Sun. a.m. AGCC 9/17/2000
#2 (Demands of Discipleship Series)

TEXTS:     Matt. 5:38-48


Our culture has redefined the term "love" … today that terms means a feeling, in our earlier history it was more than a feeling, it was an act of commitment. As a commitment there are certain dynamics that will be present even when our emotions are not aligned to that commitment, but as a feeling the bond that love should have can easily break as the emotion or feeling is gone. Tragically, the power of love disappears when it diminishes to an emotional level rather than a principle level. ILLUS:It is no wonder that in 15 years of asking high school students throughout America whether, in an emergency situation, they would save their dog or a stranger first, most students have answered that they would not save the stranger. "I love my dog, I don't love the stranger," they always say. The feeling of love has supplanted God or religious principle as the moral guide for young people. What is right has been redefined in terms of what an individual feels. -- Dennis Prager in Good News (July/Aug. 1993). Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 12. Love has real power only when it is biblical, in fact, it does extraordinary things for both us and the recipients of it when it is biblical love. PROP. SENT:     The call of discipleship goes way beyond the expectation the world would have, it calls us to even love our enemies, not just tolerate them, but to actually love them. This kind of love is NOT an emotion, it is a real commitment that acts out in real ways whether the emotional element of love is there or not.

I. PAST THE LAW       5:38-41

A. Expected     5:38 1. The law's design was to curb sin by producing fear … a. equal retaliation when bad things happened. b. fear would help keep people from doing bad things knowing that an equally bad thing would happen back to them. 2. The law had stated, Lev 24:20 "…fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. As he has injured the other, so he is to be injured." a. Jesus here correctly quotes the Old Testament law. b. This was the expected responses for those who would be our enemies. 3. The old law is simply cut and dry, and there is no room for love. a. However, Christ came to institute an even greater law, the law of love! b. This new law would really challenge us, no longer would the normal responses work, this new law puts a great demand and challenge on Christ's disciples. 4. Anyone can live by the old law, the real challenge is to live by the new! ILLUS:Anyone can love the ideal church. The challenge is to love the real church. -- Bishop Joseph McKinney, Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 3. 5. The old law deals with what is, the new law deals with what could be! a. The law of love has the power to change people, it offers hope, it offers grace, it offers forgiveness and restoration. b. The old law offers punishment … and fear, and this has a place in controlling the full extent of sin in society, but to change society a new law is needed, something extraordinary! B. Extraordinary!     5:39-41 1. Jesus now adds to the old law, or better yet, changes it! a. Jesus says to go to extraordinary efforts when responding to evil, to not only accept the evil done, but be willing to even accept more of it than normal! b. This is not a pacifist approach to evil however, for there is a response, a response of love, actions that defy explanation, a love so deep that it will confound the evil person as well as confront them with God's power … all with the goal in mind of transforming them from evil to righteous! c. Indeed, Jesus' own life bears this out, so often He acted in extraordinary ways with prostitutes and tax collectors, criminals and outcasts, which so amazed them that they often fell at his feet changed people! 2. It is hard to fathom responding like this, everything in our nature tells us to strike back with an equal punch when hit, but Jesus says to not only allow the punch, but perhaps allow even a second punch … but watch the power of such extraordinary acts of love on our part transform both them and us! a. What the world rejects, we cannot! b. When the world calls it quits, we must not! c. When the world says "get even" Christ says "express love and watch the power of it transform not only the other person, but ourselves as well!" ILLUS:Chris Carrier of Coral Gables, Florida, was abducted when he was 10 years old. His kidnapper, angry with the boy's family, burned him with cigarettes, stabbed him numerous times with an ice pick, then shot him in the head and left him to die in the Everglades. Remarkably, the boy survived, though he lost sight in one eye. No one was ever arrested. Recently, a man confessed to the crime. Carrier, now a youth minister at Granada Presbyterian Church, went to see him. He found David McAllister, a 77-year-old ex-convict, frail and blind, living in a North Miami Beach nursing home. Carrier began visiting often, reading to McAllister from the Bible and praying with him. His ministry opened the door for McAllister to make a profession of faith. No arrest is forthcoming; after 22 years, the statute of limitations on the crime is long past. In Christian Reader (Jan/Feb 98), Carrier says, "While many people can't understand how I could forgive David McAllister, from my point of view I couldn't not forgive him. If I'd chosen to hate him all these years, or spent my life looking for revenge, then I wouldn't be the man I am today, the man my wife and children love, the man God has helped me to be." -- Merv Budd, London, Ontario. Leadership, Vol. 19, no. 2. 3. Jesus demands of His disciples that we go the "second mile" with people. a. Obviously this will challenge our fallen nature! b. The first mile the person had no choice about, they were forced to do it, but when willing to travel the second mile this would be an act of pure grace, an act of free will on our part, and would no doubt powerfully transform the person who forced the first mile! c. Such an act would DEMAND an explanation, and only the explanation of love and grace could be found, thus introducing the new law of love and its power. 4. In large part this is how Christianity thrived under the persecution of the Roman Empire, especially in the days when Christians were imprisoned and beaten. a. They in turn responded with love, acts of charity which confounded most Romans … and led to the salvation of millions within only a few hundred years! b. In fact, so powerful was the new law of love that within 300 years the Emperor of Rome became a Christian and made Christianity the state religion! 5. We are called to be extraordinary in responses of love, even for enemies! a. This is why legalistic religion has not had a great following, such "letter of the law kills" as the Apostle Paul said, "but the Spirit gives life!" II Cor. 3:6 II. POWER OF LOVE     5:42-48 A. Extreme!     5:42-45 1. We are to forgo the "fairness" of getting even with enemies … with the obvious reason to win them over by the power of love. a. Sinners don't know what to do with grace and love, it seems so foreign to what they would expect … that is why it is so powerful! b. Jesus did not make exceptions for His followers, He did not permit us to hate anyone! ILLUS:The Bible tells us to love our neighbors, and also to love our enemies; probably because they are generally the same people. -- G. K. Chesterton, Leadership, Vol. 9, no. 2. 2. Notice how the Pharisees had distorted the Old Testament law, their quote of the Old Testament law was as follows: Mat 5:43 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" Which is supposedly a quote from Lev 19:18 - although a very bad quote, because the last part of "hate your enemy" is no where to be found in Lev. 19:18 ... the Pharisees had ADDED THIS! a. In fact, the Lev. 19:18 passage ends with "love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." b. Rather than fight their old sinful nature they were giving in to it! c. Jesus demands of His disciples that we be extreme by the world's standards, that we love extremely! d. Jesus even demonstrated that the power of this love could mean the loss of our own lives! ILLUS:Facing arrest as an Anabaptist, Dirck Willems fled for his life across a frozen lake. When his pursuer broke through the ice, Willems gave up his chance to escape by turning to save his persecutor. He was then captured, imprisoned and burned at the stake in 1569. -- "The Radical Reformation: The Anabaptists," Christian History, no. 5. 3. Sometimes I have to wonder if Christians are so determined to destroy evil causes that we sometimes destroy the evil people in the process! a. We are to fight sin, but we are to love sinners! … this is not just a catchphrase! b. Love is a costly thing, it certainly led Jesus to pay a high price, but look at the outcome! c. We cannot afford to live by the old law, that of retaliation and punishment. God's power of transforming love has to show through us, we are His Church. d. This means that it begins here, and spreads out to even our enemies. 4. Jesus doesn't just say "pray for those who persecute you" … prior to that statement He says, "Love your enemies" … love being an action word! a. Prayer while good is not enough! b. It is a real challenge to our fallen nature to love when we would rather demand retaliation! 5. God's love demands extreme action on our part, that is the nature of God's love, it goes to extremes -- but has with it extreme results too! B. Expectations     5:46-48 1. Jesus states that for us to be "sons of your Father in heaven" we will have to act with this kind of extreme love … the old law must be superceded by those touched by grace and love! a. Christ expects us to be more loving than those in the world! b. Our acts of love should supercede those of this world, hence Jesus stating here that if we love only the brethren what are we doing more than what the world would do in similar circumstances? 2. God's expectations are high! a. He wants our depth of love greater than what those in this world would show! b. The Church cannot reveal Christ if we don't act like Him! 3. Christ's power was His love, even love for the unlovely … it is what made the religious and self righteous angry, and what transformed so many of the "rejects" of society into sons and daughters of God! ILLUS:According to an Associated Press account, in September 1994 Cindy Hartman of Conway, Arkansas, walked into her house to answer the phone and was confronted by a burglar. He ripped the phone cord out of the wall and ordered her into a closet. Hartman dropped to her knees and asked the burglar if she could pray for him. "I want you to know that God loves you and I forgive you,'' she said. The burglar apologized for what he had done. Then he yelled out the door to a woman in a pickup truck: "We've got to unload all of this. This is a Christian home and a Christian family. We can't do this to them." As Hartman remained on her knees, the burglar returned furniture he had taken from her home. Then he took the bullets out of his gun, handed the gun to Hartman, and walked out the door. Praying for our enemies is incredibly disarming. -- Scott Harrison, Waterloo, Iowa. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 2. 4. Jesus calls us to be "perfect … as your heavenly Father is perfect." a. WHAT? How can we do this!? b. It is not so much achieving a status of perfection as much as it is loving in such a way as our heavenly Father would love, thus inviting us into His perfection! 5. What are you doing to show the world that you live by a higher law than the law of retribution and punishment? a. Can others see the power of Christ's love in your life? b. Do you know the power of His love? c. Christ invites us to enter into the power of His love, experience it for yourself! CONCLUSION:    Christians are people of extremes! We see sin as extremely destructive, see God's extreme love in having His son die for our sins, and God's call for us as disciples to have an extreme love also! It is easy to love lovely people, to be good to good people, but discipleship means showing love and grace to the undeserving. How much of God's grace shows in our actions toward others … do you go the second mile?