Have you noticed how Jesus fulfilled the Sermon on the Mount–turning the other cheek, returning good for evil, exemplifying each of the Beatitudes? We don’t, but He did, on our behalf.
Now note how Pastor Douthwaite treats “love your enemies,” moving from Law to Gospel, with a bit of the Gospel-motivated Third Use of the Law.
From Rev. James Douthwaite, St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Epiphany 7 Sermon:
What’s a Christian to do? The answer’s the same: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Do not set yourself up against them or turn away from them. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Which is the very picture of Jesus, who did not set Himself against even those who put Him on the cross, but prayed for them and even more, died for them. Yes, for Jesus didn’t just die for nice people, or good people, or church people, but for all people, including those we don’t like, those who hurt us, those we don’t think He should have died for.
But He did, because Jesus knew it’s not us against each other – the real enemy is satan. Or as Paul put it: we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12). And as we heard from Jesus today: God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. God is not the enemy of those who do not believe – He loves them and sent His Son to die for them too. Which is good because you used to be one of those folks. An unbeliever. Before God called you and set you apart and baptized you and forgave you your sins and made you His child. And so for us to set ourselves against others in this world – no matter how ornery or hurtful they may be – is to mistake the enemy and fight the wrong fight. Jesus saw what we cannot see, and so fought the right fight. On the cross. . . .
And so those who hurt us and persecute us – they’re not the enemy. They’ve been taken in by the enemy. They need us. To love them enough to pray for them. To love them enough to stand for the truth and not let them continue merrily on their way to hell. To love them enough to be different – to show them another way.