Thursday, March 6, 2008

NT trumping OT

I love the Old Testament. It is our story. It is formative. We need to know it. We cannot understand Jesus or the story of God without it. The NT doesn't obliterate the OT; it fulfills it...it affirms it. These are not my words; they are Jesus'.
However, there are a couple of places where the NT (mainly Jesus) trumps the OT. In the OT, enemies were hated. The phrase "love your neighbor and hate your enemy" was alive in every heart and soul. Read Psalms 54-59. Tucked inside Psalm 23 is the phrase "you prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies." David doesn't have in mind a table where he is sitting with his enemies in an attempt to reconcile. He has in mind a table full of blessings of God in which his enemies look upon from a distant.
This is one place where Jesus is in disagreement with David and the OT. Jesus comes proclaiming and demonstrating something different. David and the OT said, "Love neighbor, but hate and kill enemies." Jesus says, "Love your enemies...pray...do good..." With these words he turned humanity upside-down. He challenges and changes our worldview.
I don't know about you, but I don't love enemies very well. We don't preach it well. We don't live it well. Nations and governments don't operate this way. For thousands of years nations operate with the mentality of "you hate us; we hate you...you like us; we'll like you...you bomb us; we'll bomb you..." Jesus says something different.
I'm not attempting to get into a passifist/just war conversation, but I do want to let Jesus' words have a voice today in a world that hates too well.
We know Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." But we neglect the context. This verse is rooted in a passage on loving enemies. We strive for perfection by following in the ways of the one who challenges the way we view our fellow human beings.

I preached on this a couple of weeks ago. In our service, one of our dear sisters, Sara George, a woman I love, admire, and deeply respect, read this prayer:
Holy Father, we praise your name as our creator, our father, the holy one who has chosen us to be your children. Thank you.
As you promised to us, you provide us with what we need. Yet, we forget to thank you sometimes. And we worry way too much. We confess our sins to You. Please forgive us.
Jesus' words comfort us, challenge us, direct us, and teach us. The stories of his life on Earth and the words of his sermons and lessons are the reason we respond to you the way we do. Without Jesus, we would not have this intimate relationship with you.
But, I confess, God, that some of his words are difficult for me. In Matthew, He said, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven...if you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?"
We consider Satan our greatest enemy. We can't love him. But we have enemies on earth, as well. When other people mistreat us, when terrorists attack, when some speak ill of us, steal from us, lie to us, cheat us...I suppose they are our enemies. And it's hard to love them. Very hard.
But we will try, Oh God. Because you told us to do so. We want to be your children. We want to obey your commandments. So I ask you to give us strength and resolve to love our enemies today. That probably means forgiving them, too. It's hard for us. Please help us, dear God. We cannot love our enemies without your help.
We pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior, your Son.
Amen.

5 comments:

Charlton said...

Great prayer and great thoughts. I always "hate" the part about loving your enemies - proactively seeking to bless them! I'm pretty good at ignoring them or running away, but loving. Ouch!

mchristophoros said...

When I think about it, loving enemies is the only way to "get rid" of them (other than killing them), isn't it? Parents can sort of make kids play together. But when the parent isn't looking, then what? And nations too. Dictators can sort of force people to live together. But look what happened to Yugoslavia once Tito died. It fell apart. And is still falling apart (Kosovo). And I don't like the love enemy stuff either.

jenlowe said...

I have had trouble with loving enemies also-especially when you have been hurt by someone. It is also difficult to forgive them as well. One of the people that became my enemy for some reason(I never knew) kept me from getting the job I wanted for over a year. I finally perserved but it was very difficult because of their hateful actions. One of my co-workers at the time advised me to "let it go" because being spiteful and hateful is so draining. I can not say I ever "loved" them-I just gave up hating them.
The words in Sara's prayer are very real-we can not do this on our own. We have to rely on Christ.

Luke said...

I like preaching on "love your enemies" more than I like living "love your enemies."

The Herrington Hacienda said...

I can't resist...how relevant this topic is...just yesterday, I saw on the news, of all places, an old roomie of mine, a brilliant guy, Christian, Harvard MBA, Wall Street player. And perhaps the most miserable person I have ever been around. He is also formerly of the Boston Movement and certainly ran our NY apartment(excuse me...his apartment) like he was still a BM adherent, I think they killed off some of his brain cells. Anyway on the news he looks older, grayer, rather harmless, although I did cringe when I first saw him. Harder still to forgive and love brethren when they let you down. But as Paul Harvey once said "You can't really grow up until you forgive your parents." In this case it applies to other believers too.