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July 21, 2019

Loving Enemies

Is it ever easy to love an enemy? It will take prayer, work and lots of grace to love others just like Jesus loved us. Listen or read to better your love for your enemies.
Duration:33:45

Mike Gerhardt, David's Passion, July 21, 2019. Loving Enemies, 1 Samuel 24:1-7. Years ago, my brothers Bill and Ed were surrounded by my sons at a family get together and they were sharing with them the dumbest things I have ever done: running and jumping over a gorge of a raging creek in the winter, chasing a full-grown black bear across an island to get a good picture, towing my brother's broken down jeep with a chain and passing cars with oncoming traffic while my two brothers were in the jeep. I'm not sure they mentioned the high school dance, where I really wanted to impress this young lady with flowers for her mother, candy for the family and even sent a pre-dance card with a corsage for her to wear. Yet the night before I decided to get a tan, not in a tanning booth. There was this instant spray-on tan and overnight I became orange. What a dumb thing to do.

I'm not sure it tops 40-year-old Kirk Jones from Michigan who won a challenge by going over the Canadian Horseshoe Falls in only his street clothes. The Niagara Parks Police fished him out and charged him with illegally performing a stunt. Jones was not seriously hurt. Sometimes we can be influenced by others to do dumb things. I am sure every one of you has a story. But these stunts can get out of hand, and in the way of our testimony for the Lord.

Rabbi Harold Kushner 1981 book: When Bad Things Happen To Good People, was a best seller. In 2002, Dave Burchett wrote a book that I've mentioned often entitled: When Bad Christians Happen to Good People. The book is filled with stories of Christians doing dumb things and hurting others. Here’s one: a young unbelieving single mother comes to the end of her rope and decides to visit the church she passes on her way to work. She is greeted by a smiling Christian who shows her the nursery and coffee bar. Without anyone else speaking to her, she walks in the sanctuary for the first time since she was a child before her parents divorced and she remembers the Bible stories and songs. Suddenly Mrs. Jones (not her real name) storms towards her, and curtly says: Coffee is NOT permitted in our sanctuary, please remove it now. What do you think this young single mother felt at that encounter?

Saul had gathered 3,000 of his best men to kill David and his 600 men. Saul was David's enemy. We all will have our enemies. Now there is a difference between having enemies and MAKING enemies. John 15:18-19, Jesus said: If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. Often, we attack others with our truth like shining our flashlight in their eyes to show them the path. They are in the dark, so shine your light to lead them on the right path, not in their eyes. We will have enemies; we don't need to make more of them by our arrogance with the truth. Saul hated David's anointing and wanted him killed. We will be hated for the Truth because the world hated Jesus who was the Truth.

Matthew 5:11-12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way, they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

We can’t ignore our enemies. We must respond. David was encouraged by his men to kill Saul, and for good reasons. The enemy had kept them from their families, made them hide in caves and had killed their comrades. Now the king had been delivered into their hands. We will be encouraged to fight for our rights, to slander the other side, to belittle those who disagree, to shame those who are against us. Read Verses 8-11. David shows grace and forgiveness to Saul.

Oscar Wilde: Always forgive your enemies, nothing annoys them so much. Truth is, forgiveness disarms them and can change them. Remind yourself that men and women are not the enemy. Satan and his demons are the enemy. We do not fight against flesh and blood but against the spiritual powers of darkness. Also, we are to LOVE our enemies (when they are personal): Matthew 5:43-45 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. Leviticus 19:18 Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. David's men seem to be quoting the Lord in verse 4. David read the circumstances differently and correctly. The event wasn't to kill Saul but to show him grace.

Amy Carmichael: If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love. If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible then I know nothing of Calvary love. If I feel bitterly towards those who condemn me as it seems to me unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself, they would condemn me much more; then I know nothing of Calvary love. The passage ends with Saul asking David to promise to not cut off his offspring and David promises.

This February, Janet and I spent a short time away at the Canadian Horseshoe Falls. It reminded me of a story I read years ago. On July 9, 1960, 7-year-old Roger Woodward and his 17-year old sister Deanna were boating with Jim Honeycutt on the Niagara River. The boat motor stopped, and they were carried toward the falls. As Jim struggle to get the engine started the boat capsized in the copy water. Jim was instantly swept over the falls to his death. Deanna was plucked out of the river 20 feet from the falls by two tourists from New Jersey but Roger wearing only his swim trunks and life jacket plunged through the water, into the mist, and over the falls as horrified tourists watch from the edge.

The Maid of the Mist tourist boat was just turning away when the crew spotted a tiny orange speck. Workers pull a stunned crying Roger from the water to be rushed to the hospital and treated for a minor concussion. Thirty years later Roger returned to Niagara Falls to give his testimony at Glengate Alliance Church, one of our sister churches. He testified: It wasn't the hand of fate or luck that saved me; it was the Spirit of the Living God that saved my life that day and saved my sister and gave us hope that one day we would come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord.

Roger read the circumstances of his life correctly. God had a purpose. What does it take to have that kind of perspective? If we are being attacked by our enemies, how do we to respond with grace? When a tragic event like going over Niagara Falls happens, how can we see God's hand in it? When a challenging illness sidelines us, can we realize God is there? We are to love our enemies. Let us look for ways to show love to those who would stand against us. Let's avoid being a bad Christian.

Quote from David Burchett page 219 of Bad Christians: "I can tell non-Christians what I have experienced and learned about the gospel of Jesus but before I can tell them about Christ, I have to care about THEM. Mother Teresa was quoted as saying that the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everyone, to be just nobody. We can make a difference to some of the hurting souls who feel like that. So, when it comes to all those annoying people, my prayer is to have the spiritual vision equivalent of Michelangelo's artistic vision. The great sculptor proclaimed: I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. May God give us the desire and vision to see the beauty of the soul in the sinner and love them until God sets them free in Jesus."