The Savior’s Sermon: Love Your Enemies
These are the readings for the Seventh Sunday after Epiphany.
God’s Word for This Week
The Savior’s Sermon: Love your enemies! What could be more counterintuitive? Yet Christ calls his disciples to a love for our neighbor that models itself after Jesus’ love for the world. As Luther said: “Christi sumus in nominativo et genitive” (we are Christs—with and without the apostrophe). A heart like Christ’s has no room for vengeance, but is filled with love for all.
Traditional First Lesson – Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18
What command does the Lord give his Old Testament people in these verses, and upon what basis does he establish this standard?
The Lord commands his people to be holy (perfect, without sin, righteous). Only God can establish such a standard because he is completely holy.
What practical fruits of God-given holiness does Moses offer?
Holiness is displayed especially in showing divine-like (unconditional) love to our neighbor. We show love to God by showing love to our neighbor. In fact, we can’t really love God unless we love our neighbor. (1 John 4:20,21)
Supplemental First Lesson – 1 Samuel 26(1-6), 7-25
Do you think David had good reason to kill Saul? Do you think he would have been justified in doing it?
Would anyone have faulted David for killing Saul? Saul had unfairly abused him; Saul had unfairly exiled him; Saul had unfairly tried to kill him. David could have claimed his actions were in self-defense or in fighting a just war or in taking the office to which he had been anointed. Who would have found fault with him? Certainly not the sons of Zeruiah! Though unfailingly brave, they could never understand David’s lack of pragmatic action (see Abner, Absalom, Shimei, etc.). Yet David showed again that he was a man after God’s own heart. David trusted that his reward was with his God, and so he had no need for vengeance. That freed him to be able to love even his enemy Saul.
Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23
What is the sole foundation for our faith-life as Christians?
The only foundation is Jesus and his holy Word.
What does Paul want us to remember about our lives as God’s people in this world?
Paul wants us to remember that the Holy Spirit has made our bodies his temple. In fact, the Holy Trinity dwells within us (John 14:23) through faith in Jesus. As a result, we inspired to live in true holiness and empowered to ward off temptations of the sinful world and our sinful flesh. We dare not surrender in this fight!
Why is futile to “boast about men,” as the Corinthians were doing?
Paul tells us that there is no need to boast about men (earthly things), because through faith in Jesus “all things are yours.” Our earthly concerns–even our so-called “triumphs”!–pale in comparison to the divine and eternal realities in Christ Jesus.
Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 12:9-21
How does Paul command us to the exact opposite of vengeance?
In the twelfth chapter of Romans Paul urges us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God. In this lesson we find practical examples of how spiritual acts of worship are offered to God through our love for our neighbor. Loving our brothers and sharing with those in need certainly makes sense. But like Jesus, Paul goes further: bless your persecutors and don’t take revenge because that is God’s domain. Our domain is the opposite of vengeance; our domain is the imitation of Christ. Sons of the Father love their enemies and pray for their persecutors.
Gospel – Matthew 5:38-48
What important aspect of divine love does Jesus emphasize in these verses?
Our flesh finds Jesus’ commands revolting. The human animal snarls when attacked and bites back when bitten. Jesus, however, tells us not to resist evil, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies. Who would live like this? Only the Son of our heavenly Father. God demonstrated his love for us in this: when we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus himself prayed for his enemies who crucified him. He most certainly was his Father’s Son. Now God calls us, his sons, to live like Jesus and love people as perfectly as the Father does. As God makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, so he commands us to shine the light of our love on everyone around us.