IV. Christians are to be Characterized by Control
A. We Must Deal with Our Enemies Prayerfully
1. Start Blessing
a. Let us look at the word “bless.” It is written in the imperative. I want to go on record 1st of all by saying the command found in .v14 is not just hard to comprehend and complete, it impossible to comprehend and complete in and of ourselves.
b. To bless means lit. “to speak well of.” That’s not saying that your are required to go around town and to everyone you meet, speak nice things about someone who hurt you.
c. The word has a deeper meaning. It means to pray for that individual. To ask God to bestow divine favor on someone, with the implication that they would receive significant benefit.
d. We are to pray for those who cause us pain, hurt, heartache, discouragement, and despair. We are to ask God to bless them, to save them.
Matthew 5:43-44 (KJV)
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Luke 6:28 (KJV)
28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.
2. Stop Cursing
a. The word curse is in the present imperative tense. And it does not mean to use filthy or inappropriate language. The word means to call down divine judgment or a curse.
b. The tense of the word indicates an action in progress. These persecuted Christians were not praying for their advisories deliverance, but their doom. Paul commanded them to stop it.
c. There is no doubt that they were hurting, heartbroken, horrified, anxious and even angry. But Paul said under no circumstances are you to curse them.
Luke 9:54 And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?
55 But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.
56 For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.
Illustration: Jesus Christ is the greatest example of this truth. He was betrayed by a member of His group, arrested and falsely charged, hated by a multitude, cast aside and murderer was preferred over Him, was beaten unrecognizable, was mocked by a scarlet robe and crown of thorns drove deep into His brow, and nailed to a cross paying for sins He didn’t commit. They passed by Him that day spitting at Him and blaspheming His precious name. How did He respond? With these words,
Luke 23:34 Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Jesus prayed that God would bless those who persecuted and murdered Him with the greatest blessing of all. He prayed for their salvation.
Stephen in Acts 7 prayed for his aggressors. They stoned him, and while doing so he prayed for them.
Application: What do you wish on your enemies? Do you pray for them? Are you allowing Christ to bless them through you? Do you know that Christ wants to minister to them through you? He wants to use you to bring them into a relationship with Him. Would you right now remember the one who has wronged you and bless them? This is the heart Christ when we do this. It’s not an option and it will set you free from bitterness.
B. We must Deal with Our Enemies Peaceably
1. The Application of Peace
a. How we React
1. Paul in this text was teaching this church on how to respond to their enemies
2. The natural reaction is to do unto others as they have done unto you, to retaliate.
3. They had the eye for an eye theology. This was in the Old Testament as civil judicial justice, not personal revenge.
4. Paul said do not retaliate with evil. Don’t be as your enemy.
5. When someone attacks your character, speaks evil of you, or does something to hurt you, it natural to want to retaliate with hurtful words, or try to degrade their character, or even physical retaliation.
6. Hear what Jesus said, Matt.5:38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
40 And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also.
b. What we Regard
1. The word “provide” means to have regard for. It means to take careful thought of something or to consider. To think beforehand.
2. Paul was saying we are to take careful thought and consideration of who we are, so that what we say we have on the inside is displayed on the outside in the sight of all men.
3. Basically he said Give credibility to Christianity. He said to go ahead and settle it in your heart and mind that you are going to respond appropriately for Christ’s sake.
4. The world is looking at you. What are they seeing when you are wronged?
5. Many have made this statement after what they think is a justifiable retaliation, ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks.’ Well you should, because it matters what people think of you. You are an ambassador of Christ. Never bring reproach to the gospel.
2. The Attitude of Peace
a. Paul talked about the responsibility of the believer.
b. We are to have the attitude that we will do whatever we can to ensure peace
Matt.5: 41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.
c. Not everyone is going to live at peace with us, but it is our responsibility to make sure that our side of the relationship is right, that our inner desire is genuinely to be at peace with all men, even the meanest and most undeserving.
d. We can never have the attitude, ‘If they don’t treat me right, I want treat them right.’
e. We are to go to great lengths, short of compromising God’s word, to obtain peace.
Application: Sometimes you need to apologize to someone. Many times you need to forgive and deal with bitterness. Sometimes you may need to bow out in humility and allow someone to excel. How do you react? Are you giving credibility to Christ? Would you be willing to die to self to live at peace with those who hurt you?
C. We must Deal with Our Enemies Provisionally
1. The Provision of Confidence
a. We are to have confidence that God has seen our affliction and that He this is His battle.
b. Instead of avenging ourselves, we are to step out of the way and allow God to respond on our behalf. His judgment and wrath is just and righteous.
c. Have confidence that God will fight for you. He will vindicate you.
Illustration: In 1Sam.24:1-15, David was running for his life from the jealous and murderous Saul. David had hid from Saul in a cave. Saul went into tend to his needs and David could have taken Saul’s life but instead he spared him and cut off a piece of his robe. David said the Lord avenge me of thee: but my hand shall not be upon you. And the Lord did.
2. The Provision of Compassion
a. Paul in this text gives the only retaliation that a Christian can give; mercy and kindness.
b. Paul is referencing Proverbs 25:21. The heaping of burning coals is the shame one feels for being treated with such kindness after being so wicked.
c. Through this God is reaching out to men’s souls through you with the purpose of bringing them to Christ. Could it be that God allows us to be wronged for this one purpose?
d. Paul closed with this application. Stop being overcome by evil. Don’t allow the offense to overtake you, but remember who you are and respond that way for the greater purpose; the salvation of men.