In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus laid out what the ethics of his Kingdom consists of and how its citizens are to interact with others in the world. A central theme of Jesus’s kingdom that runs throughout the sermon is the theme of love. This instruction to love is to extend beyond our friends, our family, our group, and to extend out to everyone, even our enemies. Jesus instructs those who wish to be a part of his kingdom the following:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48
We have all read these words of Jesus many times. Maybe these words of Jesus have become overly familiar to us. Maybe we have heard these words repeated to the point where they have lost their revolutionary and transformative power. But how do we implement these instructions in our day to day lives? The best model we have for implementing the kingdom ethics of love in our lives is Jesus. We can look at the events of Jesus’s life and study how he responded to his enemies. Let’s first look at how Jesus was treated by his enemies.
When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” John 18:22
Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. And the soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they dressed him in a purple robe. They kept coming up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and striking him on the face. John 19:1-3
Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. Mathew 27:27-31
Then he handed him over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus; and carrying the cross by himself, he went out to what is called The Place of the Skull, which in Hebrew is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, with Jesus between them. John 19:16-18
And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” Luke 23:35-37
How did Jesus respond to his enemies? How did he respond to the mocking, the beatings, the humiliation, and the torture unto death that his enemies inflicted upon him? Let’s look at Jesus’s words to his Father about his enemies as he slowly died on the cross.
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34
Jesus perfectly modeled his teachings to us to “Love your enemies” by willingly offering up his body and his life as a sacrifice for a world in rebellion against their God. Are we allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us into the image and likeness of Christ? Let’s ask ourselves who are our enemies. Is it the foreigner with different customs and habits? Is it someone who votes for the other political party? Is it someone who holds an opposite view on a hot button social issue of the day? Is it the boastful New England Patriots fan? Are we obeying Jesus in how we treat our enemies, by what we say about them in public, or what we post about them on our social media? Let’s read the admonition of Paul to the church of Philippi, addressing their divisions and disputes, by pointing to our King, our Savior, and our Model, Jesus.
If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Philippians 2:1-8
Let us live according to the ethics of Jesus’s kingdom. As his members of his body on Earth let’s properly reflect Jesus’s character to a watching world. - Mike Humphrey