This is the final post in a three-part series. Dr. Kim originally delivered his messages at First Presbyterian Church in August, Georgia, for the church’s 2015 Bible and Missionary Conference. Click to read the first and second posts.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
Matthew 5:38-42 (ESV)
Having seen Christ’s confrontation of our hearts that are so prone to hate, and Christ’s expectation to perfectly love our enemies, we turn to our last point: the confrontation of our sinful hearts, and the expectation to love our enemies, can only be accomplished through the penalty-paying and power-providing transformation of grace that only Christ can give. He becomes our penalty-payer and our power-provider.
Why is this important? The only way we can ever confront our sin of not loving our enemies and receive the power to love our enemies is by putting our complete trust in Christ alone and his grace. It’s grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone!
The gospel writers Matthew and Luke demonstrate how the law against hatred and retaliation against our enemies found definitive and decisive transformation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. If we turn to Matthew 27 and read from verse 27, an amazing correspondence develops between his teaching and our ability to follow them.
In Matthew 27 we find the following.
“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. And they stripped Him, and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after weaving a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they kneeled down before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head.”
Turn the other cheek.
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“And after they had mocked Him, they took His robe off and put His garments on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him.”
Give away your cloak.
“And as they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross.”
Go the extra mile.
“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?’ And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.”
Give to those who borrow or beg.
Coincidence? Or planned all along?
Friends, the only way, the only way, you can love your enemies is if you’ve been transformed by grace, from the inside out. Christ did it all. He turned the other cheek, he gave up his cloak, he went the extra mile, he prayed for those who persecuted him, he did good to those who hated him, he blessed those who cursed him, and he, like his Father, was gracious to all. How? By giving up his life for sinners like you and I so that we would be united to him by faith. Christ is our penalty-payer.
He’s also the power-provider.
Luke 24:44-49 reads, “Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.’”
The confrontation of our sinful hearts, and the expectation to love our enemies, can only be accomplished through the penalty-paying and power-providing transformation of grace that Christ offers and we receive through repentance and faith. It is this grace that will transform your heart and your mind, your words and your deeds so you can love your enemy as Christ loved you.
Ernest Gordon experienced this miracle of grace by the River Kwai. Through the strain of captivity, many of these prisoners had degenerated to barbarous behavior, but one afternoon a miracle happened that would forever change the camp.
The Japanese guards carefully counted tools at the end of the day’s work, and on that day the guard shouted that a shovel was missing. He walked up and down the ranks demanding to know who had stolen it. When no one confessed, he screamed, “All die! All die!” and raised his rifle to fire at the first man in the line. At that instant one prisoner stepped forward, stood at attention, and said, “I did it.”
The guard fell on him in a fury, kicking and beating the prisoner, who despite the blows still managed to stand at attention. Enraged, the guard lifted his weapon high in the air and brought the rifle butt down on the soldier’s skull. The man sank in a heap to the ground, but the guard continued kicking his motionless body. When the assault finally stopped, the other prisoners picked up their comrade’s corpse and marched back to the camp. That evening, when the tools were counted again, the work crew discovered a mistake had been make; no shovel was missing.
One of the prisoners remembered the verse, “Greater love have no man than this, than a man lay down his life for his friends.” Word spread like wildfire through the whole camp. An innocent man had been willing to die to save the others! The incident had a profound effect – the men, who for months lived like animals trying desperately to survive, began to treat each other like brothers. With no prompting, prisoners began looking out for each other rather than themselves. Although to be caught meant death, prisoners undertook expeditions outside the camp to find food for their sick fellows. Thefts grew increasingly rare. Men started thinking less of themselves and finding ways to help others. Sacrificial love transforms.
As the newly ‘appointed’ chaplain to his fellow prisoners, Ernest Gordon experienced firsthand the transforming power of sacrifice and grace. One day, he and his fellow camp prisoners saw a group of wounded Japanese soldiers enter the camp on the back of trucks. They could see that their uniforms were encrusted with mud, blood, and excrement. Their wounds were sorely inflamed and full of pus, crawling with maggots – clearly they had been left in this predicament for weeks without any treatment. The prisoners were immediately moved by compassion for these men, so without hesitation, one of the prisoners took a pail of water and began to clean the wounds of a dying Japanese soldier. Other prisoners began to join in, offering food and water.
The Japanese guards tried to prevent them from helping these sick men, who were clearly no longer fit for action. Apparently, whenever one of them died en route he was simply thrown off into the jungle. The prisoners finally understood why the Japanese were so cruel to them – they barely cared for their own. Gordon and his fellow soldiers ignored the guards and knelt by the side of the enemy to give them food and water, to clean and bind up their wounds, to smile and say a kind word. Grateful cries of ‘thank you’ were uttered. On being rebuked by another allied officer, the simple yet powerful words of Jesus came to Gordon, “Love your enemies.” Sacrificial love has transforming power.
Such was the transformative power of grace, that when liberation finally came, the prisoners treated their sadistic guards with kindness and not revenge, with love and not hate. When the victorious Allies finally swept in, the survivors, looking like human skeletons, lined up in front of their captors. The liberating Allied soldiers were so infuriated by what they saw that they wanted to shoot the Japanese on the spot. Only the intervention of the victims prevented them. The captors were spared by their captives. “Let mercy take the place of bloodshed,” said one of the exhausted but forgiving men. “Not an eye for an eye, a limb for a limb.” They all insisted, “No more hatred. No more killing. Now what we need is forgiveness.”
Here is the transformative power of grace.
Here is the power of grace, transforming ordinary people, like you and me, into extraordinary followers of Christ, with kingdom love.
Dr. Julius Kim is the dean of students and associate professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California. His also serves a church calling as associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido. Prior to Westminster Seminary California, Dr. Kim served in a variety of ecclesiastical and academic settings. He is a graduate of Vanguard University, Westminster Seminary California, and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.