“While We Were Enemies… Reconciled!”
Romans 5:10: “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
In Jesus’ Name. Amen. What is it like to have an enemy? It is in the human condition to have someone in your life who hates you and perhaps one, whom you are – at least tempted to – mutually hate. And the moment we consider this, none of us should put on holy hats and pretend that we have never known any of this! I have – to my great shame – when in one instance someone hurt a member of my family (threatening their life), my first reaction was not love.
“Hate” is a strong word, but it is what enemies have for each other: their attitude is one of destruction towards another in thought, word, and deed…by what is done and not done. This base thing is why racism is a sin. Racism is one of the symptoms of hatred. Racism is a way to live in hatred towards others. Hatred seeks the destruction of another.
And this is the same reason why hatred towards law enforcement officers is a sin. To hate God-given authority is atrocious and it too seeks to destroy what God has established (Rom 13) and even worse, it rebels against God by seeking to harm or murder the real people who wear the uniform. Same source: the hatred in people. What drives a person to physically torture a helpless human being to death? What drives another to put a gun into the face of a police officer and pull the trigger? Hatred…the violation of the 5th commandment:
The Fifth Commandment: “You shall not murder.” What does this mean? “We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need.”
Jesus taught that people violate this commandment already in their hearts and minds as well as in what they say: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21-22)
Point blank: hatred is the stuff, the fuel, the impetus, the origin, and the driver for murder. And whenever a person is driven in anger, then just watch: behavior towards those they blame will turn to hatred. That is the way we are.
My experience growing up in the Central Valley in my dusty little town (Delano, CA) which at the time had a proportional crime rate to Los Angeles. One of my best friends as a kid saved me from drowning and when we grew up, I went to seminary and he went to prison. It was a tough place to grow up. It felt nothing like what South Orange Country feels like. Going into junior high school, I was trying out for an all-star football team. On that occasion an older kid who had it in for me started making plans…I could sense it during the practice. I knew I was in trouble. Sure enough, when practice was over and the coaches were gone, I was surrounded (literally). One of the bullies grabbed my backpack and as I tried to hold on to it, the big guy threw his closed fist punches into my face. I was experiencing hatred.
But I learned something…to receive hatred is to have hatred born within oneself. I look back at that time: shamefully, despicably I held the event in my heart. The three guys who jumped me were on my radar for revenge. Hate had begotten hate. Shamefully, I relished when I got older to have face-to-face encounters with all three of the guys who jumped me one at a time. Two of them backed down and the third was my target practice at a varsity football scrimmage. It was my goal to make his life miserable that day. I was successful and I was also guilty of breaking the 5th commandment.
But the reason dear Christians that we can never limit our consideration to what happens in our culture and society to these bad memories or to the vivid newscasts that flood our homes, is because there is a deeper problem that is simply by-passed and not considered by the world. And this represents a great danger to us. It is easy to get swept up in the emotional waves and grandstands and forget what lies underneath all of it. Hate begets hate…and every time this happens, humanity is showing its real problem, one that the world insists on ignoring, but not us. Not you Christian and not me.
Saint Paul uses – as Middendorf describes – “the combined force of “weak,” “ungodly,” and “sinners” in [Romans] 5:6-8 lead[ing] into [Romans 5:10 our] being “enemies” …”. (page 401). The Holy Spirit teaches us through this Scripture that we were and – in accord with our sinful nature – are enemies with God. We might ask, “But in this case, who hates whom?” The answer is that it goes both ways, but we started it. We made the first move. At Romans 1:30, the Scriptures describe sinners as QUOTE: “haters of God.” Imagine that!
What has God done? He gives life because He loves, because He is love! And yet what is the sinners’ response? hatred. By nature, we consider God our enemy. And to live in this condition of hatred towards one’s Creator is to live in a state of evil…and guess what? God hates evil. He hates what is destructive; He hates murder, He hates adultery; He hates it when His people get hurt. Psalm 5 verse 5 puts it rather succinctly as the Psalmist refers to God: “The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.” Not that God harbors any kind of sin in Himself, but rather His “hatred” condemns sin; and it leads to His wrath poured out. God destroys evil. That is what a good God does, because evil left laying around will destroy everything in its path.
This is all very unsettling, but it is what is in our hearts…yes, our hearts…everyone on the defensive, everyone on the offensive, everyone who is quiet, everyone who is speaking, everyone from every ethnicity; everyone from every political party; everyone has this cancer within. And this is what ABC or CNN or FOX will not report…none of them will report this.
Our Confessions teach this: “…the Word of God testifies that in divine matters the intellect, heart, and will of a natural, unregenerated man is not only totally turned away from God, but is also turned and perverted against God and toward all evil. Again, that man is not only weak, impotent, incapable, and dead to good, but also that by original sin he is so miserably perverted, poisoned, and corrupted that by `disposition and nature he is thoroughly wicked, opposed and hostile to God, and all too mighty, alive for everything which is displeasing to God and contrary to his will.” (Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article II, paragraph 17)
And in the face of this, a just God has every reason to judge the evil ones…and yet, and yet…
So, Jesus having commenced His public ministry in the world of God-haters and fellow-man haters came and taught in the Sermon on the Mount: “but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:44)… “Oh, that’s easy for you to say Jesus…no one has ever betrayed you! No one has ever protested, mocked, and slandered you! No one has ever attacked you! No one has ever been unjust towards you! No one has ever hated you! No one has ever murdered you! ... Oh … but wait. Yes, we have, and the One who instilled His words into the baptized, into all of you, said: “but I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”. And He was not speaking ideals, but was speaking also about what He was going to do (and what He indeed completed): He heaped all our hatred upon Himself and let God’s wrath against all hatred fall on Himself.
This is what the world needs to know.
With all the chaos Christians, and with the strong possibility of a second wave this Winter and a November election that will probably be like none other, we have this overarching need and call and responsibility: The Church needs to keep being the Church! Christians are called out of the morass to be different.
We are called to hate not people, but evil itself.
And we are called to love all people, and yes, that includes our enemies.
This is the salt of the earth and the light of the world…you Christian, me, all of us who are in Christ and whom Christ has chosen to dwell in doing what salt does and what light does…preserving and bringing hope out of darkness…it’s what Christians do; it is what we are called to do!
What has caused this great reversal from the predominance of evil, hatred, and chaos, to mercy, love, and order? One thing: while we were enemies of God, “we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” and now, we are “saved by his life.” (Romans 5:10)
Hatred and wrath have been overcome by being RECONCILED to God! And this reconciliation Christians is not merely the removal of hostility, but it brings into existence a totally new relationship that is filled with PEACE. The warring parties war no more! We made the first move in hatred; but God made the first move for reconciliation. We have been brought back together with God. Jesus’ blood covered the hatred; and His life opened the way to heaven…and even new lives here and now. This life is ZOA life: an overflowing life that never ends…let us not therefore keep RECONCILIATION to ourselves…let us be the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.