Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 3

We continue our consideration of whether Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount was a “new” teaching. Were concepts like turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love your neighbor uniquely Christian concepts that were foreign to the Law of Moses? No.

Let’s look into this further.

In the Old Testament, was it okay to hate your enemy? (Matthew 5:43)

Psalm 139 says the Psalmist David hated the enemies of God with perfect hatred. But we have to keep that in context with the rest of the Old Testament. The Psalmist was intensely and passionately opposed to the wicked ways of man and he stood militantly for God’s ways. But look at how David viewed those who mistreated him.

Even David prayed for his enemies:

Malicious witnesses rise up; they ask me of things that I do not know. They repay me evil for good; my soul is bereft. But I, when they were sick– I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother; as one who laments his mother, I bowed down in mourning. But at my stumbling they rejoiced and gathered; they gathered together against me; wretches whom I did not know tore at me without ceasing; like profane mockers at a feast, they gnash at me with their teeth. How long, O Lord, will you look on? Rescue me from their destruction, my precious life from the lions!
(Psalms 35:11-17)

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(Leviticus 19:17-18)

“If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.
(Exodus 23:4-5)

If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.
(Proverbs 17:13)

“If I have rejoiced at the ruin of him who hated me, or exulted when evil overtook him (I have not let my mouth sin by asking for his life with a curse),
(Job 31:29-30)

Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the LORD see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.
(Proverbs 24:17-18)

If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
(Proverbs 25:21-22; quoted in Romans 12:20-21)

You can see from the Old Testament passages, God (Jesus) expected the Jew to love his enemies, to pray for them, to do good for them and to bless them. Jesus was not introducing a new standard of conduct that He did not always expect from His people.

More to come later..

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 1

Is This A Uniquely Christian Concept? Part 2

We have found water

Right now, we are in the process of having a new well dug. So as I’m writing, the well driller is outside prepping the area for drilling…and we are praying!

It made me think of Genesis 26:12-33 when Isaac was digging wells.

The first observation: Enemies

One of the first things I notice is that Abraham and Isaac had enemies. The Philistines had stopped up the wells of Abraham by filling them with earth (vs. 15). Isaac was told to get away from the Philistines because they saw him as too powerful (vs. 16). They were afraid of him and envied him.

So, Isaac left and went away. In this section you see Isaac repeatedly trying to live in peace with his enemies. He digs a well, the Philistines quarrel with him about it, and he just moves on and tries another spot (vs. 19-22). He eventually finds a spot and digs a well where there is no contention from the Philistines (vs. 21).

Because of Isaac’s behavior and the Lord’s powerful working in Isaac, the Philistines clearly saw God’s presence in Isaac’s life (vs. 28). They ask to make a covenant with him, to ensure that he will not attack them (vs. 29). Their fear of him came because he was “the blessed of the Lord” (vs. 29).

In a world where everyone is looking for a fight and a reason to quarrel, what kind of people do we need to be in this world, men? What example do we as men need to set for our sons and daughters in how to live peaceably with all men?

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink, for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
(Romans 12:17-21)

The second observation: By His Father’s Names

Isaac re-dug the wells of Abraham and called them by the names Abraham called them (vs. 18). There is a great lesson here in following the example and walking in the pathway left by a godly person. Abraham dug these wells, and Isaac respected his father by calling them by the same names.

We can do the same by looking to those who go before us and leave footprints to follow. It may be our parents, grandparents or other godly people in the church who have laid down a pattern for us to follow.

They called sin by its name – “sin.” We need to call it by the same name.

These godly men and women called the Bible the Word of God. We need to call it by the same name.

Our spiritual forefathers showed reverence for the God and Creator and Lord Jesus Christ by the way the lived their lives, by how they worshiped him, and by how they respected His authority. We need to call the wells of faith they dug by the same names.

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
(Hebrews 13:7-8)

The third observation: The Lord blessed Isaac richly

Isaac’s eyes were on the Lord (vs. 22), and the Lord’s eyes were on Isaac (vs. 24). God encouraged Isaac not to fear because He was with Isaac and would bless him. Isaac built an altar and worshiped God (vs. 25). God blessed Isaac richly in the presence of his enemies.

That reminds me of David:

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
(Psalm 23:5)

By “blessing” I do not mean to say that God is going to shower down material riches upon us. I also do not personally apply this to expect God to give the Kemples a well with perfect water this week. Even if we end up with nasty water again, God is good and He has blessed us richly. He has blessed us “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 1:3). It really is the wells of salvation from which we draw the purest and most awesome water (Isaiah 12).

God blessed Isaac in a mighty way, and the enemies of Isaac saw God’s working in his life. This was a testimony to God’s grace and strength and it brought God glory. May we seek God’s blessings for His glory, and not for our own personal gain (see how Paul used “glory” in Ephesians 1:6,12,14).

The fourth observation: In His Time

You know, it took a lot of time and space in Genesis 26 from Gerar to Beersheba (vs. 17,33). It took time to dig wells, it took time for quarrels to happen, and it took even more time for Isaac to move his family, servants and animals to another location.

All the while, in good times and bad, in frustrations and victories, God was with Isaac. He is good. God accomplished His purpose and worked His will in His time, not in Isaac’s.

Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.
(Isaiah 40:27-31)

The Gospel in our Relationships

I have made the point in recent discussions that the relationships we have and how we conduct ourselves in them provides a tremendous opportunity to live out and demonstrate the power of the Gospel. God has blessed us with grace, mercy, love, forgiveness, and hope. This produces a peace within…a serenity and tranquility based on a right relationship with God. From this position, we are free to truly love others and work to build them up spiritually and emotionally.

Loving others, however, isn’t always easy. Love is an action word. Love is a choice. Love requires us to humble ourselves and elevate others to a higher position of importance in our lives. That is what Jesus did. Jesus humbled Himself in becoming a man. Jesus humbled Himself in accepting the punishment due us and going to the cross to die for our sins. Jesus is the example and demonstration of all God’s blessings and personification of peace in the face of a tremendous adversity, pain and suffering. We look to Jesus’ teaching to see how it is we can and should love others in such a way that not only will we be a blessing to them but we will surely shine forth God’s glory and help others find their way to salvation, peace, and hope…now and in eternity.

Consider Jesus’ teachings in Luke 6:27-31.

27 “But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you. 29 To him who strikes you on the one cheek, offer the other also. And from him who takes away your cloak, do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you. And from him who takes away your goods do not ask them back. 31 And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

Previously (vs. 20-23) Jesus teaches about the mindset we are to have in The Beatitudes. In a word…humility. This provides us with the foundation to then love those who are our enemies. An enemy is simply one who is opposing another. We often think of enemies as those who are outside our circle but many times they are those in our families, congregations, friends, etc. Anyone who is standing in opposition to you and your life in Jesus is an enemy and they will hurt you. So what do we do?

Jesus says our actions should be to love our enemy, do go good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who mistreat us. Further, Jesus provides how we should react. If someone hits our cheek, we offer the other. If they take our coat, give them our shirt too. If they ask (even if they are hurting us)…give! If someone takes something of ours, don’t look to get it back. These take on different forms in our relationships but the principles are the same.

What this all adds up to is exactly how God loves us. We were/are His enemy when we sin and yet He took the initiative and He loved us even when we didn’t deserve it. And what a difference that has made. For those who hear and obey the call of the gospel, they are saved and redeemed and back in fellowship with the Living God. This model and example is how we are to live with those in our lives. Treat them like we have been treated by God. Do that and you will surely look different, people will notice, they will ask why and God is glorified.