Sunday School Material 11-13-11: Loving Unconditionally

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(Matthew 5:38-48; 11/13/11)

Introduction: A key idea in today’s Sunday School Material is that God wants His people to trust Him with retaliation and enemies. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to trust God with retaliation issues and our enemies.

Read Matthew 5:38-42
I. Not Retribution but Generosity.
Jesus shares several challenging ideas in this sermon on the "mount" in this section of the Sunday School material.

He teaches against trading insult for insult. He teaches God's people to give more than they are asked to give, when being mistreated in court or in carrying armor.

Applications -
- Handling being insulted.
Notice in vss. 38-42 of the Sunday School material that being one of God’s people is to make us different from the world. One of the areas in which we are different is the area of seeking revenge or retaliating when insulted.

This is Jesus’ major point, and He underscores with several examples – being slapped on one check, being sued for one’s inner garment, having to carry armor for one mile, and being asked for money. It is good to know that we can trust God to do what is right with those who mistreat His people.

As difficult as this concept may be for us to grasp, it is our challenge. The teachings of Jesus urges us to not only refrain from retaliating but to make ourselves vulnerable to further insult with confidence that God will take care of His own.

This would seem so unreasonable, if all we had going for us was ourselves. However, the teaching of the text is based on the idea that God will intervene and handle those who mistreat His people. Let’s work on trusting God to handle those who insult us.

- Self defense, our rights, and economic stewardship. Notice in vss. 39-42 of the Sunday School material that at least three issues come to mind. How does turning the other cheek relate to self defense?

How does going the extra mile relate to the struggle for civil and other rights? How does giving and lending relate to economic stewardship?

The Pastor agrees with the Sunday School commentator in discerning a difference between being insulted with a slap on the cheek and being in danger of serious harm like being shot or stabbed.

An example of the Pastor’s thinking is to avoid cursing out those who curse you out. However, defend yourself against those who break into your home or who physically assault you.

As for the “extra mile” verses the “struggle for rights,” the Pastor believes that we have to seek God’s wisdom regarding the greater good.

There seems to be times when we run like David ran from Saul and times to fight like David fought against the Philistines. As for the issue of “giving to all” verses “financial stewardship,” the Pastor holds that again we must seek godly wisdom.

There are times to be generous like Jesus’ disbursing of 5,000+ lunches. And there are times to be as profitable a steward as the one who took one talent and produced ten.

The Pastor holds that we should seek to live by the major concept of trusting God to handle those who insult us and treat each cited example with godly wisdom.

Let’s seek God’s wisdom and spiritual strength to obey in all areas of our lives, including self defense, struggle for our rights, and economic stewardship.

Read Matthew 5:43-48
II. Not Hatred but Love.
Jesus goes on to talk about love in this section of the Sunday School material. God's people are to love their enemies. They are to greet those who have not earned it.

These instructions are based on God's perfect and exploary love for us. Following these instructions are to identify us as children of God.

Applications -
- Children of God in word and deed.
Notice in vss. 45, 48 of the Sunday School material that a major reason for loving our enemies is to be identified with God’s love.

It is so much easier to say that one is a child of God than it is to live like one. To live like a child of God, the God who allows the sun to shine on the evil and the good, is to love one’s enemies.

If God loves the evil enough to let the sun shine on them (first) then God’s children are urged to love their enemies as well.

This is a challenging thing to do, especially when you believe that your enemy has really done you wrong and is likely to do you wrong again. However, we are challenged to live like who we claim that we are.

If we claim to be children of God then that means loving our enemies. When we hate our enemies and only love those who love us back then we are acting no better than the world. Let’s work on being children of God in both our words and deeds.

- Our unloveable behavior towards God. Notice in I John 4:19-20 that God first loved us, in spite of our sinfulness (see I Jn. 1:8).

One of the things that can help us with this love stuff is to think about how unloveable we have behaved towards God and how God has kept on loving us.

Some of us have not only robbed God of His tithes, but have failed to be a witness for Him, failed to be an energetic worshipper of Him, and have failed to obey His principles for other areas of our lives (e.g., relationships, health care, and economic stewardship).

And yet God keeps on allowing our moments to roll on with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (smile). Let’s work on loving the unloveable people in our lives like God loves us in spite of our unloveable ways towards Him.

- Grace. Notice in II Corinthians 12:8-9 of the Sunday School material that God’s grace (i.e., undeserved mercy) is sufficient for our short comings.

We are better off asking God to help us live by His will than we would be by trying to explain away the difficult things that God is calling us to do.

In other words, if the bar is too high for us, we would be better off asking God to help us jump higher than we would be by trying to lower the bar. Thank God, when we fail in our efforts to live by God’s will, God has grace.

Let’s give our best to obeying God’s will with confidence that grace is available for our failures. Grace is designed for failure to succeed, not failure to even try.

In other words, we should not sit on the side line with no effort to live right and ask for grace. Grace is for those who tried to love their enemies but ended up retaliating, when their kindness was taken for weakness.

Conclusion: Let us work on trusting God with retaliation issues and our enemies. God has much for those who obey His will.

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