Enemy Love; A New Moral Ethic!

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6.27-36It is good to be back! I spent the last four weeks conducting two ten-day series in both Paradise, CA and Raymond, WI (a little north of Chicago), with only one day home in between both. Last week, I was catching up with my much-missed family. But this week, I’d like to continue where we left off with our third and final pass at Jesus’s words here in Luke 6.

Again, so much could be said about Jesus’s teachings on Active Nonviolence or Nonviolent Noncooperation. I want to encourage each of you, if you have not had the chance, to, at bare minimum, check out part 3 of the eSight series I wrote last year on this at https://renewedheartministries.com/Esights/06-12-2012. In Part 3, I share the cultural context of turning the other cheek, giving away your tunic, and going the second mile.

Most of the world’s great leaders, ruling societies, or dominant cultures successfully united people around the rallying point of a common enemy. It’s effective and easy. Actually, it’s the easiest way known to us to produce unity. Produce a common enemy, and people who were once themselves enemies with each other, will unite and join together against their now-common enemy. An example of this is found where Shakespeare has Henry IV give similar advice to his son, who will become Henry V after him:

“Be it thy course to busy giddy minds

With foreign quarrels, that action, hence borne out,

May waste the memory of the former days.”

(Henry IV Part II, Act IV, scene V)

Another ironic example of this principle is found in the very story of the betrayal and murder of Jesus. A friendship was struck between Herod and Pilate, who, until Jesus appeared on the scene, were actually enemies.

“That day Herod and Pilate became friends — before this they had been enemies.” (Luke 23.12, emphasis added)

What I find breathtakingly amazing is that Jesus, in Luke 6, is announcing a new kind of society, a new way of living life together, a “kingdom” not centered around a common enemy, but around actually loving your enemies, whomever they may be. Love of the enemy, when one carefully combs the teachings of Jesus, is found to be at the core of everything Jesus was about as well as the kingdom he came to establish and enlarge.

This was a new commandment for sure.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus shares how love of the enemy goes above and beyond the commands that the Jews were used to — those received from Moses.

“For I tell you that unless your righteousness SURPASSES that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5.20)

Remember, Jesus is talking here not about “going to heaven,” but about being a part of his kingdom which is from heaven, and which is also a kingdom that is both here and now. The Kingdom of Heaven, of which Jesus here speaks, is not a kingdom in heaven, but a kingdom which is “of” heaven, or from heaven to Earth through Jesus. And to be a part of Jesus’s new kingdom here, now, you were going to have to embrace a morality that went far beyond that which was found in the old laws.

In the old laws, we do find a positive moral and ethical progression, starting with where Hebrew culture was at, and moving them forward along a trajectory. (They needed laws that limited their thirst for retributive vengeance as we’ll see next, but also laws that told them to not to sleep with their mothers, sisters and their livestock; see Deuteronomy 27.20-23.) Moses was the starting point. But the end point to which the Mosaic trajectory was pointing was Jesus and his teachings. Notice the trajectory in the following two passages:

SHOW NO PITY: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” (Moses, Deuteronomy 19.21)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, LOVE YOUR ENEMIES.” (Jesus, Matthew 5.38-44)

Paul also understood this when he wrote, “Christ is the culmination [ultimate destination] of the law.” (Romans 10.4) I want to be clear here: this is not in the slightest way saying that the law was something bad. Nor are we nullifying or invalidating the law by moving from it to follow the higher, more complete ethical teachings of Jesus. It is actually in perfect harmony with the original intention of the law; now that Jesus has arrived, you are genuinely following the original intention of the law fully only if you now move away from the level of morality the law commanded to the higher morality found in the teachings of Jesus and His ethic of “enemy love.”

“Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.” (Romans 3.31)

“So the law was put in charge of us until Christ came.” (Galatians 3.24)

A few years ago, I placed my 16-year-old daughter on an airplane and she flew from West Virginia to Colorado all by herself to visit her grandmother. The way flights worked then, especially with her being underage, she was assigned a flight attendant to watch over her. The intention of the attendant was to get her safely to her grandmother’s care. Once my daughter was in the company of her grandmother, it would have been foolish for her to cling to the flight attendant. Now before she reached her grandmother, it was imperative that she comply with everything the flight attendant asked her to do. But once she reached her grandmother, it would be in perfect harmony with the desires of the attendant that my daughter go with and listen to her grandmother.

But what if, over the course of the flight, my daughter had become fondly attached to this flight attendant, and when she arrived in Colorado, had refused to go with her grandmother, desiring to stay “under” the authority of the flight attendant? Though in one sense she would be desiring simply to stay “submitted” to the flight attendant, in actuality, she would have been in utter violation of the attendant’s original intention all along. You see, by staying under the law and refusing now go and live “under” the new “law of Christ” (see 1 Corinthians 9.19-21), we are actually violating the original intention of the old law. The opposite is also true: in now following Jesus over and above the old law, we are not insulting, negating, or “nullifying” that law; actually, now that Jesus has come, we, in following Jesus, are following fully the original and ever-present intended purpose the law had all along.

Look at it this way — this is one of Paul’s statements that I consider to be a traditionally misunderstood passage.

“You are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6.14)

In the past (thank God things are changing today), most have seen this verse as saying, “We are no longer under those demanding and oppressive rules of the past. Now we are under God’s permissive grace and forgiveness for our continual shortcomings.” But this isn’t at all what the context implies. What Paul is contrasting are two moral or ethical standards that we can choose to allow to govern how we should live. Now that Jesus has come, I have two moral standards to choose from: 1) the old laws delivered by Moses (eye for eye, tooth for tooth; the retributive justice of the law), or 2) the new, higher standard of morality found in the teachings of Jesus concerning grace toward our enemies (love your enemies; the restorative justice of grace).

These are our options in deciding how to live: the “law” of Moses (which was an improvement from the way his people had lived previously), or the “grace” teachings of Jesus (which are an improvement upon the laws delivered by Moses).

Let me use an example. When I’m wronged by someone, I have two options at my disposal, both of which are, technically, Biblical: I can choose an eye for an eye (the law ethic of Moses), or I can choose to respond by praying for, loving, blessing, and giving to those who have wronged me (the grace ethic of Jesus). Now that Jesus has come, as His follower, I am under the ethical requirements of the grace of Jesus in the same way that I would have been under the ethical requirements of the law of Moses before Jesus. The way of grace is now the new moral standard by which I choose to live my life. It’s not lawlessness, it’s simply that Jesus’s enemy love example has become my law, my ethic, my standard by which I now choose to live. (This is the whole point of James’s letter in which he mentions both Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac and Rahab’s lie, acts considered by the Jews to be morally correct even though they were violations of the Ten Commandments. James was showing that following Jesus does not mean being lawless, but simply following a moral ethic higher and more imperative than the ethics found in Moses.)

Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to COMPLETE them [fr. Greek pleroo – to take something incomplete or deficient and fill it out or make it complete and more whole.]” (Jesus, Matthew 5.17)

This is why John wrote, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1.17,18)

And what was at the core of these new ethical teachings? Again, enemy love.

Notice Jesus’s frustration as he bumped into resistance in folks moving from the old ethics to the new ethics:

“The law and the prophets were in effect until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is proclaimed, and everyone is attacking it. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away, than for one stroke of a letter in the law to be dropped.” (Luke 16.16-17)

Some things in the new ethics will overlap with the old ethics. In other words, some things both Jesus and Moses commanded, and they will remain the same. But even in these, I, as a follower of Jesus, will actually be following them because they were things Jesus taught, and it just so happens that Moses taught them too. Some things from Moses I will not follow (Deuteronomy 19.21 — “Show no pity. Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth” — being a prime example), because I am a follower of Jesus, and Jesus calls me to a different, but also higher, ethical standard of love of enemy rather than retaliation. In this example, I will choose the restorative justice of Jesus (grace) rather than the retributive justice of Moses (the law).

I’ll close this week with Jesus’s own words in John, a story from Luke’s Jesus story as well, and some background on Acts 2.

“I am giving you a NEW commandment, that you love [i.e. enemy love] one another. JUST AS I HAVE LOVED YOU, you ALSO should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have THIS KIND of love for one another.” (John 13.34, 35 cf. Romans 5.10)

Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it … Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” [He is here speaking of the Cross, the enemy love core of what the Kingdom is all about.]

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah [who stood for “the law and the prophets” for first century Orthodox Jews such as Peter, James, and John], appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem … then a cloud appeared and covered them, and they [Peter, James and John] were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” [i.e. Just as you have based everything you believe about Me on Moses and Elijah, (the law and the prophets), just as you have based your moral ethic of how to live on these two, Moses and Elijah, now, this is my Son, follow HIM! Base everything you believe about Me and how you should live on HIM!] (Luke 9.21-35)

Lastly, the feast of Pentecost, celebrated fifty days from Passover, was a celebration of the giving of the law on Mt. Sinai some fifty days after the exodus. According to Jewish tradition, the law was supernaturally uttered from Sinai in the 70 languages of the nations of the world. But in Acts 2, what is proclaimed on this Pentecost is the life story of Jesus told by the apostles, and heard in every language present in Jerusalem that day.

Much to ponder, for sure.

HeartGroup Application

1.Prayerfully, go back over the verses shared in this eSight, paying special attention to the context of each.

2.Write down any thoughts, questions, or personal challenges with which you are faced, submitting each question and challenge in prayer to God, asking Him to give you deeper insight this week as you meditate on the Jesus teaching of love-of-enemy.

3.Divide up what you have written down into two categories, “Insights/ Personal Challenges” and “Questions.” Then be prepared to share each with your HeartGroup, especially any questions that have remained unanswered, and discuss these as a group.

“When they have come together, they teach one another the divine Word and one asks the other: “how do you understand this saying?” Thus there is among them a diligent living according to the divine Word.” (Ambrosius Spitelmaier, an Anabaptist under interrogation in 1527.)

“I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and COMPETENT TO INSTRUCT ONE ANOTHER.” (Paul, Romans 15.14)

Keep living in love, enemy love, loving like Christ. And keep enlarging the Kingdom. Till a world where love reigns is the only world that remains.

I love you guys.

I’ll see you next week.