New International Version (NIV)
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
There is a love Jesus described in the Bible that makes me uncomfortable. It sounds impossible. But if we are to preach the truth, then we must preach the WHOLE truth.
New International Version (NIV)
Love for Enemies
27 “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. 35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
How can we possibly do as Jesus commanded? What sort of mental attitude must we have in order to accomplish this sort of love?
I have often said to people that when I was born again I ‘rediscovered’ the Ten Commandments and instead of seeing them as the Ten Don’ts, I saw them as a love letter from God: how to love God, others and ourselves.
The first and second commandments hold a valuable clue to how Jesus’ ‘Love Thy Enemy’ speech is possible,
Exodus 20: 2-6
New International Version (NIV)
The Ten Commandments
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
There seems to be an extraordinary weight on not worshiping any idols.
Now I know the Israelites were rather fond of their golden calves and such - after all Egyptian culture had many gods: worshiping anything from flies to frogs and cats to cows. They were also particularly strong on idol worship. So it is no wonder that the Israelites picked up a few bad habits over some 400 years or more.
However, how does this possibly have relevance to us today? Maybe I am missing something, but I am not too familiar with the average Christian having a few idols tucked away that we bow down and pray to. We tend to even scorn food that has been used in a temple that has an idol in it. So it seems we are safe on this front, yes?
I have emphasised, I hope clearly, in all my messages that we may not be bound to the law any longer, however we live to a higher standard. God doesn’t just want our outward actions to testify to our salvation, he wants our hearts to be pure.
We may no longer have physical idols - i.e. other gods - but we still have things we hold onto in our hearts. e.g. our house, our car, our belongings, our jewellery, our clothing, our money, our job, and even our status in society.
If I was to come up to anyone of you that owned a house and say, “Give me your house.” What would your immediate reaction be? What just happened in your heart of hearts?
Why do you think is it so hard for a rich man to go to heaven? - as he must first give up everything to follow Jesus. God had to take away all of my possessions in order for me to fully commit myself to him - including my business, car, house and even my clothing. He also had to break my relationships with non-believers.
But there is something we hold onto even stronger than the possessions and friends we have.
If I was to come to you and say, “I will take from you your status in society.” How would you react? Would you fight for your hard won position in life? Would you defend your status in society - or in this church? Would you go as far as trying to discredit me if I threatened you in this way? Would you campaign to run down anyone who threatened you in this way? How far would you go to maintain that status?
In this church I notice that many of you have a particular chair that you sit in - be it at the very back of the church or at the very front. This is ‘your chair’. This chair carries some weight. It has a great deal of significance to both you and to other members of this church - yes?
Can anyone tell me where my chair is? That’s right, I don’t sit any any particular chair - in fact I tend to move around a lot from one Sunday to another. Have you ever noticed that?
Maybe we need to wonder why we hold onto this idol so strongly. It may even be a good exercise for us to simply change where we sit from time-to-time - or is our chair that important to us that if we move we will worry about what others may think of us?
The truth is, if we had no other things we were holding onto in our lives, but the love of God, then it would not be hard for us to ‘Love our Enemies’ - or our neighbours, friends and families.
If you no longer care what you wear (how others see you) then you would happily give away your jacket and shirt also. If you no longer had any pride you were holding onto then you would not feel offended if someone slapped you in the face - or insulted your honour.
And if you truly knew that God was your supply: not your Job, not other men, not your business - then who would care that you had to take a bit of extra time out of your day to carry someone else's load - i.e. to go and visit someone in trouble, or who was sick, or who was in jail who needed praying for. Someone who needs your love and compassion and support.
Or are some people below us and not worthy of us gracing their doorstep - or hospital bed or prison cell - with our presence? Is their mud house too small for someone of our status to visit? Do they have a bad reputation in church and we don’t want to be associated with them?
The most valuable gift I have ever given to anyone is my love and acceptance. As this is the most valuable gift that God has ever given to me - His love and acceptance of me.
I am constantly surprised that here is Langas It means so much to some people that I would simply visit their home and drink their tea. I just don’t see myself as any better than any one of you - and that is the truth. I have sinned worse than most, if not all, of you. I have been so poor that my wife has had to humble herself and ask for food from a welfare organisation just so we can feed our children. I am truly honoured that you would allow me to come to your home and that you would go out of your way to make me a cup of very delicious Kenyan tea.
God used a simple prayer for peace that I prayed 20 years ago to bring a momma back from the brink of death and to heal her entire family. How much more valuable is that that than even 100,000 shillings?
Let me run through a list of things for you to ponder on and think about. How is your heart affected when I ask you to give up the following:
Your favourite piece of clothing
Your position in this church
If the possibility of loosing any of those things made you scared then you need to bring them to the alter and give them to God (And just to be clear: I am not asking you to give them to me or the church, but to give them over to God to do with what He wants) - for:
5 You shall not bow down to any idol or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.