The Importance Of Loving The Other Tribe - Yes, Your Enemy!


Text:  Romans 12:6-16

In the name of Jesus. Amen.


We are often picky and choosy when it comes to extending love to one another. For example, it is easy to love someone that loves us in the first place. It is also easy to love someone that gives us good things. So, it makes sense that you can often find love in a church. Since Christians possess the same faith, they often become a loving church family where Christians try to put each other first. It is not uncommon to see Christians trying to play second fiddle in the church, lifting each other up, as if there is a competition to see who can outdo each other in showing honor to one another. Like it has already been stated, it is easy to love someone that loves us in the first place and gives us good things.  


However, what about loving those who do not give us good things? How about loving those who persecute us – perhaps those outside the church or against the church?  


In Romans 12, Paul tells you and me to not only love Christians inside the church but then directs you and me to love those outside the church. He calls you and me to love our enemies – to love those who persecute and hurt us.  


Now, just to make sure we are clear with who our enemies are, it is important to keep in mind the original audience that Paul was writing to. Paul was writing to the Christians in Rome. And these Romans Christians, well… they had a government that would often suppress unofficial religions like Christianity. That is to say; the Roman Christians would often experience prejudice and unfair treatment from the Roman State. During that first century, Christians were banished by the state and even executed for their faith. And so, Paul is telling the Christians in Rome to not only put up with the Roman State but to love oppressive Roman rulers. For example, if a magistrate spoke poorly about the Christian faith – well, the magistrate deserves love from the Christian. If a ruler harasses a Christian and puts them in jail, well, Christians are to bless the ruler – to pray to God on behalf of the ruler.   


Does this mean that we Christians are to be a bunch of wimpy and powerless doormats, letting everyone walk all over us? No, by no means. These reading from Romans 12 is not condemning self-defense or telling us that we should not be as wise as a serpent with respect to our enemies. Loving and blessing an enemy is not the same as being an ignorant, foolish doormat – allowing ongoing abuse and violence upon oneself. Furthermore, loving and blessing an enemy is not the same as agreeing with an enemy. To love an enemy is not the same as endorsing their actions or agendas. 


I don’t have to tell you that we have really messed all of this up in America right now. Sure we are good at loving those who are a part of our own political tribe – that is for sure. However, perhaps the greatest sin, according to our culture right now, is to show love to our enemies. It is viewed as an act of betrayal or endorsement of an enemy. We certainly do not have much mercy for those who are different from us right now. But no matter how much persecution arises from our enemies – no matter how unbearable the heights of their persecution – we must never stop wishing our enemies wellness. We must never stop loving our enemies.  


Hear this loud and clear: we understand that love is showing kindness to those who are our friends. And we understand that love is often expressed by not returning an evil action to those who have done evil to us. However, this is not all that the Apostle Paul is teaching us today. It is not only what Jesus teaches us about love. God’s Word tells us that we are to love and bless our enemies – to pray for them and wish them happiness.    


Now, if you are like me, you must confess right now that this does not feel right. I find it easy to love my friends. It is also easy to show love by not getting even with an enemy. 

But to love and bless an enemy? 

My sinful old Adam can’t stand this idea! Deep down, my old Adam and your old Adam want the destruction – damnation – of our enemies. Anger gets the best of us, and we rage with bitterness towards our enemies. We can even envision their destruction. Who doesn’t like watching a good movie when the villain gets what is coming for him. When enemies get what is coming for them, we chuckle with sinful delight. We are happy when our enemies are destroyed! But why? 


Dear friends, we like to draw a line between good and evil. Now, please hear me very clearly. There is indeed a difference between good and evil. There is a line between good and evil; they cannot mix.  Evil is not good; good is not evil. However, to the point, we like to draw a line through all sorts of things to distinguish good and evil according to our desire. For example, we draw a line between countries – this country is good, and this country is evil. We draw a line between political parties – this party is evil, and this party is good.  We draw a line between economic classes – those making this amount of money are evil and those making this amount of money are good. We draw a line between ethnicities, gender, and generations - classifying certain genders, races, and generations as good and others as evil. After we draw these lines, we then show love to the side that is most like us, and we begin to hate those who are on the other side of the line because they are obviously evil.


While this is problematic, the real problem with this kind of thinking is that when we place a line between all these different classifications, we begin to see the other people on the other side of the line as less human – after all, they are supposedly evil. And as we see them as less human, we then feel justified in our hate and their destruction. Instead of praying for others on the other side of the line, we spend our time marinating in hatred and dreaming of their destruction. We place them outside the category of God’s creation – making them into animals. We place them outside the grace of Christ – as if Christ’s arms did not stretch wide enough for their redemption. This kind of line drawing and thinking is demonic!  


Dear friends, hear this loud and clear! The line separating good and evil does not pass through countries, political parties, economic classes, ethnicities, genders, and generations. No, the line passes through every human heart. It passes through your heart.  


This does not mean that part of your heart is good, and part is bad. No, it means that your sinful nature – within you – is on the opposite side of good, just like everybody else. There is no difference between you and your neighbor with respect to the line. Your country, politics, finances, ethnicity, gender, and age do not push you over the line to the side of good. Paul teaches us here and elsewhere that there is ‘no one good, not even one.’ We are all – together – on the side of the line labeled evil.  


This is why we pray for our enemies. This is why we wish them happiness. They are just like us, and we like them. We know the evil in our hearts, and we want them to realize the evil in their hearts so that we ‘all’ might receive forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ together.  


And so, when your enemy does something evil, repent. Yes, repent when your enemy does evil because you know that the evil they have just committed springs forth from a sinful heart – the same sinful heart that you and I have. Yes, we repent when we see evil, and we pray for our enemies. We cling to the forgiveness of Jesus. We cry out, 


“Lord have mercy on me, my neighbor, and especially my enemies.”  


We confess boldly, 


“Come, Lord Jesus, Come!”  


Indeed, we pray that our enemies would be delivered from their deception. We pray that they would be brought to their knees in sorrow. We pray that they would join us in confessing that we are all poor miserable sinners in thought, word, and deed, for there is plenty of room before the throne of God for repentant sinners. Never forget, there is always more grace in Christ than there is sin in us and our enemies.   


And so, dear Baptized Saints, if it is possible, keep peace with everyone around you while constantly praying for your enemies. However, remember that you do not keep peace at all costs. There will be times when truth, duty, and justice, demand that you defend yourself and others. When this happens, stand firm, rest in Christ, and pray for those who attack you. And when you are persecuted for your faith, never forget the victory of Christ that though you were once an enemy of God, Christ Jesus made you his own through His death and resurrection, erasing the line and reconciling you to God the Father. Never forget that you have been forgiven for the enemy that lurks in your hearts – your old Adam. 


May God grant you and me the humility to see ourselves no better than those around us. May God grant you and me love to serve our neighbor. May God grant you and me a posture of grace to pray and bless those around us – especially our enemies.  


In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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