verse of this chapter says in the NIV Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. We know we cannot be perfect, but now we know how we are supposed to live out our faith. The MSG Bible is a bit wordy on this verse, but speaks clearly to us when it reads What I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. We see something of the same thought in Galatians 5:6b when Paul writes The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. Jesus has told us how to do just that. Now it is up to us to do our best to do just that.
Riley D. Driver – Pastor
Calvary Chapel of Dayton