Love an Enemy


October 08, 2017

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Rachel Billups

There was a time when religion said it was okay to hate people who didn't act, live or even vote like you. But Jesus came along and changed the game. Sure - love the easy ones - but God's new world order calls us to love our enemies as well. All of them. 

So join us this weekend in worship as we sort through the good, the bad and the best way to -
LOVE the 937: love an enemy

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Today's Focus

LOVE the 937: Love An Enemy

Matthew 5:43-48

Made To Love

  • Leviticus 19:18


The Struggle Is Real



The Power Of Prayer

  • Romans 5:8


Everyday Love



Love Is The New Perfect




See this week’s REFOCUS questions for deeper reflection.

Sermon Questions

LOVE the 937


There was a time when religion said it was okay to hate people who didn’t act, live or even vote like you. But Jesus came along and changed the game. Sure – love the easy ones – but God’s new world order calls us to love our enemies as well. All of them.

LOVE the 937: Love An Enemy

MONDAY: Genesis 1:27; 1 John 4:16
God is love, and God created us and our enemies in God’s image. Today take me to stop and soak in what that means.

TUESDAY: Matthew 5:43-44
What is the definition of neighbor? Enemy? Why does Jesus say to love them both?

WEDNESDAY: Matthew 5:45
God is the God of friend and foe. Why does God say to love your enemy?

THURSDAY: Matthew 5:44; James 5:16; Jeremiah 29:12
What is the first step in loving your enemy? Where can we find help with this?

FRIDAY: Leviticus 19:18
Who is an enemy to you? In prayer with God write out some ways you can love your enemies.

SATURDAY: Romans 5:8; Matthew 5:23-24
Is there someone who might see you as an enemy? Is there something you can do to change that?

SUNDAY: John 17:20-23
We are called to unity and love. How are you going to live that out this day?

Sermon Transcript

Love The 937: Love An Enemy

Pastor Rachel Billups

My enemies are people like me. Let that soak in for a moment. This week all of us tuned to our attention to Las Vegas and the 59 people who died in the hundreds of others who were injured at a country music concert! (PIC) Let that soak in! People, ordinary every people were having a good time listening to some of their favorite artist when suddenly country concert became a war zone. Sometimes, most of the time, when these horrific things happen we don't really know what to do or what to say or even IF we want to do something we are so scared: and at best we cry and at worst we are paralyzed by fear.

But brothers and sisters we can do something—we as followers of Jesus can pray. Prayer changing things; God through the power of prayer changes atmospheres and prayer changes us!  When Las Vegas happens we pray: pray for the victims and their families, yes, but we also pray for the shooter and his family. We pray that God would open our eyes, hearts and minds to real life solutions. So breathe in close our eyes but open ourselves to what God wants to say to us today.

Let us pray… And then I'm going to pray for the victims, I'm going to pray for the shooter and his family. I'm going to pray for the first responders and police officers; going to pray I pray for the wounded; going to pray for those who just witnessed and I'm going to pray for us.

God of justice and mercy, thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Amen.   

AND WHAT AN INTRODUCTION TO OUR THEME TODAY AS WE CONCLUDE OUR Love the 937 SERIES! SO This week is one of those moments in life where we say Jesus how do you expect us to love? That’s ridiculous! Doesn’t Jesus understand the kind of world we are living in? What’s happening all around us? Love - Really Jesus? - Love our enemies?   


Last spring, I was at a Dayton Dragons game and as soon as I stepped into the stadium a guy in his 20’s asked me, “Hey, where’d you get that shirt?” That shirt being my love the 937 t-shirt.  He really wanted one and although he didn’t know anything about Ginghamsburg Church and with no apparent interest in organized religion—something about THIS shirt resonated with his life, his purpose—he wanted to Love the 937!  Sound familiar? We were created for love! God is love and you and I were created in God’s image. And whether you are sitting in a worship celebration or hanging out at a Dayton Dragons game, you and I have the privilege of sharing God’s love with our neighbors and in our neighborhoods on purpose. Throughout this Love the 937 series, Pastor Chris and I have challenged us to pick OUR spot and be a blessing, to forgive, to keep our promises and walk the extra mile. But THIS, this loving the 937 is so much more than series—this is more than message—loving the 937 a movement of God lead by the people of God.

Jesus ignited this movement of love, there on the hillside by the Sea of Galilee in the Sermon on the Mount. He gave people some really clear picture of what love looks like… it’s practiced by the people of God, then and now. Jesus used the phrase, “you’ve heard it said, but I say” and with that phrase pointed to some hard truths about love.

Love keeps a promise, love forgives and love is extended to people who don’t look like us, don’t live like us, and don’t even believe the way we believe. Loving people sounds oh so good most days and we have good intentions, but actually loving everyone takes intentional hard work.  We’ve got to let God through the power of the Holy Spirit get into our everyday business. When we let Jesus in, he’s going to mess with us, not to leave us a mess, but to help us love a messy world. 

Open your Bibles to Matthew chapter 5. Matthew is in the New Testament (back 4th or scroll down on your Bible App).  Jesus’ sermon here is building momentum: You’ve heard it said don’t kill people, don’t cheat on your spouse, don’t break a promise, but I say don’t stay angry, don’t even look someone up and down, keep your promises. 

These are challenging ways to love, but in typical Jesus fashion he saved this GAME CHANGER for last! Take a look with me at Matthew 5: 43-48, “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? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5: 43-48 NIV).   

This is last of the “you’ve heard it said, but I say” phrases of Jesus, and THIS is the point.  If you GET this, you get it ALL. One simple phrase: Love An Enemy! 


Honestly, brothers and sisters—this loving stuff is hard work and sometimes I struggle to love friends, let alone enemies. I can easily place people in categories and pretend I don’t have any enemies. Now before we quickly go down the list of people we don’t like and categorize them as something other than an enemy—she’s not my enemy, I just find her impossible to talk to, oh he’s not my enemy, he’s just my ex, they aren’t REALLY my enemies they are merely my cranky neighbors. He’s not EXACTLY my enemy I just can’t stand to work with him.

Before we tuck everyone into a different less insulting box and pretend as Jesus followers, we don’t have enemies let’s just do a little test:

You might have an enemy if you avoid her at the grocery store.

You might have an enemy if you decline every invitation to the family Thanksgiving Day meal.

You might have an enemy if you want him to experience physical or emotional pain.

You might have an enemy if you can’t understand why she is complaining about her life circumstances.

You might have an enemy if he or she is hurting your child in some way.   

You might have an enemy if you yell at the computer or TV every time someone takes a position different that your position because of a Hurricane, threat of nuclear war or some of political post. 

Brothers and sister, according to Jesus’ definition we’ve got enemies, throughout the world and right here in our own 937. We’ve got people in our lives that frustrate us, hurt us and make us angry in 3.2 seconds. Okay some are family, yes; others are Facebook friends, still others just plain different than us, but today we are going to discover that Jesus required his followers (CHRISTIANS) to be enemy lovers. This is crazy, this is radical and this is a paradigm shift! 

We are not alone. Jesus spoke these same radical words over a crowd who knew they were called to love their neighbors. Matthew 5: 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 (Matthew 5: 43 NIV).  

We have been called to love our neighbors on purpose from the beginning. And by neighbor Jesus meant and the Jews heard: people like us who are part of our tribe: they look like us, they believe like us, they understand God and the world they way that we do. It’s right there in the Bible, Leviticus 19:18, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:18 NIV). 

Unapologetically Jesus is talking about insiders, and then he says and to hate your enemy—now here’s where it gets a little interesting. Jesus is not quoting scripture here. He’s quoting kind of folksy saying from a really religious group of people called the Quran community. In a practical way it was deemed okay to hate your enemies—because they were different, they didn’t believe the same things that Jews believe—it was religiously and socially acceptable to hate certain other people. IMAGINE THAT! That was before Jesus—before Jesus it’s okay to hate people who don’t act like you, live like you, worship like you or even vote like you voted. But then Jesus CHANGES THE GAME. Jesus says, but I tell you love your enemies. You mean to tell me Jesus I’m supposed to love the guy at work I cannot stand? Yep. What about that family member that hurts my feelings every time I see them? Yep—you can love them at a distance (does not mean to stay in abusive situations! Get out!). Ok Jesus what about those so called Facebook friends that are making Christians look bad—what about them, yep. Okay, okay, what about Kim Jong-un? Come on Jesus even you’ve got to have your limit, yes even Kim Jong-un. 

Now before you tune out or walk off, before you say there is no way.  Following Jesus isn’t easy—but actually following Jesus and letting God’s love mess with our lives in a life giving way changes everything. Look around you—your everyday life—and the rest of the world—we need God’s love. And for some crazy reason—God chose you and I to share it… WITH THAT NEIGHBOR, AT THE GROCERY STORE, YOUR CHILD’S SCHOOL, THE FAMILY GATHERING. THROUGH YOUR “OUTSIDE VOICE” ON FACEBOOK. GOD HAS CHOSEN YOU AND I TO SHARE GOD’S LOVE.


So what if I can’t love my enemy. Jesus gives us a simple first step: Pray for your enemies. Pray for them. Prayer opens our hearts and our head to God possibilities. It is really difficult to pray for someone we love to hate and continue to hate them. When I say pray, “I don’t mean God I hate this person, but you don’t so the preacher asked me to pray, so I am doing it.  There you go God.” I mean, “God this person hurt me, and I can’t stand them. But God I know you love them, because you love me. So God help me to see them the way that you see them.” God loves you and because God loves you, you can love others. Some of us struggle to love other people because we miss that, we don’t really feel or accept God’s love for ourselves. If we don’t love ourselves, we aren’t really going to love other people. God’s done all God can do to show us, but we’ve not received that love and truly embraced our belovedness. Loved people love people!  The more we pray the more we see others and ourselves the way that God sees us. THAT’S WHY I’M AT MY PRAYER DESK EVERY MORNING. THIS STUFF DOESN’T COME NATURALLY, FOLKS. Prayer opens our hearts and our heads to God’s way of love. We are creating space in our lives to actually love our enemies.   

God modeled enemy love. Go back to the scripture, Matthew 5:44, “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” (Matthew 5:44-45 NIV). Everyone gets a taste of God’s love! It doesn’t matter who you are, where you have been, what you are up to, no! God is clear; he causes the sun to rise on the good and evil, the rain to fall on the righteous and unrighteous. Sun and rain are physical demonstrations of God’s love and guess what everyone gets to experience it! We are called to model God’s love—for the next generation, yes, but for ourselves as well. Well that’s not fair, yep. It’s not! It’s radical, it’s unconditional, it’s crazy love. JESUS PREACHED IT AND WENT ON TO DEMONSTRATE IT IN A WAY YOU AND I WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND ON THE CROSS. Yes, it’s God’s crazy love! And God is attempting to teach us to love in the same way. We are inherently selfish! We don’t want to sacrifice—we don’t want to sacrifice our preferences—when we are baptized—when we say yes to Jesus our preferences are dead, buried and out of the way! When are baptized we take on the preferences of God. Jesus says, walk the extra mile and learn your enemies’ story! It takes time, it takes energy, but THIS is God’s model of love. 

Jesus was clear God is showing us—through the sun and rain, through everyday miracles, but also through the greatest miracle of all: God’s sacrificial love through Jesus Christ. Brothers and sister Jesus gave his life for ALL. Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NIV). When we were selfish, ignorant, my way or the highway kind of people God gave his life for us, so that we can give our love and lives to others. 


That’s God but what about me? How can I love the way that God loves? Pray for your enemies, but let the Holy Spirit train you to love, start with the people around you. I need to tell you something. I love you, as one of your pastors, you might think that I have to say that, but I don’t.  I genuinely love you, but I need tell you something. Couple weeks ago, I was on a prayer walk with a group from this church when we ran into a woman. She not only allowed us to pray for her, but shared she hadn’t been to Ginghamsburg for a while because she was taking an aging parent to ANOTHER church. We talked for a little bit, YET something seemed to be brothering her and with humility and hesitancy—she said to me, “Pastor Rachel one of the things about Ginghamsburg that been bothering me here lately is that when I go and walk through the hallway, I try to make eye contact, but people don’t really look at me. I know many are in a hurry, but one of the most powerful things about being in church is being seen. Really, I’m just looking for someone to be friendly. They are really friendly at my dad’s church. They look him in the eye and say hello!”  Her comments broke my heart, not because she was being mean or even hurt my feelings, but because sometimes in know I am in a hurry, sometimes I don’t make eye contact with people, and maybe that’s you too. Intentionally looking people in the eye, saying, hello—glad you are here, could me the world to someone. LOVING THE 937 COULD START HERE IN THE HALLWAY.    

So I wonder, what would it be like to be a people who were known in our community, not merely as a church that’s big, or even a church that’s doing cool things, or even for what we do for people? What if we were known in the 937 as a people of love? Beyond going to church, beyond teaching, beyond incredible music, but a people who radically demonstrate this Jesus kind of enemy lovin’ love. What if people knew us by OUR love?


Jesus ends this section of the Sermon on the Mount with, “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Impossible, right? Actually, it IS possible. This is a new definition of perfect.  It’s not the kind of perfect that says let’s have it all together, or I can’t make any mistakes, it’s not the kind of perfect that keeps a Pinterest board or helps you in the gym. No, this breed of perfection is God’s. God IS perfect—God is perfect love AND LOVE IS THE NEW PERFECT J  And we—you and I regular, ordinary human beings can become perfected through God’s love. Here’s the best part of all, we can’t do it on our own. We need God’s help. It’s God through the power of the Holy Spirit that works in our hearts and in our heads to love—to love our neighbors, to love the 937, and yes even to love our enemies.

Pope John Paul II died in 2005 (PIC) and I can remember watching the new report. It seemed a little different to me—hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world gathered at the Vatican City waiting for the Pope to die. People gathered in St. Peter’s square around a obelisk—it represents the exact place where the shooter of their day—the empire had Peter crucified upside down. Every time Catholics gather at the Vatican they gather in St. Peter’s Square to worship they are saying, this is how we love our enemies! Now as I was watching the CNN or FOX news ticker scrolled with what seemed like a line from Monty Python movie, “Pope’s not dead yet.” I don’t pretend to understand the whole Pope thing, in fact I grew up in a place where Protestants and Catholics were pretty suspect of one another, but while I was watching suddenly the entire group of hundreds of thousands of people started sing—in their own languages, in their own keys, as if to try and keep their leader alive, and I suddenly realized I knew the tune. And it was a beautiful sound. I got caught up in the moment—these were my brothers and sister and we were signing about our unity…

“We are one in the spirit; we are one in the Lord, we are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord and we pray that all unity may one day be restored and they’ll know we are Christian by our love, by our love, yes they know we are Christians by our love…

So I am not dead yet, so God has given me, given you this one life, let’s use it to love.

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