Loving Your Enemies…Or Else!

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

July 10, 2022
5th Sunday after Pentecost

Scripture readings – Luke 10:25-37 and Obadiah vv. 10-16

Today we continue with a sermon series on the “Prophets of the Old Testament.” The prophet Obadiah brings the message of condemnation and punishment to the ancient people of Edom.

Think back to the days in which you were a kid and you were hanging around with either your siblings, your cousins, or perhaps the children of your parents’ good friends.  These kids were often in your early life, and chances are they are still part of who you are.  Brings back good memories to think of these folks and all the fun you probably had back in the day.

Now let’s remember a little something else about those other kids: once in a while (hopefully, just once in a while), there was a problem.  Arguing, whining, loud accusations, tempers rising, and so the adults had to step in before things go out of control.  Chances are those adults did something to get all the warring parties to stop.

Perhaps the adults just listened, talked, and then spoke firmly to just STOP IT.

Perhaps the adults chose to temporarily separate one or two kids from each other for a set amount of time (sort of like a time-out).

Perhaps a lecture was given to the kids that involved talking points such as:

  • “You’re supposed to be friends!”
  • “You don’t usually act like this…there is no good reason for it today.”
  • “You are ruining your own good time…you were playing so nicely a little while ago.”
  • “Keep it up and we will have to leave…and I don’t want to leave yet!”

Any of these statements might or might not have worked, depending on how angry the participants were, how tired the adults were, and if anyone had any patience left over.

But there is one more solution that I heard about from a good friend that never NEVER happened to me (and I’m really glad it didn’t!).  When she and her brother would get into it, their parents forced them to “kiss and make up.”

When this friend described this action to me, I began to laugh pretty hard because of the look on her face when she told the story, because I knew her brother and how close they were today, and because I knew her mother and how loving and funny she could be.  I had no problem believing this…and I have to admit to myself that if my parents had done that to me, I would have settled up quickly just to avoid that…outcome.

In your own families, I suspect that occasionally the adults had to step in when there were problems with your childhood playmates too.  I can also imagine that if we took some time to share those experiences, we might be here all day long.

In our two Scripture readings for today, we have two completely different messages given to so-called members of the same family who should have gotten along, who should have “played nicely” with each other, and who should have never gotten to the point that each considered the other with blind hatred.

In the Old Testament, Obadiah’s very brief prophecy is often overlooked because of two things:

  1.  It’s so short it doesn’t even have chapters…just verses.
  2. Its message is directed to the Edomites, NOT to the people of God in either Israel or Judah.  

Let me give you a little background on the Edomites, so you can be righteously angry too as you hear what Obadiah has to say.

They were descended from Jacob’s brother, Esau.  Almost from the day they were heard of, they were enemies of the Hebrew people.  When Moses and the Israelites wanted to pass through Edom near the end of their 40-year journey to the Promised Land, the Edomites refused to let them pass through their land.

More than once, they rebelled against kings from Judah and undercut that king’s power.  When the Babylonians invaded Judah and destroyed the first Temple that had been built 400 years earlier by King Solomon, the Edomites fought right beside them in destroying Judah.  During one attack against Judah, the people were fleeing from the invading army; the Edomites cut them off and let them be captured, killed, and enslaved.  Another time, during a different attack, the Edomites stood by and did nothing to help Judah at all. 

Small wonder that Obadiah’s harsh message of judgment against Edom included the reminding the Edomites of their violence against their own brother, Jacob. 

The overall message of Obadiah is crystal clear: Judah was your own brother going back to the days of Jacob and Esau.  Those two brothers had big problems, but both brothers came together and forgave one another – especially Esau!  They remained brothers as brothers are supposed to be.

Same family…you’re supposed to stand together.

Then we get another reminder that is often twisted by the parable itself – Luke’s story of the Good Samaritan.

Like the background before you were given Obadiah’s prophecy, let me share a little background before we hear Luke’s parable.

Who were the Samaritans?  And why was the phrase “Good Samaritan” chosen by Jesus to make his point?

Going back at least 3000 years, King David ruled a united kingdom of Israel.   All Israel’s enemies had been defeated, all was peaceful in the land, and finally David could rest from his labors.  His son, Solomon, had not been involved in any of the warfare that Israel had done, so he was chosen by God to build the magnificent Temple in Jerusalem; the Temple was to be the centerpiece of the Kingdom of Israel and the center of worship of God’s people.

At least…that’s how it started.  

It didn’t take long after Solomon’s death before things began to fall apart.  Quickly, Solomon’s sons began to plot and battle one another to see who would control the kingdom.  There were winners and losers, but ultimately the united kingdom split mostly in two: the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah.

Over time, these two kingdoms began to fight against each other, with both claiming to be the true people of God.  Occasionally, briefly, the kings of both countries would come together and sign treaties of peace and cooperation.  Unfortunately, these times were the exception instead of the rule.

By the time of the Assyrian invasion that I spoke of last Sunday, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was conquered, slaughtered, plundered, and carried off into slavery.  The Southern Kingdom of Judah had to pay a hefty tribute to avoid the same fate.  Over the next 150 years, other settlers from Assyria were sent to Israel to occupy and settle Israel.  The people of Judah watched with caution and wariness.  They pretty much refused to have anything to do with “those people.”  Finally, when Judah was conquered by the Babylonians, the Northern Kingdom was a shell of its former self.

After the smoke cleared and the conquering powers let both territories return to their own people, the people of Judah were still pretty much the Hebrew people who still worshiped Yahweh and had their rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem.  Meanwhile, the people of Israel built their own Temple and claimed to be God’s people.  Rivalry…mistrust…ancient deeds became a breeding ground for long-term hatred to develop.  Over time, the north became known as Samaria, and the south became known as Judea.

But go back far enough – and just like Jacob and Esau – you find that both sets of people were closely related…even if they hated each other later on.

And into this bigotry came our Savior, Jesus Christ, who used the image of a Samaritan as being the righteous one who cared for the poor man who had been beaten and robbed on the road to Jericho.

Now let us focus on the message from both readings: members of the same family should not hate one another.  This violates the commandment that Jesus gave when he said, “Love one another.”  Jesus was probably referring to people who were not necessarily related; however, sometimes those in our own families are the ones that we find the most difficult to love.

It’s almost like they know too much about us.  

Who else can push every single one of our buttons except those who know us best?

How much did it hurt our loving parents to see siblings, cousins, or regular playmates arguing and fighting with one another?

Yet, even as grown-up, reasonable, mature adults, we still get into these situations, don’t we?

Old grudges are held.

Old memories stick in our heads as if they had been super-glued there.

Old rivalries, old insults, old hurts…they fester and turn hearts to stone.

And yet we forget perhaps the original lesson of forgiveness that was barely mentioned in passing once: Jacob and Esau forgiving one another.

You have to go back to the Book of Genesis to find this story, but Esau seemed to be fully justified in his hatred for his twin brother, Jacob.  He swore that the next time they met, he would kill Jacob. Yet…the next time they DID meet was filled with tears, hugs, and forgiveness.

Like brothers are supposed to do.

The prophet may warn of impending and justified punishment.

The Teacher may give a parable that rubs one from the hated group of people in our faces – and this was the righteous one.

On the eve of his own suffering and death, our Lord gave us a new commandment: “Love one another.”

Loving one another includes loving our enemies too.

No one ever said it would be an easy commandment to follow.