Pray for Those Who Persecute You
Sunday October 12, 2014
"Pray For Those Who Persecute You" by Christopher Loy
Sermon Title: "Pray For Those Who Persecute You"
Text: Matthew 5:43-48
Subject: Persecution and Worldview
ETS: Jesus tells His followers that the worldly paradigm of hating your enemies is wrong. You must love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you because we are all equally human and we must love as God loves in order to fulfill the command "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect." If this seems to be the opposite of what you believe, ask yourself, is my worldview informed by the Bible, or am I projecting my beliefs into the Bible?
OSS: Hearers will heed the call to love all of those around them, no matter what they have done to them, as God loves them. Hearers will be called to rethink how they read the Bible and view the world. Do they see the world the way the Bible sees the world? Or do read the Bible as they want to see the world?
B. Formal Elements
I want to talk to you about something relevant to our culture from the Bible for two reasons
a. To speak to something in our culture that Christians could easily forget
b. To use that teaching of Scripture to do some worldview diagnosis on our culture's response to this issue and to Christian responses to it.
2. Give brief context of Matthew 5:43-48
The Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5-7
The Sermon on the Mount is considered to be the most significant teaching on religious life and ethics in the history of the world.
In it, Jesus shows that sin begins in the heart, not in actions, to love one's enemies, to deny hypocrisy, to trust God, how to pray, and much more!
A church I went to in Jackson, MS taught on the Sermon on the Mount for an entire year, and they could have taught it for even longer!
3. Read the Text. Matthew 5:43-48
"You have heard that it was said…"
Anytime Jesus says "You have heard that it was said" you should know you're in big trouble! Jesus liked to take what the world thought and turn it upside down
"Love your neighbor and hate your enemy"
Who is your enemy? I can think of one example that relates to our culture and to Christians: ISIS. For those who do not know, ISIS is an extremist Islamist group that has taken over a large swath of territory in Iraq, Syria, and are now threatening Turkey. ISIS has driven countless people from their homes, beheaded Americans, and killed hundreds for being Christian.
It is very easy in our American, Southern, white majority culture to hate these men. They may even deserve it. But what does the Bible teach?
2. "But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
1. When Jesus says "But I tell you…" you had better listen, and I mean listen seriously.
2. In our non-1st century context, reading Jesus' words rather than seeing and hearing Him speak them, it is so easy to get around what Jesus says and means, coming up with our own standard.
3. In a commentary I read in preparation for today, scholars believe that the scribes in Jesus' day took the command to Love your neighbor as yourself from Leviticus 19:18 and added the command to hate your enemy. Listen to Jesus' words, the world says to hate your enemies, "But I tell you, LOVE your ENEMIES"
4. If that wasn't radical enough, Jesus goes on to say that we must "PRAY for those who persecute you."
5. WHY? "so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven."
6. Our brothers and sisters in Christ living in Iraq and Syria are being killed by ISIS. And our culture cheers as we bomb and seek revenge against ISIS. Is that wrong? I don't know, in my flesh I think we should stop ISIS from hurting people. But Jesus tells us to pray for those who persecute us. If the Church is the body of Christ, and our brothers in the middle east are being killed and tortured, then we too are under attack by ISIS. What are we to do? Pray for those who are persecuting you, Jesus says. Can you think of one reason we should not pray for ISIS? In what way should we pray for ISIS? We should pray that somehow, some way, God would change their hearts and make them see their sin, just like He showed us how sinful we were when we first experienced His grace.
7. Jesus goes on to explain why we should pray for our enemies. He gives us two reasons, the first is that God loves all people equally. He causes good things like sunshine and rainfall to be given to both good and evil people.
8. Two examples in the Bible of this passage being lived out are Jesus on the cross in Luke 23:33-34 and Stephen in Acts 7:57-60.
3. Worldview Analysis
1. If praying for ISIS seems like a repulsive idea to you, you are not alone! To pray for those committing such atrocities goes against our instincts.
2. This is why Jesus tells us we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We have to be reminded.
Worldview is how we see the world. The stories that inform our view of the world, the answers to the questions of life, the things we do, and the symbols we use to communicate our beliefs.
3. What does your worldview have to do with this? Ask yourself this question, what defines how I see the world, the Bible, or my own perspective? We all have a point of view, but we need to do the best we can to have our worldview be influenced by Scripture, rather than our worldview influence our beliefs about God.
4. A Barna Research Group study found that, among self professed Christians in America, only 4% have a "biblical worldview." That should terrify you. And it should challenge you. When you spend time in God's Word, are you listening? Are you allowing it to change who you are into the image of Christ? Are you reading it at all?
5. We must learn to see the world as Jesus taught us in the Bible, the Bible is a gift that is meant to show us how we are to live, love, see the world, and interact with it. One more thing we can learn from this passage.
4. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
1. Jesus here commands us to be perfect, but why does He say this?
2. It goes back to verses 44-45. We are to love our enemies and pray for those who are against us, So that we may be called sons of our Father in heaven.
3. Jesus is calling us to love with the perfect love of God.
4. When Jesus tells us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, He is calling us to love others like He loves us. Because of our sin, which separated us from God, we were enemies of God. But He loves us so much that He came to earth, was born of a virgin, taught us how to live, died in our place, and rose again that sin, death, and hell might forever lose their power over us! He is calling you to be sons of the Father in heaven. We must learn to love with God's love, to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We must allow the Holy Spirit to shape us into the image of Christ. Following Jesus means freedom from sin, but it isn't easy, that is why we gather together as the Church, to build each other up and help each other become more like Jesus. Will you follow Him today? Will you allow Him to change you?