Skip Heitzig - Love Is a Verb
Happy new year. Now that it's 2020, we can see clearly, right? Well, you look all great. I hope you had a great holiday as we celebrated the advent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ if you were here or you were traveling, but we're glad you're back with us. Would you turn in your Bibles, please, to the book of Romans, Chapter 12? Romans Chapter 12. So there were two teenage boys that we were talking about dating. And one said to his friend, listen. I have a cousin. She's pretty girl. She's smart. I've set you up on a date with her Saturday night.
And his friends said, oh, no, no, no. I don't do blind dates. No, thank you. The guy said, no, really. She's a pretty girl. She's smart. You'll really like her. I've set it up. But if something happens where you just don't want to do this once you see here, do what I do. He goes, well, what do you do? Well, what I do is I ask the girl out, go to the door, when she opens the door, if I take a look at her and go, nah, nah, I don't want to do this, what I do is I fake like I have an asthma attack. Put your hand over your throat and go... Just do that you and you can get out of it.
So the guy said, OK, I'll go out with your cousin. So he goes over to her house, knocks on the door. She opens the door. He takes one look at her and she's beautiful. And for him, this teenage boy, it's love at first sight. And so he's so pleased. But then that girl looks at him and grabs her throat. And goes... Hey, let me ask you a question. Would you agree that the word love is an overused word in our culture? In fact, Time Magazine said it's time to change the meaning of the word love. You know how we use love. We throw that word around. It means so many different things. I love my wife. I love my children. I love your car. I love that color. I love pizza.
Well, when I say I love my wife, it means I care about her. I want to spend time with her. I want what's best for her. When I say I love pizza, I don't care all that much about a personal relationship with pizza. I don't want what's best for pizza. When I say I love pizza, all I mean is I like it when I want to eat it. And when I'm done eating it, you can throw it away, give it to the dog, put it in the refrigerator till it gets moldy. I don't care. When a person says to you they love you, how do they love you? Do they want what's best for you, or do they say they love you because really, they want something for themselves? So the next time somebody says I love you, you might just want to ask, at least in your own mind, is that pizza love? Or is that the real thing?
According to the dictionary, love is a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. A feeling of warm, personal attachment. In other words, the dictionary defines it as a noun that is a feeling. That's one of its definitions. I suggest we start viewing love not so much as a noun but as a verb. Actions we are willing to take to demonstrate something. In fact, the very first time in the Bible the word love is used, it appears in the book of Genesis. So it's a Hebrew word. And the Hebrew word is.... And the word means an act of doing. An act of doing. It is connected directly with action and obedience. The root of that word... is... and it means to give. So now we're starting to get the real definition, the biblical definition of love. The idea is it wants more to give than it does to get.
For years, I've enjoyed the movie Fiddler on the Roof. I think it came out in 1971. Anybody remember that film? One of the greatest films, in my opinion, ever. So I love it because it's a musical. I love it because it's quirky. There's some funny parts in it. But I love the part when the patriarch named Tevye says to his wife Golda, they've been married a quarter of a century. And he turns to her and says, do you love me? And what he's waiting to hear is, oh, I have this warm, fuzzy feeling about you. But rather she says to him, for 25 years. I've wash your clothes, I've cooked your meals. I've cleaned the house. I've given you children. I've milked your cow. If that's not love, what is? Bingo. Love is a verb. Love is willing to act on something.
Now, we come in the book of Romans Chapter 12, beginning in verse 9 to the end of the chapter, with a section that really is summed up with the word love. Paul is very practical, and especially in chapter 12. He gives us 11 chapters that he sums up as the mercies of God in chapter 12 verse 1. He's saying, all that you know of what God's plan is for you. Therefore, now, here's the will of God for you. So chapter 12 verse 1 and 2 is the will of God generally. And then chapter 12 beginning in verse 3 is the will of God specifically. And we come now to chapter 12 verse 9 to verse 21. Section of 13 verses.
But get this. This is how practical Paul is. In 13 verses, he gives us no less than 30, 3, 0, commands. 30 commands, 30 exhortations, all dealing with love, the very heart, the very motive of the Christian life. So what I want to do, because we're not going to be able to cover every nuance of these 30 commands and 13 verses, I want to sum it up by dividing love up into three areas. Love displayed in three areas. First of all, love in the family, and what I mean by that is the Christian family. The body of Christ, the family of God. Second, love amidst hostility when we're out in the world and people don't sympathize with us. And then number 3, love among our enemies. When somebody is really poised against you.
Well, let's begin with the first. Love in the family. That begins in verse 9. Paul writes, "let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another." "Not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer, distributing to the needs of the Saints, given to hospitality." First thing I want you to notice is that in verse 9, he begins with a statement about the quality of love. When he says let love be without hypocrisy, I'm going to give you a quiz right now because I know you're Bible nerds. You're Bible students. When he says love, what word do you think he is using from the Greek language?
Agape. See, a lot of you know that already. He uses the term agape. Why is that important? Because up to this point, Paul has never used that term agape, love, for love describing our love to one another. So far in the book of Romans, the only time Paul has pulled out the word agape is when he wants to talk about how God loves us. Now he takes the term, he is used to describe God's love for us and says that is the love you are to have for one another. Why? Because agape love is the gold standard for Christian love in the Greek New Testament. It is the one thing Jesus said, the world will be able to tell that you belong to me. John, Chapter 13. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, by the agape love that you have one for another. That's our calling card, love.
Now let me just sort of brush up on some of these words. In Greek, you know how I said we have one word for love? I love my car, I love your car, love your color, love your pizza, love whatever. My wife. We have the same word for many different things. In the Greek language, not so. They have several different Greek words for love. There are four principal words. The first Greek word is the word eros. Eros is the term where we get erotic. It's physical love. It's never found once in the Greek New Testament. It's a word that means to grab or to grasp because the idea is self-satisfaction. That's the first word. The second word that is used in Greek, it is found in the New Testament, is the word phileo. And phileo shows up in words like Philadelphia or philanthropy. This is brotherly love. This is affection for a friend, a fondness for another person.
A third word is the Greek word storge. Storge is family love, like when a parent loves a child or a child loves a parent. It is family affection. But then there's that fourth term, and it's used here, agape. It's as if the writers of the Greek New Testament wanted to come up with a word all in its own class to describe the kind of love God gives to us and that we in turn should give to others. So that's the word he uses. And notice what he says. Verse 9. Let love, let agape, be anupokritos. It's one word. Anupokritos. Without hypocrisy. Hupokritos, where we get the word hypocrite, was a word that simply meant an actor.
In the Greek stage, because they didn't have many backdrops, actors would come out on the stage with a few different masks on a stick, like a happy face, or a sad face, or a somber face. And they would put the mask on and speak through the mask so that the word hypocrite came to mean somebody who wears a mask, or an actor. So when he says let love be without hypocrisy, he means genuine love. Love without a mask. Not the kind of love where you give somebody a nice, sweet compliment, but when they leave you stab them in the back with gossip. That's fake love. That's love wearing a mask. Church, the family of God, should never become a stage that is filled with fake love. I know some parts of the country where when they say bless your heart, that's not a compliment. It's a bad thing.
I remember hearing some people go well, I love him with Christian love, which could be translated, I can't stand him. But if I say that, it just sounds better. I kind of have to love him, so I love him with Christian love. Let your love be absolutely genuine and not feigned. Not fake. Matthew Henry said hypocrisy is to do the devil's work in God's uniform. That would be fake love. Let me give an example of feigned love, fake love. Judas Iscariot. On the same night that he sold Jesus out for a few pieces of silver, he met Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. And how did he greet him? With a kiss. And that's so upset Jesus that he even said, you betray the son of man with a kiss? This signal of affection, but in your heart, you don't love. I have much more respect for an honest atheist than a bogus believer. Let love be without hypocrisy.
But notice, it's followed by another command. Right after he talks about love, what's the first word in verse 9, the second sentence? What does it say? Abhor. You know what abhor means? Hate very strongly. Isn't it odd that after talking about genuine love, he immediately talks about hate as a command? Love, hate. I want you to love that, but I want you to hate that. Why? Because part of authentic love is authentic hatred. What do I mean? I mean, that's God's character. God hates evil. God hates unrighteousness. But God loves what is good. And God especially hates hypocrisy. He hates false religion.
You remember in the first chapter of Isaiah, God through the prophet speaks to his people. They're coming to worship in the temple. They're bringing sacrifices. They're keeping the feast days, the Sabbath days, the new moons, they're doing all the religious activity. And God says, who has required that you trample my courts like this? Bring no more vein ablation. Incense is an abomination to me. Your Sabbaths and your feast days my soul hates. God is saying he hates false religion.
Now, I think one of the greatest problems, one of the greatest weaknesses in the church, is not intolerance. I think one of the greatest weaknesses is tolerance for evil. You know, it's just so much around us. It's in every movie we see. And pretty soon, well, you know, that's just the world. You can't get rid of it. You and I should hate it. We should abhor that which is evil.
Paul rebuked the Church of Corinth because they were tolerant of immorality. Paul rebuked the Church at Galicia because they tolerated legalism. Jesus rebuked the Church at Thyatira, saying, I have this against you. You tolerate that woman Jezebel. She misleads my servants into sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. Apparently one of the members of that church was very loose morally, and that started having repercussions as an example with some of the other church members. Jesus said, I have that against you. You tolerate that stuff. You shouldn't tolerate evil in your own life.
Why? Because it is evil that stains the fellowship, the love that we have in the body of Christ. It brings something foreign into it. It ruins it. In the very next verse, speaking of this family love, he says, be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love in honor, giving preference to one another. I want to brag on you for just a second. I get lots of letters, texts, emails from different people, visitors of this church. You know, we have a thing where we welcome people. What you don't always hear is what I hear when people say, man, I just started coming here, or I visited your church last week, and the love that I experienced from people in your fellowship toward one another was overwhelming to me. It made such an impact on me.
One of the phone calls I got a while back was from a man who called to say thank you and to share this blessing. He said, he and his wife were in the 8,000 block of Central Avenue here in Albuquerque, which is not the best part of town. And he parked his car on the curb, went inside of a store. He left his wife in the car locked, parked. Went inside to do some business in a store. And he said while I was in the store, this is how he put it, for Calvary Fellows approached the car, knocked on the window. My wife rolled down the window slightly. Looked up at these four guys. They said, excuse me, ma'am, but one of your tires is hissing. I think you have a flat. If you'd like, we'd be happy to change it for you.
Got the keys, opened the trunk, jacked the car up. Changed the tire on the car. He was inside. He came out. It was already done. All he saw is there's four guys by my car. Only to find out they're four Calvary fellas. And what he said was, he said to me on the phone, he had just gotten out of the hospital. He would not have been able to fix that tire if he would have been there out there with them. He said, God sent them. And so here's why I love it. Just when I get worried, and sometimes I do, boy, this church is getting so big and so impersonal. And how could we ever so love one to another? I get letters like that, and thinking, you're doing it! Awesome. Thank you for being such a great family.
Now, look at verse 11, because I see verse 11 as the motive for this family love. When Paul writes, not lagging in diligence but fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. That's the key. Because we are serving the Lord and that's our motive, we want to please Him and honor Him and serve Him, it's that love for Him and service to Him that spills out in loving others. If we love the Father, we love the Father's children. The New Living Translation renders verse 11, never be lazy in your work but serve the Lord enthusiastically. I love seeing enthusiastic believers. I love it when you sing enthusiastically. I love it when you serve enthusiastically.
But have you noticed maybe in your own life, I have noticed it in my life, there seems to be seasons of our spiritual walk? We come to Christ. We're so excited. We're so on fire. We can't wait to pray. We can't wait to read our bibles. We'll spend hours doing that. We want to talk to people about the Lord. And then something happens somewhere along the line. We just sort of lose the wind in our sails. The spark is gone. The fire subsides. We're not as fired up about it.
That's why I love Luke chapter 24 when Jesus spoke to those two guys on the road after the Resurrection, the road to Emmaus. And after Jesus left, one guy turned to the other guy and said, did not our hearts burn within us as He spoke to us along the way and open to us the scriptures? It is that burning of heart that should mark our enthusiastic service to the Lord.
Now I know we live in a day and age where we have lots of knowledge. But our passion should match our knowledge. I know that you can have a zeal for God not according to knowledge, but I think it's also bad to have knowledge without zeal. I know some people are a little bit afraid. I don't want to be a fanatic. I used to be that fanatic when I was a young Christian. But now that I am old and stale and sophisticated. I've always found it's easier to cool down a fanatic than it is to warm up a corpse. You can always hold the thoroughbred back. But you get a horse that's just lazy and it's hard to get that thing going.
It's enthusiasm for God that should fuel our love for God's children. So this is family love. This is level number 1. This is the tightest circle that Paul draws. Here's what I want you to see here. This first expression of love among God's people, among God's family, we got to get this. Because the next two levels are much harder. Loving a hostile world and then loving somebody who would be considered an enemy, how are we ever going to do that if we can't love each other?
If you can't love the Christian family, if Christians can't get along with each other, how in the world are they going to face their enemies and make a positive impact on them? So that's where it begins. Family love. Love in the family.
Second level is love amidst hostility, verse 14. "Bless those who persecute you. Bless do not curse." Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things but associate with the humble.
Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath. For it is written, 'vengeance is mine. I will repay,' says the Lord.
Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Beginning in verse 14, Paul makes a very obvious pivot away from loving in the church family to love amidst hostility. Loving the world that is around us. Now he's writing to a group of believers who live in Rome.
Rome was becoming a very hostile environment for believers. It was going to be hard, it already was, but it was going to get much harder for them to live out their Christian belief system in the world of Rome because it was becoming so adverse to them.
So how do you show love when you're under pressure from an unbelieving world? Well, to answer that, let's work our way from general to specific. First of all, would you notice in what we just read there are 4 negative commands.
Don't do it this way. Four negative commands. And also for comparisons between good and evil. Like, don't do it this way but do it that way. So look at that. Verse 14. Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse.
Verse 17. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. Verse 19. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath. Verse 21. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
In other words, our love should be independent of the treatment we received from others. So they may curse. We will bless. They may hate. We will love. They may avenge. We will not.
Now that sounds good on paper. But let me say this. That is impossible. Apart from being plugged into Jesus Christ. If you try to do this on your own, OK, I'm going to work my way up to it. I'm just, won't work. You'll fail.
But here's the good news. When you're plugged into Jesus, you're abiding in him, you're connected to him, you have an endless capacity to show love. You'll never get to a place where you go, I'm out of love. It just ran dry.
It'll never happen. Because Romans chapter 5 verse 8, which we already covered, it says, for the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. So God pours his love into us, and that never stops, so that the love we pour out to others can never stop. We have an endless capacity to show love because we endlessly receive it from his capacity.
Loving people who are lovely, that's easy. Loving people who love you, that's easy. Loving hostile people, people who are not sympathetic with you, not so easy. But it's mandated.
You know, I do think that we live in a very divided world. In fact, heck, we live in a divided country. I think right now more than ever before politically, rhetorically, just the language that is used daily basis on news clips and by different parties with different candidates and different, it's such a toxic environment.
I had one gal call me the other day and say, I'm just so confused by this. I feel like I'm in an emotional roller coaster. You know, we feel like those two kids who are, two young boys who were on a Little League team. They were both in the dugout.
They're sitting there in the dugout. One guy looks up and sees this pretty little girl sitting up in the grandstands. And he says to his friend, you know, when I stop hating girls, she's the one I'd like to stop hating first.
I've got a question for you. Who is it you need to stop hating first? A gender? You're always deprecating. Ah, that's just a woman. They drive like that. Or that guy. You know how guys people. Or a different skin color, or ethnicity, or background, that you find in your language you're always depreciating. Who will you stop hating first in the hostile world that we're in?
Now I said we're going from general to specific. Now let's get specific. To be able to love amidst hostility, Paul gives us two useful tools. The first tool is to sympathize. The second tool is to harmonize.
I want to show it to you. Verse 15. Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. That's to sympathize. That is, love tries to enter in to the emotions of others. If they're up, if they're down, if they're laughing, if they're crying, if they're disappointed, if they're elated. Love will try to do that.
Do you know what the shortest verse in the New Testament is? If you do, shout it out. What's the shortest verse? "Jesus wept." See, you're so smart. Shortest verse in the New Testament. Jesus wept. When I first read that, my first thought wasn't, you know, that must be the shortest verse in the New Testament.
My first verse when I read that Jesus wept is why? Why did Jesus weep? He wasn't crying because Lazarus was dead. That's the context of it. He shows up to Lazarus' funeral. It says, Jesus wept.
He's not crying because Lazarus is dead. He knows that in five minutes he's going to call the boy back from the dead. Why did Jesus weep? Because Mary and Martha were weeping. He was entering into their emotional state at that time, and probably even weeping for their unbelief that he saw in that crowd. But it says, Jesus wept.
Now, see if you agree with this. I've found that it's easier to weep with those who weep than it is to rejoice with those who rejoice. Give you an example. Somebody is suffering. Somebody is crying. Somebody is in anguish.
It's not a hard thing to walk up to them, put your arm around them, and I'm so sorry. Let me pray for you. It's going to get better, and encourage them. It's not that hard because you're not suffering, they are. So you come up and you really try hard to empathize, to sympathize. That's not hard.
But it is much harder to rejoice with those who rejoice. You go, it is? Yeah. Here's an example. You're at work. You've been waiting for a raise for five years. Your co-worker who, in your view, doesn't work as hard as you do, comes up to you and says, rejoice with me! I just got a promotion and a raise! And you're going, praise God.
You did? 'Cause I didn't. That's harder. Or how's this one? It's the new year and your friend sees you at church and goes, I got a brand new car for Christmas. You're driving that beat up Ford Fiesta that never starts. And it's hard for you to enter into joy. In my day, it was the Ford Pinto and that was, like, the worst car ever made. So that's the first step, sympathize. Second step is to harmonize. Look at verse 17. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, I'm glad he wrote that, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
All men. Believers and nonbelievers. Christians and the world. If it's possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Two qualifications to being a peacemaker. Number 1, you initiate it. As much as depends on you. Don't sit there with your arms folded and go, well, I'll make peace only if they initiate it. They have to call me. They're the ones who hurt me. They got to call me.
No, you reach out to them. But there's a second qualification to making peace. Both parties have to want it. Sometimes they don't. So he says, if it's possible. Because sometimes, frankly, it's just not possible.
You initiate. You want to make peace. Let's talk this over. Let's pray together. They go, talk to the hand. Go away. Do not even want to engage with you. You're out of my life.
You're not responsible for that. You're only responsible for your motive, for your own heart. You can control your response, not theirs. But never let the inability to live at peace be on your side of the fence.
Years ago, there was a good book called Irregular People by Joyce Landorf. Tremendous book. Irregular people. Just the title makes you snicker, right? She in her book contends that every one of us has at least one person that we would classify as an irregular person.
How does she describe it? It's the person who has a knack of wounding you every time they see you. When you're with them, they seem to always say the wrong thing. They ruin your day. Your emotions are in constant coaster whenever you're around them. They are so insensitive. That's an irregular person.
I know. I don't even have to ask you to raise your hand. You're already thinking of one or two or three. But she also writes in her book, each one of us is also an irregular person to somebody else. So not only do you have them, you are one.
So as much as you can, take the initiative, sympathize, and then harmonize. So that's love in the family. Love amidst hostility. Now in the last section of our message, I want to zero down on something very specific, and that is love among our enemies.
I want to look at a few verses where he gives explicit counsel of living with and loving our enemies. Look at verse 19. "Beloved..." isn't that a sweet way to begin a sentence? Loved ones. Beloved. Ones that I deeply love. "Do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath."
Give place to whose wrath? God's wrath. "For it is written, 'vengeance is mine. I will repay,' says the Lord." You know, I've discovered that God is always better at vengeance than I am.
First of all, he knows the motives. My motive, their motives. He knows all of the details. My details, their details. He would never in dealing with that person hurt them too much. I probably would.
That's why the Bible says eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That's an Old Testament law because our first gut reaction is you took out one of my teeth, you're going to get dentures. All of them. You took out one of my eyes, you're going to be blind in both of yours. That's human nature.
So God says, don't do that. Let me handle that. Therefore, verse 20. "If your enemy is hungry..." your enemy now, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him a drink."
Now if you actually do that, you will blow his mind and probably annoy him. In fact, I'll get to it, but that's sort of the thought in the next sentence. "For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
Now some of you may be sitting up right now thinking, well, I don't have any enemies. Number 1, if you say that, you don't have a pulse. Or you're lying through your teeth. Because we all have enemies. Webster's Dictionary defines an enemy as one who is antagonistic to another. Got any of those? Yeah, probably a bunch of them.
David in Psalm 23 said in his prayer, you prepare a table before me in the midst of my enemies. The midst of my enemies. Did David have enemies? He was a servant of God. Did David have enemies? Oh, he had tons of them.
Goliath was an enemy. The Philistines army was a group of enemies. The Amalekites were enemies. The Moabites were enemies. The Syrians were enemies. Those are obvious ones.
David had not so obvious enemies. His father-in-law Saul became an enemy. His own son Absalom became an enemy. His trusted counselor Ahitophel became an enemy.
And Jesus said, a man's enemies will be those of his own household. Now why do we have enemies? Well, because we are human, number 1. But number 2, because we are Christians. And if you love Christ with all of your heart, if you follow Him passionately, if you serve Him enthusiastically, which means you will be vocal about your love for Him in this world, it's not going to go well.
Paul gave Timothy a promise. All those who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Do you think hell is going to give you a standing ovation if you're an obedient, evangelizing child of God? The minute you say, I believe there's only one way to heaven. I believe you need to come to Jesus Christ. That's the only way your sins can be forgiven. When you start being that narrow-minded and that vocal about who you are and what you believe, you're not going to have a sympathetic ear. And Jesus tells us why. For men love darkness rather than light.
It's like when you're in a dark room, you become accustomed to the dark room, and somebody turns on a bright overhead light. You want to cover your eyes and say, turn that thing off. So when you go into a situation and you bring Jesus into that situation, people will cover their eyes to their hearts and say, turn that thing off. Great persecution is simply the result of the great commission. Go into all the world and preach the gospel. So what are we to do? What are we to do when we garner enemies? When we garner the scorn of the world? Are we to strike back? That'd be more fun. Are we to hit them harder. Are we to plot ways to make them crazy?
There's an old Chinese proverb that says if your enemy wrongs you, buy each of his children a drum. Listen, I'll be the first to admit it. Vengeance is fun. It is entertaining. It is wholly satisfying. We love it because it feeds our flesh, our base nature. There was a housekeeper that worked for a family for decades, and she was fired by the homeowner without notice. Just go. You're done. Here's your last check. Go away.
The housekeeper reached into her purse, took out a $5 bill, went over to the family dog and threw it on the floor to the dog. The owner said, why'd you do that? She said, I never forget a friend. It's for helping me clean your dishes all this time. You know why we laugh? Because we like it. Yeah. Vengeance is mine. I'll admit to you, when I'm driving, I get turned into another person. I am not good behind a wheel. At least I have a slower vehicle because, you know, it drives me nuts! It's like, where did all the stupid people come from? They all moved to Albuquerque and they're driving. And I'm driving down the road and they'll get up, cut me off, and then slow down. Oh, I want to follow them all over town! I've only done it a couple of times. No, I'm just kidding.
Now why should we love that? Why should we forgive that? Why should we feed and clothe and bless that? I'm glad you asked. I'll give you three reasons why we should. Number 1, because Jesus commanded it. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, you have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you love your enemies. Bless those who curse you. Do good to those who hate you. Pray for those who spitefully use you. Boy, that's so foreign to our thinking. It is so radical because it's so unusual. Nobody does that. But Jesus said to do it. He commanded it.
Second reason. Not only Jesus commanded it, Jesus practiced it. He lived it. They hurled insults at him. They beat him up. They put a crown of thorns on his head. They pinned him to a cross. And when he was hanging on that cross, did he go, Father, nuke them. Did he turn to the crowd and say, I'm coming back in three days. I'm going to hunt you down. He said, Father, forgive them. First word out of his mouth. Father, forgive them. They don't know what they're doing. Peter in describing Jesus in First Peter chapter 2 wrote, when they hurled insults at him, he did not retaliate. When he suffered, he made no threats, but he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
So here's why we should do it. Jesus commanded it. Jesus practiced it. Here's the third reason. People will notice it. When you do that, people will sit up and notice it because nobody does that. He just blessed him. He just gave me a gift. He was nice to that guy. Nobody does that. People will notice that. That's the gist of verse 20. Look at it once again. Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he's thirsty, give him to drink. For in so doing, you will heap coals of fire on his head.
What does that mean? It's an illustration. It's a reference to an old Egyptian custom in antiquity. When a person wanted to demonstrate public contrition, put a cloth on their head for insulation, and on the cloth put a little pan of burning coals to represent burning pain and shame of guilt. It's like a way of saying, I'm really sorry about that and I want you to see how sorry I am. That's what all that is about. So what Paul is saying in using this illustration is when you love your enemy, when you don't retaliate, when you feed him, when you bless him, we shame him for his hatred. People are going, man, I was really rotten to that guy. He was so nice to me.
You want an illustration of that? David and Saul. Saul tried to kill David. Saul hunted David. One day, Saul went into a cave. David was there. Saul didn't know it. David's buddy said, kill him. This is the Lord. God delivered him into your hands. David said, no. He's the Lord's anointed. I won't touch him. He cut a little piece of cloth off of his robe. When Saul left, David was on the other side of the valley. He started waving that little cloth around saying I couldn't killed you, but I didn't because you're God's anointed. I love you. It says when, Saul saw that and heard that, he wept. And he cried out to David, saying, you are more righteous than I am, for you repaid me with good and I repaid you with evil. That's heaping coals of fire on one's head.
Now, we're closing. And I just want to say something to some who will be able to relate to this. I feel some people, because they've been hurt, they guard their hearts so tightly, so much. They don't want to be hurt anymore by others. They will not give their love away to anyone, because every time they do, they get burned. They get hurt. So they build walls up and they isolate. They're imprisoned. They don't want to be vulnerable anymore I'll be honest with you. I have had my own heart broken hundreds of times in public ministry. And every time, God says, love them again. Be vulnerable again. Again, again, again. That's what we just read.
C.S. Lewis in his book The Four Loves writes, to love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it up carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries. Avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your own selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.
It will not be broken. It will become unbreakable. Impenetrable. Irredeemable! The only place outside of heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers of love is hell. It's the worst prison in the world to be so isolated because people have trampled on your love. The love of God is still being poured out into your heart. Receive it afresh and give it a fresh so that the world goes, man, that guy showed love to me when I showed hatred to him. They'll notice it. Jesus commanded it. Jesus did it. People will sit up and take notice.
Father, thank you for your love. It is like no other. And that's the love we can tap into. As an act of will, as an act of obedience, whether we feel like it or not, eventually, because we obey you, we're going to feel it. It's going to feel really good. Even when our hearts break because they've been trampled on. Because we know at the end of the day, we have lived to please you. May we be known by our love to one or another. Our love amidst a hostile world and our love even among enemies. In Jesus' name, amen.
Let's all stand. Hey, we're going to sing the song. But as we close, I needed to say something to you at the beginning of this year as your pastor. I love you. I love you deeply. During my stay in the hospital and this recovery from back surgery, I felt so loved and encouraged and carried, buoyed, really, by your prayers. And I just want you to hear it from me. I love you. And it's not pizza love.