What If Jesus – Love In Action

What If Jesus – Love In Action


When I’m not working, doing what pastors do…(Don’t tell Carlos, but I’m still trying to
figure that out)…you’ll find me and my wife at a field or complex watching our children
play sports…
We’re a family of 11…..If you’re trying to figure that out, let me help…we’re not
polygamists … .so that makes me, my wife and a lot of kids….(who are sitting in the
front row)….
Kids are a blessing…and my wife and I took it to be fruitful and multiply literally….When
we’re all together in public, we get various comments….For instance, after asking if the
kids are all ours….people will say…”Do you know what causes that?” To which I
say…Yes, that’s why we have nine kids” It’s actually the best part….for me anyway….
Well 2 months ago…at my daughters… volleyball game, I turned and saw a guy, about
6 ‘4, towering over my wife, yelling in her face……I got up…words were
exchanged…and we took it outside…
We’ll come to that…by the way we’re talking about….Loving our enemies…..
And if you can believe it…I’m the campus pastor for Gateway Buda (lol)…..to give you
an idea of what you’re working today…..

By the way, welcome if you’re joining us online. We are well into this 8-week series on
the SOTM; if you’ve missed a week or two, or if this is your first time joining us, I
encourage you to head over to gatewaychurch.com to watch the previous weeks.


Background/Context: In the SOTM, Jesus makes six “statements” at odds with each
other by stating..” You’ve heard that it was said, But I say this.” Rather than abolishing
the Law, Jesus fulfills it, raising the bar and inviting the disciples and us to a higher
standard than the law states.
Throughout history, people have tried to twist, minimize, manipulate, or explain away
the teachings of Jesus. Many still believe that his teachings were geared towards “social
revolutions” and not meant for everyday life.
As we heard from the Scripture reading, two of those teachings are on violence and
loving your enemies. Because anger and violence like many of Jesus’ examples are a
universal struggle. And the devastation they cause can be apocalyptic in nature.
Unsurprisingly, every nation has experienced violence, revolution, and a proclivity
towards independence—this nation included. More people have lost their lives in war
over the past hundred years than the past 2000 years….to the tune of 3.5 million…..
The only thing guaranteed in war is violence and the loss of life.
The taking of life has fueled the downward spiral of humanity ever since Cain, the first
earth-born murderer, took the life of his brother, Abel.
Cain and Abel were the first earth-born humans…..Cain murders his brother…..Abel
We hear this in Gen 4
Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field,
Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.
Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?”
“I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4:8-9
What we learn is this…
Abel’s blood is spilled on the ground, and Cain dodges God’s question, “Where is your
brother Abel? He lies in an attempt to absolve himself of “responsibility” for his brother’s

His father, Adam, was appointed “keeper” of the “garden” in Genesis (2:15), but for
Cain, to be a “keeper” does not involve a garden; it involves another human being.
This not only points to the sanctity of life but also to our responsibility to be “keepers’ of
our brothers and sisters.
To answer Cain’s question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Yes.


But not just “keepers.” Jesus, in his upside-down Kingdom, is calling us to a higher
standard; we are no longer only called to be keepers; we’re called to love others with a
radical countercultural love.
But maybe you’re rolling your spiritual eyes, thinking, “Yeah, but… “Jesus didn’t live in
2023 in Texas (or wherever you’re watching from).”
True, but we tend to forget that when Jesus was born, King Herod ordered the
infanticide of all male babies, putting his family on the run and throwing Jesus right into
oppression under the brutal, ruthless superpower of Rome.
The Roman power structure stole land and property and hiked taxes, resulting in
socioeconomic starvation; it was a generation ripe with desperation and anger. And if
you are a first century Jew you want nothing more than to end the reign of these vicious
people by any means necessary.
And it’s within this context that Jesus says, “Face your adversary by showing them
your humanity, and, oh, by the way, love your enemies.”
These truths would anchor many “nonviolent revolutions” in history, from Gandhi to MLK
to Nelson Mandela.
But Jesus doesn’t just call us to “nonviolence.” The standard is actually higher than
The standard is to:
● Break the cycle of violence and vengeance.
● Love our enemies
● And allow his words to transform our character.

If Jesus was serious, then you and I CAN break the cycle of violence and
vengeance in our world.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’39 But I tell you,
do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the
other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your
coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to
the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from

“Eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” were legal language, which is a shame because I
have bad vision and two cavities right now, and I would gladly take a good eye and
maybe a couple of nice molars. (North, you’ve got some nice teeth; we’ve got hard
water down in Buda.)
But Eye for Eye, tooth for tooth, ensured justice was served legally regarding retribution
to ban both extremely harsh punishments that didn’t fit the crime and to ban self-
appointed vigilantes.
And, The principle still exists in every legal system today (e..g, You steal a TV you pay
back its worth) . However, the problem with self-appointed vigilantes is that they don’t
follow guidelines, rules, or laws, so what was designed to keep order and fairness
became people taking justice and vengeance into their own hands for just about
Now, Jesus teaches with authority that ‘kindness” should go beyond simple payback.
Leave verses 39–42
(v 39)
If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
Contextually speaking, the slap Jesus was referring to is the “backhanded slap” with the
right hand. Most people then and today are right-handed and rightfully so; right-handed
people also wipe with their right hand.
So to backhand someone with the right hand was the ultimate form of humiliation.

So, Jesus implicitly communicates, “Don’t just sit and take it when you’re slapped,
saying, “Thank you, sir, may I have another? No, he says, “Turn the other cheek.” In
other words, look them in the eye and force them to see your humanity.
How different from today’s typical response, which is not just to get even; it’s to get
revenge—Jesus says, Break the cycle.
(v 40)
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.
Again, Jesus completely changes what this means.
Most people in the first-century context only had two garments, the inner (shirt) and the
outer (robe), making garments expensive and tradable items, like salt, which cost
It would be like Someone suing you for your shirt, and Jesus says, Give it to them… But
then He says, “Hand over your coat, too.” …and you’re like… No, not the Levi’s jacket,
What Jesus is getting at is, “Right there in the courtroom, do something so radical like
stripping naked and giving everything you have, so once again, the shock value can
radically shake a person awake into seeing others with dignity, compassion, and
perhaps repentance.”
Add go the extra mile here
Add reciprocity
In these examples, Jesus is not saying, “Don’t seek justice.” Scripture is redemptive
and, by all accounts, points towards seeking justice for the oppressed, hungry, and
hurting. But we must be careful not to confuse our form of justice with God’s. Ultimately,
God is just, and while we partner with God in bringing justice, our need for vengeance
can cloud our motives.
Jesus asks us to practice “Love in action” in all situations.
When we act in Love and reconciliation instead of vengeance, it changes everything.
But what is “love in action?”

Loving God? Certainly. Loving Others? Absolutely. Loving our Enemies? Yes.

If Jesus was serious, then loving God means loving your enemies.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I
tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be
children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet
only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do
that? Matt 5:43-47

God commanded the People of Israel to love their neighbor and the foreigner , because
they too were “foreigners” while enslaved in Egypt, but over time, the religious leaders
(the Pharisees) turned that into… Love Jews, and “hate” the “foreigner”….. Forgetting
their history, they twisted what God commanded….and turned “the foreigner” into their
And because of that, “the Pharisees” are the “antagonists,” they’re criticized….in
sermons every Sunday….worldwide.
But It’s easy to criticize people from 2000 years ago, saying, “Those Jews, I can’t
believe they didn’t love the “foreigner”..and made them their enemies….
But let me ask you, 2000 years later… Who have you turned into an enemy? Who have
you NOT Loved?
The Republicans, the Democrats, Joe Biden? Donald Trump? People who insulted you,
persecuted you, falsely accused you? Many of you are probably answering “Yea, I
tolerate everyone” but that’s not what Jesus is saying. He’s saying “do you go above
and beyond even for those who you can’t stand, who even oppose you?”…
Do something radical…invite them over for dinner….and don’t just order pizza, cook
your best meal for them, be intentional about it….let it cost you something…..
Love them with a sacrificial love? A sacrificial love that lays down your opinions and
your objectives, and agendas…..the same type of love that drove Jesus to the cross, to
lay down his life for all who would choose it?

And when you come up short, because you will, keep loving them anyway. God’s
common grace falls on all of humanity. So, when you think that the rain only falls on the
“just,” it also falls on your enemies, so pray for them.
I believe Jesus would say to you and me, “Do you love people as if I died for them? Or
do you just love yourself because you believe I only died for you?”
Maybe you’re convinced you can’t love your enemies, but let me ask you this: can you
pray for them?
I mean, really pray for them—not for God to change the person, but to ask God to help
you see what you don’t.
You don’t know what they did to me, how they hurt me. I can never talk to them again…
I get it, but can you at least Pray for them?
Jesus understands that prayer shifts our view of people so that we begin to see them as
God sees them. To gain an understanding that every abuser, they were likely abused,
that every toxic relationship stems from being raised in toxic environments… We don’t
pray to excuse away what was done; we pray for healing and understanding.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer frames the importance of prayer this way:
“A Christian fellowship exists because its members pray for each other. If they don’t, the
fellowship falls apart.” No matter how much trouble he gives me, I can’t judge or hate a
brother for whom I pray. Through prayer, his face, which may have seemed strange and
unbearable to me before, changes into the face of a brother for whom Christ died, the
face of a sinner who has been forgiven. -Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
Bonhoeffer is certainly speaking to the church here, but I believe Jesus wants us to
reach beyond the walls of the church, and love those who are not in the church as
The love that Christ offers from the cross is manifold in the world. It is unlimited… Love,
like grace and mercy, flows from the cross in abundance….
But It’s easy to love those who love us– Jesus said, “Even pagans and tax collectors do

What’s difficult is loving people who vote, think, express, dress, live, and act differently
than us, and it’s even more difficult to love people who flat out insult, persecute, and
falsely accuse us.
Loving those opposed to our views, theologically, socially, or politically, does not mean
that we have to agree with them. We have believed for way too long that if we hang out,
associate with, and love people we disagree with, then we by default are aligning with
everything they believe. Nosene.
Robert Geroge and Cornel West set a real-life example of men who oppose each
other’s views but who also love each other dearly. (pic)

Robert George is known for his conservative views on issues like– abortion and same-
sex marriage, and belives there are moral standards that govern human behavoir….
Cornel West on the other hand is known for his progessive views on abortion and same-
sex marriage. He’s a big proponent for social justice, and the need to address issues of
economic inequality and systemic racism.
Despite their differences, George and West have engaged in public debates and
discussions on a number of topics, including religion, politics, and the role of the
university in society.
So, why does Jesus say to love our enemies? Because he knew what Robert Geroge
and Cornel West found out—when we love someone who is perceived to be our enemy,
they are no longer our enemy.
For some of us, we don’t like that. We are so geared towards “us vs. them,” thinking that
we need an enemy. We need someone else to point to for all of our problems and hurts.
We need drama, destruction, and violence.

We do have an enemy, but it is not each other…
And, let me say this, maybe you were abused, and harmed by the very people who you
trusted to love you, care for you, and protect you, and right now there is no way you
could ever “love them” because in your mind and heart they will always be an enemy.
I understand. I have great compassion for you. But more importantly, Jesus has
unlimited compassion and love for you.
but maybe you’re thinking—“Ya, well where was Jesus when I was being abused?
Which is a fair question, but I don’t doubt for one second that Jesus’s heart didn’t break
in those moments of torment for you. But (and I say this carefully), God allows people
the freedom to make choices, and some of those choices have consequences that go
beyond what the heart can imagine. And for some of us that meant traumatic and even
evil things were done to us.
But, I want you to know, it has never been God’s desire for you to suffer at the hands of
someone else. For that reason, Jesus paid the ultimate price of “suffering” for the entire
human race, for all who would receive it.
And as hard as this is to say, he wants you- as a follower and disciple of Jesus to
pray for those who have hurt you. He wants you to be free from unforgiveness; he
wants you to be able to receive and give love fully to others; and he wants you to be
who you “truly are.” And that’s scary because you’re afraid that if you let go of all the
pain, all the suffering, and all the unforgiveness, you won’t know who you really are.
That’s a lie.
The truth is, when you forgive, love, and pray for your “enemies,” those who have
abused you, hurt you, and stolen from you… You will begin the process of knowing
exactly who you are.
Only the “enemy” wants us to have enemies because when we do, our focus is not on
God…and that is Satan’s entire mission.
But to be people who are transformed into the likeness and image of Christ, we must
allow his words to pierce our hearts and define our character more than our traditions

If Jesus was serious, then His words must define our character more than our
traditions do.
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Wait, Jesus wants us to be perfect? Not really
The word is better described as being “perfected,” as we aim to be whole, complete,
and mature believers in Christ.
Luke 6 puts it in his version of SOTM- 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
While the word used by Luke is different, it still points us towards Matthew’s word of
being perfected into mature, whole people.
To extend “mercy” (not giving people what they deserve) is not only a part of God’s
Character (Exd 34:5-8) It is what God has desired from humanity since Cain stood over
able to kill him.
For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings. Hosea 6:6
Cain had an opportunity to show his brother Able “Mercy” but instead considered him an
enemy…and chose to “hate him.” It wasn’t that Abel did anything wrong, but from
Cain’s perspective, he did, and therefore, his life needed to end.
And what we learn is this … .Our perceptions, those microagressions that go unresolved
over time to the point that you’ve already made your mind up about someone, and what
WE think is right, can lead to the persecution and hatred of others.
[Intro: What if Jesus]
The band is going to lead us in the next song and I want you to pay attention to the
lyrics. What if the people you and I have alienated, fought on Facebook with, uninvited
from family functions, taken outside… are JUST as loved as you are. Created in the
same image of God as you and me.
[Band plays]


I love that line- “What if Jesus desires mercy While I’m busy judging others for their deeds
‘Cause if I have His heart and friendship Then I must know He loves the liars and the
So what does this mean for us as we follow Jesus or maybe you’re in the room
For the seekers and the doubters in the room, I pray you would realize that virtually
every nonviolent revolution in history has its origin right here in the SOTM. But the real
revolution is the revolution of the heart. That the cycle of violence in our world, in our
family history, and in us CAN BE BROKEN! Jesus offers freedom for you from this
Therefore, If we are going to be disciples of Jesus, His words must define our faith,
conduct, and character-
We must be people who extend mercy, not vengeance, love, not retaliation, prayer, not
[Cliffhanger story continued]
So what happened with me and Bob? I got in his face and told him, Let’s take it outside.
We exchanged heated rhetoric. As things calmed down between us, I heard his side
and how he was hurting and didn’t know how to deal with his anger. I thought I needed
to shift this conversation pastorally, so I said, “Well, the good news is, Jeff, I am a
pastor; the bad news is, I’m probably not a very good one, based on what’s just taken
place…we laughed and exchanged numbers, and we have hugged each other at the
other games we’ve been at. We reconciled.
Messy. Did I turn the other cheek and show Bob my humanity? Yeah, probably too

Did I love who was considered to be my enemy at the moment? No. And if you asked
me, would I do anything different? Probably not. I was protecting my wife, which is my
role as a husband.
I think Jesus said pray for your enemies knowing that we naturally will have
points of contention and division. But he offers us a path of restoration and
And so where do we land this thing?

Well, as we said, Able’s blood was spilled on the ground, and it continued to cry out until
another’s blood was spilled…from the cross… the blood of Jesus… sending a different
message, a message of redemption, reconciliation, restoration, and forgiveness…
to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a
better word than the blood of Abel. Hebrews 12:24
This means that for the life surrendered to Jesus, our sin and brokenness no
longer have the final word. His blood does… His love does.
Is Jesus saying, Never use violence to protect your family or stand up for what is right?
What does that mean about war? Capital punishment? Self-defense? I think this is
where we all have to wrestle with it. But the point is He stand in the gap saying- “There’s
a better way. I can cure your heart of the evil that comes with retaliation and
What Jesus is calling us to do is to love others—the people who are easy to love and
the people who are not. For the people we consider allies and the people we call
enemies, we are to love the lovable and the unloveable with a love that transcends
hate, bitterness, vengeance, etc.
We’re called to love others as if Jesus died for them….because he did

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