Yesterday was the final sermon in our pastor’s sermon series on the essential Jesus. We ended with the challenging, but important, finale to Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. . . . But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.” Matthew 7:24, 26 (NIV).
The preceding verses indicate that the foolish man is one who, on the judgment day, Jesus will say He never knew; but the wise man will enter into the kingdom of God.
Our pastor started the sermon by reviewing some of the teachings that we had learned about from the Sermon on the Mount over the past six weeks — the teachings that Jesus now tells us to put into practice. The one that jumped out at me is Jesus’ teaching in Luke 5:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. 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? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Luke 5:43-48 (NIV)
When you put these two passages together, it becomes clear that it is not enough to agree in principle that loving one’s enemies is a good idea. Rather, we must actually do it. It isn’t easy, to be sure, but with Jesus’ help it is possible, for “with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26b (NIV).
But why would God command us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? It doesn’t seem fair and it doesn’t seem logical to us. What good could possibly come from loving our enemies? On my way to taking my son to youth group last night I heard the perfect song to explain why God would give us such a command. The song is One Day Too Late by Skillet. My favorite verse is:
Today I’m gonna love my enemies
Reach out to somebody who needs me
Make a change, make the world a better place
‘Cause tomorrow could be one day too late
We never know what a difference we might make in the life of an “enemy” by treating them as we would want to be treated and praying for them. The commands of God are designed to make our lives and the world a better place. We can’t always expect change and reconciliation to start with the other person. And tomorrow might be one day too late.