September 13, 2020
We continue in the book of Matthew this week, exploring Jesus’ commands about loving our enemies. This is week two of Part Two of this ongoing series.
But first, why Matthew? The Gospel According to Matthew is one of the earliest biographies of Jesus, presenting Jesus not as a mere historical figure, but as “good news” for the world that should reshape every part of life.
Here’s how you can prepare for this Sunday:
1. Read our text, Matthew 5:43–48.
“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 sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 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, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
As we come to the end of this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus brings us into the heart of His Kingdom vision. The people of His Kingdom are to be marked by a radical love that extends even to their enemies. The Law of Moses had called the Israelites to love their neighbors, but there was a lot of debate swirling around about who actually counts as a “neighbor.” Most of the Jewish rabbis agreed that this was a call to love fellow Israelites, especially the vulnerable. But nobody was teaching that they should love people like the Romans soldiers who maintained an oppressive presence in their society. Nobody would have imagined that this call to love would have included people like the tax collectors who had sold out to the Roman empire. Nobody was teaching them to love the Samaritans who had fought against the Jews in recent wars. Yet, this is exactly what Jesus says. His Kingdom is to be marked by a deep and sacrificial love, not merely for those who are good to you, but even for those whom you would consider enemies. When you display this kind of love, you represent the love of your Father in heaven who blesses both the righteous and the unrighteous. And this is exactly what Jesus came to do. He came while we were sinners, indeed, while we were enemies. Christ died for us as a transformative demonstration of the love of our Father in Heaven. At its core, the Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of love.
2. Read, pray, and sing through the service:
Don’t use Spotify? Click the song title below to see song on YouTube.
CALL TO WORSHIP: Psalm 145:8–10:
The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
The Lord is good to all,
and His mercy is over all that He has made.
All Your works shall give thanks to You, O Lord,
and all Your saints shall bless You!
Walk Among Us (Joel Limpic, David Wilson)
CONFESSION OF SIN: From The Worship Sourcebook:
O God of shalom,
we have built up walls to protect ourselves from our enemies,
but those walls also shut us off from receiving Your love.
Break down those walls.
Help us to see that the way to Your heart is through the reconciliation of our own hearts with our enemies.
Bless them and us, that we may come to grow in love for each other and for You,
through Jesus Christ. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON: 1 John 4:9–12
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.
PASSING THE PEACE
(Click to Read)
When we’ve met as a large group on Sundays, we’ve always had a time of greeting one another after singing. Many churches call this time “passing the peace.” In some church traditions, one person will say to another, “The peace of Christ be with you” to which the other person responds, “And also with you.”
While potentially unfamiliar for some, we felt that “passing the peace” during greeting times at home could be a powerful act in this age marked by very little external peace. In Isaiah 9, Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace. He wants His kingdom to be marked by this very peace! We want to “pass” to one another this peace that only Jesus can give, especially at a time like this.
It might feel a bit cheesy, but we encourage you to actually pray the peace of God over each other during our times. We encourage you to look into each other’s eyes as you say, “The peace of Christ be with you!” and have others respond with, “And also with you.” Be open-hearted to Jesus, asking Him to fill you with His peace.