6th May 2013

Love Your Enemies!

“And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres…But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”
Matthew 5:41, 44 (GNB)
 

The Roman Legions were the occupying forces in Judea during the lifetime of Jesus and could compel citizens to do all kinds of things. We remember, of course, how Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross to which Jesus would later be nailed. The Romans were the enemy and hated intensely by all Jews, whom they persecuted continually. 

As we read the story of Jesus’ encounter with a Centurion, recorded in Matthew 8: 5-13, we can see this “love your enemies” law in action. Here Jesus is confronted by this individual who holds the rank of centurion in the Roman army, probably one of the fiercest fighting forces the world has ever known. But notice this non-commissioned officer is not demanding, but asking humbly for help from a Jew, because his servant is ill. 

Centurions were the very backbone of the Roman fighting machine throughout the empire for maintaining discipline, so this man understands how to speak to superior officers and also lesser ranks in the army. His approach to Jesus is to one of a higher rank—he is very subservient, calling him “Lord!” (Verse 6). And because he approaches Jesus as one of superior rank, he informs him that he is not worthy for him to enter his house, but that he understands rank.  He says, “I myself am under authority but I also have authority over others. I give orders and they are obeyed.” 

This commander of men realised that when he gave orders to his troops it was as if the Emperor himself gave the order, because his authority went up the chain of command to Caesar himself.  He realised that when Jesus spoke it was as if God had spoken. Any foot soldier that disobeyed his order was disobeying his Emperor and anyone who disobeyed Jesus was disobeying God! By saying this he was informing Christ that he understood that his authority was God’s and all creation was subject to it. “Just say the word” he tells the Lord, “and it will be done!” 

This paralysis would obey God and disappear, leaving his servant well! He recognised that Jesus needed neither ritual nor magic, nor any other help.  His authority was God’s authority and his word was effective because it was God’s word. How amazing.  This guy was a Gentile and a Roman, he was the enemy of the Jewish nation, and yet Jesus extended to him amazing love, a love that crosses all barriers! His servant was healed! 

Prayer
Thank you for being the source of all authority, Father, and that everything is subject to it.  Grant us the power by your Spirit to love our enemies also.
Amen
 

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 cliffneillAbout the Author:
Cliff Neill is an Elder in Grace Communion Church Luton, the Worldwide Church of God UK Congregation in Luton.

Local  Congregation:
Grace Communion Church Luton
Farley Hill Methodist Church
North Drift Way
Farley Hill
LUTON
LU1 5JE

Meeting time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Harry Sullivan
Phone:  01908-582222
Email: harry_sullivan@wcg.org.uk

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