“Love your enemies!”
Genesis 45:3-9, Luke 6:27-35
Today’s scriptures, both the Old and the New Testament lessons, come from the lectionary readings for today, and it is about Joseph who forgave his brothers who sold him into Egypt out of envy and jealousy. As all of you might know already, Joseph’s brothers planned to kill him by putting him into the dry pit, but later they changed their minds when they saw caravan merchants going to Egypt. His brothers were wicked and evil, harboring an ill intent to kill him, and they could have killed Joseph if the caravan merchants had not passed by them at that time. Up until then, Joseph was especially favored by his father because Joseph was born in his later years to his most favorite wife, Rachel, and, as a special son, Joseph was used to wearing “many-colored coats”, the coat only princes or princesses would wear at the time, and he was treated differently. Joseph’s ten other brothers were shepherds, but Joseph was not. He was a little prince wearing a many-colored coat in the house. When Joseph who played a prince brought food to them in the field far away from their house, his brothers seized the opportunity to kill him. They all hated him that much. Instead of killing him, however, they later sold Joseph into Egypt through merchants. He became a slave from being a prince, and then to a prisoner. As if becoming a slave was not bad enough, Joseph was plunged farther down to the lowest bottom of the social ladder; he became a prisoner, not just a prisoner, but a prisoner being accused of attempted rape, the worst of the worst prisoners in his time. But his life, as you all know, did not end as the worst kind of prisoner rotting away in a dungeon; he became the prime minister of Egypt, the second to Pharaoh. He was 17 years old when he was sold as a slave, and he became the prime minister of Egypt when he was 30 years old. For 13 years, he experienced physical and mental anguish, all sorts of hardships in life bearing shame and suffering. He named his first-born son, Manasseh, which means “causing to forget”, saying that “God helped me to forget all my hardships and sufferings in Egypt”. We can see from this how much he had to suffer from physical and mental anguish, being a slave and a prisoner.
If it were a drama, our Old Testament lesson for today would have been the climax scene. Joseph revealed himself to his brothers who were responsible for his anguish and suffering. Their situation was reversed. Now Joseph has the opportunity to take revenge on his brothers; he could easily put them to death as the prime minister of the land. But Joseph, instead, forgave his brothers. We have to note one thing in the story that Joseph forgave his brothers after he tested his brothers whether they were repentant for what they did to him. When Joseph saw how regrettable they were for what they did to Joseph and saw Judah offering himself as a slave to Joseph in place of Benjamin, Joseph’s only brother from the same mother, he forgave and consoled his brothers. Verse 5, although you sold me into Egypt, it was God who sent me to preserve life. Verse 6, there will be five more years of famine, there will not be plowing nor harvesting. Verse 7 & 8, “God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt”.
Joseph was a type of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. We can draw up many similarities between Joseph and Jesus the Christ:
Jesus the Son of God became a human, a slave. His total liberty and freedom as God being limited and confined in the human body, subject to the human condition. As if becoming a human was not bad enough, he became a prisoner, not just a prisoner, but the worst kind of prisoner, being nailed on the cross, the capital punishment, bearing all sorts of shame and suffering. But he did not stay in the dungeon, in the tomb. He was raised to life again, being the son of God. God sent him to preserve life on earth, save many from being perished. Where there was no food, Jesus became the bread for people to eat and survive. Every knee shall bow before him as the Lord and Savior as Joseph brothers and Egyptians bowed down before him.
Like Joseph, Jesus forgave those who tortured and ridiculed him. He prayed, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing!” Jesus commands us to forgive and love. Those people we do not associate, those people we do not have a relationship with because we cannot stand them, Jesus commands us to forgive and love them, for they do not know what they are doing. They might be just being foolish and wicked under the influence of Satan. Jesus taught us to forgive and love.
Luke 6:27, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same.
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.
But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most-High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.”
Jesus says if we want to be children of the Most-High, we ought to forgive, love, bless and do good to them, instead of taking revenge on them or getting back at them. Not just who say, “Lord, Lord” will be saved but those who are doers, the followers of Jesus’ commandments will be the children of God. One thing we have to know today is that just because we do not see people around us who practice what Jesus commands us to do, does not mean that God does not require God’s commandments any longer from us.
Numbers 23:19, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change his mind. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not fulfill?
God evaluates us by the absolute standard, not by the relative standard. At school, if we take an exam, if everyone fails, most teachers would waive his or her evaluation standard, saying, ‘Well, since everyone failed, I guess I have to lower my evaluation standard to save some from failing.’ With God, it does not work that way, God cannot lower God’s standard; because he is absolutely holy and upright, God’s judgment standard cannot be changed. It stands forever and ever the same. If God could waive God’s standard, God would not have to send His own son to die. Instead, God could have just lowered His standard to save people. But God’s absolute holiness demands absolute justice. Everyone has to pay for their failures with death. We all were to die, but God is love. God could not just abandon us to death. That was why God sent His own Son who was sinless to die as a ransom for us. The only requirement for us is to believe that Jesus the Son of God had died for us and then to accept Him as our Lord and Savior. That sounds so simple, but it is not so simple. If we say, we believe Jesus only with our lips, but not doing what Christ commands us to do, that means we do not believe in Him. Believing takes, accepting Jesus as the Lord and Savior, and doing what He commands us to do.
You see, that is the key to expand the kingdom of God on earth. By breaking down the barrier of hatred, racism, classism, indifference, distaste, and hostility that is between us with our neighbors, co-workers, our family members and people around us, we can realize the kingdom of God in our midst. As I numerously mentioned, we do not have to die to go to heaven. If we do not love the unlovable, if we do not love someone who does not deserve our love, we cannot be followers of Christ. If we cannot be followers of Christ, we cannot go to heaven even if we die. Those people who have realized the kingdom of God on earth already belong to heaven without having to die. Let us not fool ourselves saying that no one can do what Christ has commanded us to do. Hear the word of God, “Love your enemies and do good to them if you want to be my children.” God demands us to follow Christ bearing our own cross.
Let me introduce you, Korean pastor Sohn, Yang-Won who is known as an apostle of love in Korea. He had lost his two sons to a Communist rebel; his two sons were shot to death by a communist. But he adopted the killer of his two sons and pleaded for his life at the court. The court respected his plea to forgive him and released the killer to him in 1948. This killer became a pastor later, and his son after him became a pastor as well. Two years later in 1950, when the Korean War broke out, pastor Sohn was martyred by a North Korean army because he refused to flee for his life. He was caring for lepers at the time, and he could not abandon the lepers he was caring for. He stayed with lepers and was martyred in 1950. If you ever go to Korea, please visit his memorial center.
We cannot love our enemies on our own strength, but with God, we can. Because love is God’s power that can change us and our enemies, helping us become the families of God. In heaven, we only find people who made their enemies as a family. We cannot find barriers there. With the Christ blood covering on us, there is no one we cannot forgive. Amen and amen!