6You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. 7Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. 8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! ~Rom 5:6-10
God defines love as love for his enemies. Related to this, I have 3 points I’d like to cover.
1) We are enemies of God.
2) While we were enemies of God, he forgave us!
3) We ought to love and forgive our enemies.
Throughout this message, I want you to ask yourself one crucial question — do you consider yourself an enemy of God? Without answering “yes” to this question and agreeing with the first point, the other 2 points really have no meaning.
1) We are enemies of God.
What is an enemy?
We have all experienced some sort of bullying or discrimination or some wrong done to us. And when people mistreat us, they become our enemies. No one likes enemies. That’s why we call them enemies.
One of my favorite movies growing up featured an enemy named Johnny Lawrence. He was the bad guy, the classic antagonist, the enemy. Then, you have Daniel Larusso. He was the good guy, the protagonist who gets beat up and bullied by the enemy.
And of course, the movie I am talking about is the original Karate Kid from 1984. How many saw that movie? Well, it’s a classic.
Daniel Larusso, or Ralph Macchio, liked a girl and this made Johnny jealous so him and his buddies jump Daniel and beat him up. And an old Japanese man, Mr. Miyagi, sees Daniel and has pity on him and agrees to teach him karate so that he can defend himself.
And like many Hollywood movies, there is a happy ending. The enemy is defeated, he gets what he deserves and Daniel gets the girl and everyone lives happily ever after. Until Karate Kid II and Daniel reveals how fickle he is in his romantic interests and he falls in love with another girl from Japan. That’s when Daniel Larusso stopped being my hero.
But in Karate Kid I, he was my hero. We watch a movie like that and by the end, when Johnny and Daniel are fighting in the karate tournament, everyone is cheering for Daniel. And we in the audience are all cheering for Daniel. We want him to pummel his enemy. Because enemies should never win. They should be punished.
I was 10 years old when I saw this movie. That’s a very impressionable age. I can say confidently that Daniel Larusso changed my life. I was a chubby, little boy who was too shy to raise his hand in class. Then I saw Daniel Larusso on the silver screen and he inspired me. I signed up for taekwondo and that changed my life.
I started taekwondo when I was around 12 years old. Taekwondo is a korean martial arts, and in case you didn’t know, taekwondo is the highest form of martial arts, better than karate or kung fu or grappling or MMA.
I grew up in an all-white neighborhood and just by being Asian, people assumed I was Bruce Lee’s cousin and therefore a black belt. And so I capitalized on this reputation so that no one would mess with me. So I started training and eventually got the nickname Karate Master among my classmates because to a non-Asian, karate, taekwondo and kung fu are all the same thing.
So I trained for a number of years and learned to defend myself. If there was an enemy or a bully, I wanted to be the one to step in and save the day.
And I got that chance in the 9th grade. By then, I think I was probably a green belt or a blue belt so I was getting up there in rank.
I was outside shooting hoops and my brother was playing with his friends. I was minding my own business. Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw my brother being pushed down and he started crying and I saw his friend riding his bike down the street, as he fled away from the crime scene.
Something happened to me in that moment. I thought about Ralph Macchio and all my righteous indignation began to well up inside me and I started booking down the street in hot pursuit. And I was about 30 lbs lighter and 20 years younger back then so I managed to catch up to the biker while running on foot. And I pushed the supposed friend of my brother down off the bike and I gave him a stern warning — don’t you ever mess with my brother again.
And I was walking back, huffing and puffing, and I was all proud of myself. But a thought crossed my mind. Hey, wait a minute. I am a 9th grader and I am 7 years older than my brother and this friend must be around the same age as my brother. Then, it dawned on me — that kid that I just tossed to the ground is a second grader.
And my pride was instantly shattered and it was replaced by a deep sense of shame as I realized, I am not a defender of my brother, I am a bully.
No one likes bullies. No one likes to be bullied or discriminated against, or abused or mistreated or wronged.
We want to see bullies like me dealt with justly. Justice must be served. Revenge. Retribution. That guy deserves what happened to him. This is how we view our enemies. Lock them up. Capital punishment. They have to atone for what they’ve done.
An eye for an eye. Actually, that Biblical principle is a very gracious — an eye for an eye. Because human nature is my one eye for your two eyes. You wrong me, and my violence toward you will escalate. I got wronged so I will wrong you and your whole clan and I’ll spit on your grandmother’s grave on my way home. This is our vocabulary when it comes to our enemies.
Jackie and I visited Brother Abraham and Sister Sarah in Cambridge a few years back. Daniel and Sora were there, too. And we went punting. And a punt is a shallow boat, like a canoe, and one guy stands at the rear of the boat and he is holding a long wooden pole that reaches to the bottom of the canal and you push off from the bottom and propel the boat forward.
So while we were punting, a bunch of young jr high guys started to call us names. We were in the boat and they were on the land. So whenever we got close to the edge of the canal, they became all quiet, but as soon as they were out of reach, their comments would start up again.
I didn’t mind too much because I can rise above this kind of childish behavior. And we are all Christian leaders so we were gracious to their insults at first. But they crossed the line. They were on a bridge and we were crossing under and they had the nerve to spit a lugie and it landed on one of the sisters’ bags. That’s too much. I am a pacifist but that’s too much. They messed with the wrong Asians!
And in the boat, we have some very unique personalities and we reacted very differently to this situation. Sora was a teacher in the UK and she began assaulting them with question after question: what are your names, what grade are you in, what school do you go to, who is your principal? And she went off, don’t you know that I am a teacher and I am going to contact your school. You boys are in trouble.
And the boys looked scared, but we started drifting away and their comments continued.
I responded by being a bully again. As soon as our boat reached close to the edge of the bank, I jumped out. I think everyone in my boat was shocked. And the boys were definitely shocked. And I grabbed one of the kids’ bags and I held it hostage and I demanded that they repent and apologize. I might have bumped into one or two of them to show them that I meant business. And as I was getting a little physical, I saw that I was wearing my Fuller Seminary sweatshirt, so I tried to cover that up.
Brother Abraham, a former lawyer and currently a professor, came out and I guess all this excitement had caused his back to tighten up so he was clutching his back and pointing his finger while lecturing them about their lowness of character and lack of dignity and respect for others.
Brother Daniel was the brains of our operation. He ran all the way to the other end of the canal to see if he could try to find the ID number of the kids’ boat so that he could get their names and address to contact the authorities.
Jackie responded differently. You know when you are so frustrated that your brain locks up and you don’t know what to say. So I could tell Jackie was reaching that point of brain lock so all that came out of her mouth was, you guys are chicken, bakbakbak. And she started doing the chicken dance. All of us in the boat were speechless. And for a moment, those boys were speechless, too. They had no comeback for the chicken dance.
We can laugh about this story, mainly because it was a one-time experience. Imagine if I lived in Cambridge and I went punting regularly. And every time I got into that boat, those kids were there and they treated us that way over and over and over again. Then, they’d become more than just a bunch of kids that need a beating.
They would become my enemies. And as my enemies, I would sleep at night and dream up ways to sneak up behind them and push them into the water. Or I would devise ways to follow them home and get them back. This is how we view our enemies.
Those kinds of enemies are hard enough to deal with. But the real enemies are those whom we used to trust. If a cashier at the grocery wrongs me, it might bother me for that moment, but it would pass. But when a friend betrays us, they are not just a former friend, they become a bitter enemy. And the closer that person is to us, the stronger the bitterness when they wrong us. That’s why abuse or mistreatment at the hands of a family member or anyone you trusted is such an unforgivable sin. And we live hating them and treating them like mortal enemies.
We hate enemies. If we could, we would hurt our enemies. If we never got caught, perhaps we would even kill our enemies.
In Rom 5, Paul clearly points out that we are enemies of God. And we mistreated God over and over and we rejected him over and over again. And we did this rejection as children of God. He created us. He is our Creator and there was once a closeness and an intimacy. But we rejected him and how painful our rejection must be to our loving Heavenly Father.