Dr. Ed Young - Love the Unlovable
Now, I'm going to give you end of where we're going. Poor communication skills, isn't it? I mean, anybody know how to communicate, you start off, and yada yada yada yada, and yada yada yada. And then boom, the explosion. I'm going to explode now and tell you where we're going, okay? To be able to be a Jesus follower, to be counter-cultural in this whole world in which you and I live, we're going to have to... this is the punch line. I'm giving it to you upfront, remember? Love as God loves. Poof. Now, wait a minute, how does God love? We'll talk about that. But we are to love as God loved.
Now, we know those words about love if you've been around church or heard any lectures. We know about phileo, friendship love, Philadelphia. We love friends, that's one kind of love. We know about erotic, eros. We're all over romantic, sensual love, we certainly understand that. And we understand storge sort of family love, you love your kin and those they've married. Yeah, we can understand kind of family love. But then Jesus takes an obscure Greek word, and we've heard it too, agape.
And the first three loves are emotional. We emotionally have feelings for family, we emotionally have feelings for friends, we emotionally have feelings in a romantic setting, but the agape love isn't so much about your heart and your emotions, it's about you mind and your will. And it is when we will to love, that's... God wills to love. A little, simple definition is that it is an irrevocable commitment. An irrevocable commitment, irreversible commitment to an imperfect person. That's the way God loves us, isn't it? Thank goodness. God has an irrevocable commitment to love you and love me, and he knows we are ever, ever, ever so imperfect.
So, this is where we're going, this is what we have to have in us. Well, how do we get that in us? Mind you, I'm starting with the end. Romans chapter number 5 tells us, if we're in Christ, we have it, listen carefully, Romans 5, middle of verse 5, he says, "The love of God," that's what we need, isn't it? "Has been poured within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. For while we were still helpless, broken, beat up, empty, embarrassed, hypocritical, while we were yet helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly". By the way, the ungodly, that's you and me in case you miss it. "For one will hardly die for a righteous person, though perhaps for the good man someone would dare to die. But God demonstrates," shows off, illustrates, "his own love toward us, in that while we were yet in the stench, we were yet sinners, Christ died for us".
What does that say? If we're in Christ, we have the capacity, the capacity to love as God loves. That's where we're going. But let's look at this first verse that I read a few minutes ago. It tells us that cultural love is limited. This is secular love, isn't it? Everybody here loves like this. Look at it in verse 43, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your enemies, you shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.'" Well, we know how to do that. Love your neighbor, somebody like you, and hate your enemy, all right? Remember, to return evil for good is demonic. To return good for good is human, human. To return good for evil is divine. So, all of us, we love our neighbors, those who are like us, those in our family, we love our... and all of us have no problem hating our enemies. That was the culture of that day.
Now, there's one problem with the culture of that day that Jesus is talking about in this verse. This verse supposedly is dealing with Leviticus 19:18. Now, I want you to see what they were leaving out, the Pharisees in that day. They said, you're to love your neighbor, but in Leviticus, it says, "As yourself". They left that out. "I'm going to love my neighbor, but not as I love number one". Oh, no, no, no. See, they left that out because if anything the Pharisees were good at, they loved themselves. "Boy, my life, my people, my way, my exclusivity". They loved themselves. So, they left out this whole thing that we're to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We just love our neighbor. Don't say, "I can't possibly love them as myself," so they left that out. But that's just secular love, isn't it?
You love your neighbor, people like you, and then you hate those that attacked you, that are opposed to you. And if you haven't picked some enemies by now, where have you been? I'll be glad to share some. My second church, I was pastor in the mountains of western North Carolina of a mill community. I loved it there. The first week I was there, I put on my coat and my tie, and I went downtown, and I was going store to store introducing myself. "I'm Ed Young, I'm the new pastor, First Baptist Church right up the street, it's right downtown. I'd love to have you come, da da da da". I go store to store, I come to the pool hall. No problem for me, I went right in. He looked at me and my suit on, "I'm Ed Young, pastor," whew. "Would love to have you come to church". "Oh yeah, yeah".
And I walked around, some of the good old boys there shooting pool, I stand up and shake hands, invite them to church. One of them says, "You want to play some pool"? I said, "Sure". And so, I started playing pool there with them, no money involved. But I lost, but I was respectable, and I thank God for my somewhat checkered background. And so, I played pool, invited them all to come to church, they couldn't believe it. I walked the streets store to store, introduced myself. Then I went down the other side of the street, and there was a jewelry store that's right in front of the pool hall. But I walked down, and so when I walked in, I knew they were member of the church. A man and his wife ran this jewelry store, and very prominent people. And I went in, and I introduced myself, I had not seen them at church. I'd been there I think one Sunday.
And she said, "By the way, I saw you go in that pool hall across the street". And she said, "My husband saw you". He said, "Yes, yes, yes". She said, "I'm going to tell you something. If you're going to be popular in this town, we don't want those kind of people coming into our church. I want you to know that right up front". And I said... by the way, I remember her name, I don't... it's amazing. It's been over 40 years ago, I remember her name. I'm not going to call it. And I said to her, I said, "Let me tell you something, I didn't come to this town to be popular". I said, "I came to here to represent the Lord Jesus Christ". And I said, "As long as I'm here, I want anybody and everybody to come and feel at home in his church right up the street from there".
And I said, "I'm going to tell you something, the one I represent, at last report, he wasn't too popular either. I think he ended up being crucified". And then I added, I said, "Incidentally, he was crucified with people just like you". Everybody loves those that love and like them. Oh, how easy it is to love our kind of people. How easy it is to hate our enemies. Boy, what they said, what they did, what they believe, how they hurt, what happened in my marriage, my family, how easy, that's just normal folks, ladies and gentlemen. But the real powerful verse is hidden down here, and I'm going to... I can't wait to get to it, it's verse number 47. "If you greet only your brother, what more are you doing than others"?
Where is the more of the Christian that is the counter-cultural kind of love that we have and that is not natural love? And Jesus says that we are to do what? Love our enemies. What does that look like? That is the more, that is the radical, that is the counter-cultural part of you and I being Jesus followers, to love our enemies. How are you doing with that one, huh? And let me show you, Jesus tells us exactly what this looked like. Look what he says, he said, "You are to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you". How do you love your enemies? You pray for them. I can tell you, if you want to really have me praying for you, you just come at me.
Man, I'm good at that. I just pray for people that hate, despise, disagree, slander. Just pray for folks that have come out against you, you'll be amazed what'll happen to you. It'll change you, it's changed me. I can stand here and say there's not a person I know who hates me, dislikes me, disagree me I don't genuinely love today. I can say that because I just prayed and prayed for myself, for them, for relationship. You just pray, that's what he says. If you want to love your enemies, you say, "That's impossible," you begin to pray for them. And then he says, "This is the way God loves us". God's love is indiscriminate. Did you see the next verse? He said, "God sends rain on the just and the unjust".
Have you ever gone out to the highway out here and say, "Here's the highway going through here, and here are all the bad people over here, here are all the good, moral people over here, and a rain comes, and it rains just on the good folks". Have you noticed that? No, you've not noticed that. God's love is indiscriminate, it rains on the just and the unjust. We can't understand that, but that is a love that will not let people go. That is a love that is committed unconditionally to an imperfect person and to an imperfect world. And we have to love like that. And the way we begin to love like that is through prayer, praying for these individuals, praying for these circumstances around the world in which we live. God does not discriminate, and we cannot discriminate or we're just like those two wealthy owners of that jewelry store. This is the love of God. This is how it works in our lives.
Now, first point, cultural love is limited, right? Love your neighbors, that's the way the Jews operated. The Pharisees, they taught this. Hate your enemies. The mafia does that. What is the more in your Christian life? What is the more in my Christian life? You can't find hardly anybody on the planet that doesn't live up to that kind of love, right? Where is the more of your love and my love? It is when we love our enemies. Whew. How do we do it? We pray for our enemies, we beseech them, we intercede for them. Where do you see that happen in the Bible? Many, many places, but primarily Jesus on the cross. What did he say? "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". Bang, bang, "Father, forgive him for they know not what they do".
By the way, that phrase is in the imperfect. That means Jesus said it over and over again, did you know that? "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do". Bang, bang, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do". Bang, bang, "Father, forgive them". He prayed it over and over and over again, it's the imperfect tense. You say, "How in the world was Jesus able to do that"? Because Jesus was God, and he loved like God loves us and like God loves this world, that's how. You know what Jesus could not have done? Called down lightning on those who were driving nails in his hands, he couldn't have done that. Oh, powerfully he could do it. He couldn't curse them, he couldn't shame them, he couldn't disgrace them, he couldn't attack them. Why could he not do that? That's not who he was.
See, he was filled with God and filled with love as God. Man, that's normal for him to say, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do". And when we're filled up with God's love, we are able in even our limited humanity, we pray, and we can love people something like that too. And that's the more in the Christian life. Now, the last verse, the tail-end verse has a stinger in it. You notice a lot of tails have stingers in them. Have you noticed that? This 48th verse has a real stinger. It's enough to come up and say, "Well, I understand we're not just to love our neighbors, our friends, and our family. And we're not to hate our enemies, I've got that. We're to love our enemies, we do that by praying, and we see that gives us that ability that we have, Romans 5, Christ's love in us. And then it flows out of us".
But then here's the stinger in the tail-end verse, "Therefore..." By the way, remember therefore. We have been walking through Matthew 5, all of a sudden therefore. He's summing everything up. This wild, counter-cultural life that you and I are called, he's summing and he saying, "Therefore, in light of all of this counter-cultural, upstream kind of lifestyle that we are called upon to live as Jesus followers, in light of all this," he says. Now, if you aren't finished before you get here, this'll finish you off. Jesus says, "Therefore, you are to be perfect," P-E-R-F-E-C-T, "as your Father in heaven is perfect".
Now, if you and I weren't frustrated enough by the time we got this point, now Jesus said, "By the way, you have to be perfect". What's he talking about? Well, first of all, if you're in Christ, God looks upon you as perfect. For openers, we call it imputed righteousness. We received Christ, we take the perfection of Jesus Christ, and God imputes it, he pours it in your life and my life, and he is represented there by the Holy Spirit. So, when God looks at you, if you're in Christ, he says, "There's a perfect woman, there's a perfect man, there's a perfect teenager". So, our relationship with God is one of perfection, we've reached that perfection. It's called justification. Many words.
Now, the other side of perfection means we are to be maturing. Now, this is the sanctification part, means we're a baby, and we're a child, we're a teenager, we're a young adult, we're mature, but it doesn't necessarily happen chronologically. I know a lot of 15-year-old kids that are a lot more mature than a lot of 50-year-old adults in the Lord Jesus Christ. So, it doesn't necessarily work chronologically. Don't think just because you've been around for a while and going to church for a while that... oh, no, no. But there is that progress. So, that is the growth progress of this. And how do we grow? Simply, it's natural to grow. You're in Christ, anything that's alive is growing, anything that's dead is not growing. Have I moved too fast for anybody?
So, how do we grow in Christ? Very simple, very simple. I wish we had time, I'd trace these verses. First of all, we grow by breathing, that's prayer. We breathe in, we breathe out. We grow by prayer, that's what he said. Want to be able to love your enemies? You got to pray for them, really pray for them, not, "Lord, get them. Oh Lord, I want you to bring judgment down". Oh, no, no, no, no, no, we pray they'll be blessed, and touched, and used, and lifted up, and come to know the Lord. See, that's loving unconditionally those who are unlovable. So, we pray, and that's the breathing. We breathe, we grow. That's part, we eat, we grow. 1 Peter says we're to eat the milk of the Word. That grows us up, we see things that we didn't see. That's the Scripture, that's what we're doing now, we're growing together, that's a part of it, and we grow privately. And we grow by being silent, "Be still and know that I am God".
Have you ever just gotten by yourself without any agenda, and got some time, and just take a deep breath, and just settle in, and say, "Lord, be still and know that thou art God"? When I do that, I discover I've been going just like this, and then just to be still. Boy, maybe that's what sickness is all about, huh? Flat of your back, looking only one way. Yeah, be still. You exercise to grow. That's being that salt and light. You get out there among them. Don't just roll up in a ball and just say, "Boy, I'm just about me and mine". Don't get in that little casket that's so dark and selfish. Man, you exercise your faith, you express your faith to grow.
1994, Rwanda, April, two warring tribes, Hutus, Tutsi, always at each other. Two tribes, always warring, always, the Hutus especially were militant. They were led in this part of Rwanda by a guy named Mehdi. Mehdi hated Gabriel, who was a Christian who was in that opposing tribe. He began to plot how he could kill Gabriel, and all of his family, and his neighbors, until finally at the right moment, the right time, he captured them, and all of his hoodlums with him, of the Hutu tribe. And they took and they put them in a flatbed truck, put them in cages like animals. And they took them out to kill them before they took their women out and had their way with them, and then brought them back and began to kill them with machetes, and hoes, and screwdrivers, and pliers, and hammers, anything they had. They began to slaughter them.
But one man in that tribe, along with two other people, that man's name was Gabriel, he ran. He was tall and lean, he ran fast, and he got away from them, he escaped with two friends. When night came, he went back to see if anyone survived, his wife, his children. And he looked and they were all dead, until he noticed a 5-year-old. His arm had been severed by a machete, and he was still alive. And he picked him up, and he ran for 19 miles to the nearest little first aid station, trying to save that boy. When he got there, he put him on a cot and the 5-year-old boy died. Gabriel was filled with hatred, revenge against the Hutus, especially against Mehdi, how he would kill him, how he would strike, how that he would get these who were guilty of genocide.
Then he heard that they'd been arrested, Mehdi and that whole Hutu crowd, and they arrested more of them. They were in a Rwanda jail for 4 years. All this time, he's praying how to get back, how to kill, how to find revenge, what will make up for losing his wife and his family. And finally, in his prayer life, he'd begun to have compassion towards the Hutus, compassion towards Mehdi. And finally, he went to the prison, he walked 7 miles. And he got there, he dealt with all of those he knew, one by one, and told them that God had given him a capacity to love and forgive as God wants to love and forgive them, and he introduced them to Christ one by one. They didn't respond. He went back three or four times until finally they gave him a little tarpaulin area where he could bring them in and tell them about the love of God, the love of Christ, and how he loved them, genuinely loved them, and he had forgiven them, and God would forgive them because of Christ.
And finally, there was a breakthrough, one of the men. He recognized him as the man who had killed his sister. He came and went to him, and cried, and held out his arms, and Gabriel embraced him, and they cried together. He said, "Oh, can you forgive me? Can God forgive me"? He said, "Yes". And then the whole group began to come to Christ, except the militant leader, Mehdi. He was not a part of the group. So, Gabriel went to Mehdi, the one who'd killed his wife and his children, he saw him do it. He went to him and said, "I want you to know I love you, I forgive you," and Mehdi wouldn't listen. But he kept going back until finally, one day, Mehdi just broke down and said, "Oh, I can't believe you love me, you'd forgive me". And he hugged him and he says, "God loves you, and God forgives you because of Christ," and he led him to Christ.
About 6 or 8 months later, the Rwandan government released over 40,000 of these, most of them guilty of genocide towards other tribes. And then they came out. Mehdi came to Gabriel and went back to that community, and he says, "What can I do? I know I can't rectify the horrendous thing, the horrible thing that I've done, but what can I do to help"? And Gabriel prayed, and then he went to him and said, "Mehdi, you take your people, and not only did you kill my family and kill so many, you tore down all their houses. I want you to rebuild, along with us, those houses," and they went. They didn't have a Home Depot, they went and made bricks, and they began to rebuild the houses of all of those they'd exploited and killed, and the houses they've burned down, in brick. And at last report, these two tribes in that area were still working together in the name of Christ and rebuilding those houses as Christ rebuilt their lives. Anybody you having any problem with forgiving? Huh? Jesus says, "The more in the Christian life is we are to love our enemies".