Jubilee: Extending the Invitation to Let Others Leave “The Enemy Zone”

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage begins with the twenty-fifth verse of the tenth chapter and continues through to the thirteenth verse of the eleventh chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find some incredibly powerful language surrounding the nature of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ and three specific encounters He had around this time. If and as you take the time to read the words which are found in this portion of text you will find Jesus interacting with a certain lawyer who stood up that he might tempt Him around the matter of eternal life and what must be done to inherit it. Within this portion of text you will also find Jesus entering into the town of Bethany where two sisters—Mary and Martha would invite Him into their home and would graciously host His presence there in the midst of the house. Within this portion of Scripture you will also find the disciples coming unto Jesus and asking Him perhaps the single most important question any disciple and/or follower of Jesus could ask. There is within this portion and passage of Scripture the incredibly wonderful narrative of the disciples coming unto Jesus and asking Him what might seem like an incredibly simple question, yet one which is actually truly profound and powerful when you take the time to think about it. You cannot read the verses found within this portion of the text and not encounter Jesus teaching what it truly means to be a neighbor, as well as Jesus teaching His disciples how to pray, and even revealing unto Martha that which is the most necessary and needful thing when seeking to host the presence of Jesus within your house. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we have a great need to pay close and careful attention to the words which are written and recorded within these verses, for they bring us face to face with the incredibly powerful truth surrounding prayer, surrounding what it means to be a neighbor, and what is truly needed when inviting Jesus into your home and hosting and entertaining the person of Jesus after He has accepted your invitation.

            If and as you begin reading the words which are found within this portion of Scripture you will be brought to the point and place where there was a certain lawyer who stood up—and not only did this lawyer stand up, but he would stand up with a very specific purpose and motive. In all reality it is quite remarkable and astonishing when you think about and consider the words found in this portion of Scripture, for not only will you find this lawyer standing up and asking Jesus a question, but you will also find the motive behind his standing up, as well as behind the question he would ask Jesus. Perhaps one of the greatest truths found within the four gospel narratives is not only Jesus’ ability to know the thoughts and intentions of the hearts of those who would seek to accuse, condemn, and tempt Him, but there were certain times when the gospel authors and writers actually took the time to make known the motives, the intentions and the reasons behind those questions which the religious elite asked of Jesus during those three and a half years He walked upon the face of the earth. It is actually astonishing and captivating when you think about and consider this particular truth, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous insight, foreknowledge, omniscience and discernment Jesus had within Himself. Regardless of whether it was revealed unto Him of the Father, or whether it was made known unto Him by the Holy Spirit which was given unto Him without measure, or whether or not it was simply part of His divine nature which was retained even as He became the Word which became flesh and dwelt among us we know that Jesus the Christ was very much aware of the thoughts, the motives, the reasons and the intentions of the hearts of men. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with this incredibly awesome and powerful truth—particularly and especially when you read the gospel narratives and see how they seem to also provide us with the motives and intentions which were behind the words and actions of those who sought to come unto Jesus.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the tremendous amount of language that is found within this particular portion of Scripture and how the beloved physician Luke didn’t merely write and record how this lawyer stood up to ask Jesus the question of what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, but Luke also took the time to write the motive and underlying reason behind this question. It would have been one thing for this lawyer to stand up and ask Jesus what he ought to do to inherit eternal life based on a pure and genuine desire to know and understand what would be required of him, however, Luke writes and records that the sole reason and purpose for this lawyer standing up in the midst of those who walked with and followed Jesus and asking him what he ought to do to inherit eternal life was because he desired to tempt him. Pause for a moment and think about how absolutely incredible this truly is, for while it was true this lawyer would indeed and would in fact ask Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, the sole reason and purpose for his asking Jesus this question was that he might tempt Him. Pause and consider the tremendous and inherent danger surrounding this lawyer—and not only the question he asked, but also the motive, the reason and the purpose for the question which was asked. It wasn’t simply the fact that this lawyer stood up and asked Jesus what he ought to do to inherit eternal life, but the motive behind the question was that he might tempt the Son of God. Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear why or how this lawyer sought to tempt Jesus, and we aren’t given any clue or insight as to what he was hoping to accomplish by asking Jesus this question. Is it possible that this lawyer perhaps thought Jesus might answer the question in a certain manner, and based on how He answered he would be able to take His response back to the Pharisees, the chief priests, the elders of the people, and the religious elite during those days? Is it possible that this lawyer perhaps simply sought to ask Jesus this question that he might tempt Jesus for the sake of truly understanding this thing called “eternal life?” Scripture is entirely and altogether unclear why this lawyer sought to tempt Jesus, however, suffice it to say that this lawyer sought to present this question before and unto Jesus with a very specific reason and purpose within his heart and mind.

            The more I think about and consider the narrative and account of this lawyer the more I can’t help but think about the four gospel narratives and how the gospel narratives bring us face to face with the thoughts, the motives, the intentions, the reasonings, and the musings within our hearts and our minds. You cannot read the four gospel narratives without and apart from encountering and coming face to face with a Jesus who knows our thoughts—those things which are manifested and expressed with verbal words, as well as those things which aren’t even spoken. It is absolutely impossible to read the four gospel narratives without and apart from recognizing and understanding Jesus’ understanding, knowledge and discernment of the thoughts and intentions of our heart—and not only the thoughts and intentions of our hearts and minds, but also that which we are wrestling with in our hearts and minds. Immediately and initially there are two distinct passages which come to my mind concerning and regarding this matter of the discernment, the wisdom and the knowledge Jesus Christ had concerning and regarding the thoughts, the motives, the desires, the intentions, and the reasonings within the hearts of men. In fact, there is a third narrative and account that is also found within the four gospel accounts—one which centered around the disciples themselves and what they reasoned, thought and mused within their own hearts and minds. In order to truly understand the words which are presented before us in this particular portion of Scripture I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs at least read these passages of Scripture that we might be brought face to face with a Jesus who knew the thoughts, the motives, the intentions, the reasonings and the musings within the hearts and minds of those whom He encountered. Consider if you will the following words which are found in each of these passages of Scripture—one concerning a rich man, one concerning a Pharisee, and the other concerning the disciples themselves:

            “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:16-24).

            “And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

            “And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not fear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these tings, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, and follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich” (Luke 18:18-23).

            Each of these passages and portions of Scripture present us with the narrative of the rich young ruler, and how he came running unto Jesus, and kneeling before Him in His presence asked Him what good thing he needed to do to inherit eternal life. There is within this portion of Scripture Jesus’ statement to this rich young ruler that he knew the commandments—words to which this young ruler responded by declaring that he kept all the commandments from the youth up. When Jesus heard the rich young ruler’s response to the observance of the commandments Jesus would not only look upon this man and love him, but would go on to declare unto him one thing which he still lacked. It was true this man might have kept the commandments from his youth up, however, if this man wished to have treasure in heaven, and if this man wished to have eternal life, he needed to sell all he had, distribute to the poor, and then come and follow Jesus. What makes this particular passage so incredibly intriguing was Jesus’ ability to transcend and go beyond the surface level of the question this man asked Him, and went directly to the root issue within his heart. Jesus knew and understood that this man had great wealth and great possessions, and he also knew that those possessions and that wealth was the greatest hindrance to this man’s entrance into the kingdom of heaven and his following Jesus. Oh how absolutely incredible this is when you take the time to think about it, for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely awesome and wonderful truth surrounding Jesus hearing the question this rich young ruler asked, and yet being able to diagnose the condition of his heart—something which was not manifested simply by his asking what good thing he ought to do to inherit eternal life.

            With this particular passage at hand I feel it necessary to call and draw your attention to the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke. It is within this particular portion of Scripture where Jesus would be invited into the house of a particular Pharisee during those days, and how a woman who was a sinner would essentially show up in the house uninvited. What’s more, is that not only would this woman show up uninvited, but she would also show up and engage in extravagant and elaborate worship before and unto Jesus the Christ. It would be in the house of religion this woman who was a sinner would express an absolutely beautiful demonstration and manifestation of worship before and unto Jesus. With that being said, however, the beloved physician Luke not only presents us with the actions of this woman before and unto Jesus, but he also presents us with the thoughts, the reasonings and musings within the heart of Simon the Pharisee when he not only saw this woman who was a sinner express this elaborate worship upon Jesus, but also Jesus willing to allow this woman to carry out this particular expression of worship. Consider if you will the following words which are found in the seventh chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke:

            “And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat. And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I supposed that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. Wherefore I sayu not thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:36-50).

            It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand the words which are found in this particular portion of Scripture, for the words we find here bring us face to face—not only with this woman who was a sinner entering into the house of religion and washing the feet of Jesus with tears, wiping them with the hairs of her head, and anointing them with perfume as she kissed them, but also with the thoughts and reasonings within the heart of Simon. It is absolutely remarkable and astonishing that Simon didn’t even speak these words out loud in the hearing of those who were present on this particular day, and yet Jesus was very much aware of those things which he thought within his heart and mind. The beloved physician Luke wrote how when Simon the Pharisee, which bid Jesus to enter into his house saw what was unfolding before him, he spoke within himself concerning Jesus being a prophet, and if He were a prophet He would know who and what manner of woman this was which toucheth Him. How truly remarkable and astonishing this truly is when you take the time to carefully consider it, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that Jesus was very much aware of the thoughts and reasonings which were present within the heart of this Pharisee—and not only was very much aware of it, but also sought to correct it. How absolutely challenging it is to read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture and encounter a Jesus who knew the thoughts and intentions of this Pharisee’s heart and mind—and not only knew and understood them, but also sought to correct them. It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when seeking to know and understand Jesus, and how Jesus is very much aware of the thoughts, the intentions, the musings, and the reasonings within our hearts—this in addition to the motives and purposes which are found within our hearts and minds. Oh we have a great need within ourselves to truly think about and consider the fact that Jesus not only knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts, but also knows us better than we know ourselves.

            Having read the narrative concerning the rich young ruler, as well as the narrative concerning Simon the Pharisee, I am absolutely convinced we must now turn and direct our attention to the words which are found within the gospel narratives concerning the disciples themselves. You cannot read the four gospel narratives and not encounter a Jesus who was able to discern that which is truly missing and greatly needed within our hearts and lives, as well as a Jesus who knows the thoughts, the musings, the intentions, and the reasonings of our hearts. With this being said, I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must needs turn and direct our attention to the account of the disciples arguing and debating among themselves who was greatest—perhaps not only greatest among themselves, but also greatest in the kingdom of heaven. In order to truly understand the narrative that is found surrounding this certain lawyer which sought to tempt Jesus, we must turn and direct our attention to the narrative and account of the disciples who argued and disputed along the way who was greatest—and not only this, but Jesus’ awareness and understanding of that which they had argued and debated. Consider if you will the following words which are found within the four gospel accounts which were written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ:

            “And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest. And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all. And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them: and when he had taken him in his arms, he said unto them, Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me, receiveth not me, but him that sent me” (Mark 9:33-37).

            “Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a child, and set him by him, and said unto them, Whosoever shall receive this child in my name receiveth me: and whosoever shall receive me receiveth him that sent me: for he that is least among you all, the same shall be great” (Luke 9:46-48).

            Each of these narratives—the account of Simon the Pharisee, the account of the rich young ruler, as well as the account of the disciples—presents us with the incredibly strong and powerful truth that Jesus is very much aware of the thoughts and intentions of our hearts and minds. One of the greatest truths that is found within the four gospels is the fact that regardless of whether it was the disciples, or whether it was the Pharisees, or whether it was any member of the religious community, or anyone else for that matter—Jesus was very much aware of the thoughts and intentions of the hearts of men. What we find in the passage at hand before us in the tenth chapter of the gospel narrative written by Luke is an incredibly powerful picture of this lawyer who not only stood up in the midst of those who were present on this particular day, but stood up for to tempt Jesus. The beloved physician Luke makes it perfectly clear that this lawyer stood up with one single purpose, desire, motive and intention—namely, to tempt Jesus. What’s more, is that not only did this lawyer seek to tempt Jesus, but he sought to tempt Him around the matter of eternal life. The twenty-fifth verse of this chapter reveals how this certain lawyer stood up, and tempted Jesus, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life. It’s important for us to recognize when reading the words found in this particular portion of Scripture that although this certain lawyer stood up and asked Jesus concerning eternal life, it is quite possible that he had absolutely no desire, nor any interest in eternal life. What makes this particular passage all the more intriguing when you take the time to read it is that it carries with it similar language to that of the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler would come running unto Jesus, and kneeling before Him would call Him good, and would then ask what he ought to do that he might inherit eternal life, while this certain lawyer would also ask what he ought to do to inherit eternal life. Oh it is truly something to read and consider the words which are found in this portion and passage of Scripture, for they call and draw our attention to the absolutely tremendous truth surrounding the rich young ruler and this certain lawyer and how they both came unto Jesus asking about inheriting eternal life.

            If there is one thing we must needs realize and understand concerning the account of the rich young ruler, as well as the account of this certain lawyer, it’s that Jesus would respond to both of them by calling to mind the commandments and what was spoken of in the Law of Moses. In the case of the rich young ruler Jesus would actually declare unto him that he knew the commandments and what was required in the Law of Moses, while in the matter of this certain lawyer Jesus would ask him what was written in the law. Not only this, but in addition to asking this certain lawyer what was written in the law, Jesus would also ask him how he read and interpreted the Law of Moses. In response to Jesus’ question this certain lawyer would declare how we ought to love the Lord our God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength, and with all our mind, and love our neighbour as ourselves. In the case of the rich young ruler Jesus would deliberately and intentionally list some those commandments in what we know as “The Ten Commandments” and “The Decalogue”—almost as if to test this man’s own righteousness. Upon hearing Jesus’ words concerning the commandments, the rich young ruler would declare how he had kept all those commandments from his youth up. After this certain lawyer had responded to Jesus by emphatically declaring that the first and greatest commandment was to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, Jesus would then direct him to go that and he would live. In response to the words which this lawyer would speak unto Jesus, the eternal and living Word which was made flesh would instruct and invite this lawyer to go and do just that, and he would live. In essence, that which Jesus commanded and instructed this lawyer to do was simply go and love God and love people, and he would live.

            LOVE GOD, LOVE PEOPLE & YOU WILL LIVE! It is actually quite astonishing and remarkable to read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture, for what we find here is Jesus deliberately and intentionally instructing and inviting this lawyer to go his way, and as he went to love God and love people. You cannot read the words found in this portion of Scripture and not encounter and come face to face with how absolutely and incredibly challenging it truly is. In the matter of the rich young ruler Jesus instructed and invited him to sell all he had, distribute to the poor, and then to come and follow Him. In the matter of this certain lawyer, Jesus would invite and instruct him to go his way and love God and love others. I feel a tremendous need to pause right here and to call our attention to the words which Jesus spoke unto this certain lawyer, for the words which were spoken unto him are indeed at the very heart of that which we are called to do within this life. If we are willing to be truly honest with ourselves, as well as with the LORD our God we must needs admit and acknowledge that we have in this life been called to love God and to love others. In all reality, even Jesus Himself summarized the whole Law and the Ten Commandments in two single  commandments—namely, loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy we find that at the very beginning of the command to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our strength the declaration unto Israel that the LORD our God is one Lord. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this particular truth, for it calls and draws our attention to the fact that just as the LORD our God is one Lord, so we must love the LORD our God fully and completely. The LORD our God is one LORD and as such we must love Him fully, completely, and with every part of ourselves. Just as the LORD our God is one, so also we must love the LORD our God fully, completely, and with each and every part of our being united together in that love. What’s more, is that not only have we been called and invited to love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, but we must also love our neighbor as ourselves.

            As you read the words which are found within this passage of Scripture you will find that this lawyer would hear the words Jesus would speak unto him concerning loving his neighbor, and he immediately sought to justify himself. What is so incredibly important to think about and realize when reading the words found in this portion and passage of Scripture is that this lawyer would initially stand up to tempt Jesus concerning eternal life, and now when Jesus invited and instructed him to go and love his neighbor, he sought and was willing to justify himself. It is quite remarkable to read the words found in this portion of Scripture and to find this lawyer being willing to justify himself—and not only justify himself, but justify himself concerning who exactly was his neighbor. Upon reading the words which are found in this portion of Scripture you will find that in an attempt to justify himself in the company and presence of Jesus this certain lawyer would ask Jesus who his neighbor was. Pause for a  moment and think about how truly challenging this question was, for not only did this lawyer ask this question in an attempt to justify himself, but I would dare say that this rich young ruler viewed his neighbor as those who would do unto him. We know from the words found in Sermon on the Mount that Jesus instructed His disciples and followers to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, and there is not a doubt in my mind that this certain lawyer sought to justify himself by asking who was his neighbor. In other words, it is possible that this lawyer viewed certain individuals as his neighbor, while viewing others as not being his neighbor. There is not a doubt in my mind that this certain lawyer sought to justify himself by asking who his neighbor was—particularly and especially when based on the words which proceeded forth from his own mouth he declared that part of the law could be summarized in loving our neighbor as ourselves.

            I read the words which are found in this portion of Scripture and am brought face to face with the fact that this certain lawyer sought to justify himself by asking who was his neighbor, and that which Jesus did was deliver a parable unto him. The entire purpose and intention of this parable was to not only demonstrate who acts as a neighbor, but also how we are to respond to others in need. If there is one thing we must needs realize when reading the words found in this portion of scripture it’s that Jesus never decisively, nor definitively declared who this man’s neighbor was. This man sought to justify himself by asking who his neighbor was, and I can’t help but wonder what this lawyer was seeking or expecting from Jesus in response to his question. I can’t help but wonder what this lawyer was seeking to accomplish when speaking unto Jesus and asking who his neighbor was. What is truly captivating and challenging when reading the words found in this portion of Scripture is that Jesus never answered the question which was asked by the certain lawyer. In all reality, I would dare say that this lawyer had absolutely no interest, nor any desire in what he ought to do to be a neighbor unto others, and quite possibly had limits and boundaries upon those whom he was called to love. There is not a doubt in my mind when reading the words which are found in this portion of Scripture that this rich young ruler had placed loving his neighbor in a box and had certain boundaries and limitations upon it. This certain lawyer sought to justify himself thinking that there were those who were indeed and were in fact his neighbors, while there were others who perhaps weren’t his neighbor. Oh I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that there is an inherent danger in the question this lawyer asked, for at the very heart of it is a willingness to view some among us as our neighbors, while discarding and disregarding others as those who aren’t our neighbors. There is an inherent danger which is found in the question which was asked by this certain lawyer, for at the very heart of his question was a dichotomy within his heart and mind concerning who was indeed and who was in fact his neighbor.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words which are found within this portion and passage of Scripture and I can’t help but be brought face to face with the tremendous and inherent danger that surrounds the question this lawyer asked, for at the very heart of his question was the belief that there were some whom he viewed as his neighbor, and others who he perhaps did not view as his neighbor. The question which this lawyer asked Jesus was one which was designed and intended to limit certain individuals as his neighbor, while denoting and believing others were not his neighbor. There is not a doubt in my mind that this lawyer believed within his heart that there were perhaps some who were worthy of and who deserved to be loved as he loved himself, while there were others who perhaps were not worthy of, nor potentially did not deserve that same love. In all reality, I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated by the question this rich young ruler asked, for the question he asked strikes at the very heart of something which is found in the gospel narratives—namely, that Jesus never drew a distinction, nor did He ever draw a dividing line between our neighbors and our enemies. If you read the four gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus—and not only the four gospel narratives, but also the writings found within the epistles—you will find that Jesus never instructed us to love our neighbors one way, and to love our enemies another way. What’s more, is that if you truly read the gospels and take them at face value you will find and discover that Jesus invited and instructed us to not only love our neighbors as ourselves, but also to love our enemies. The four gospel narratives found within the New Testament present us with a strong and powerful picture of how we are to love our enemies the same way we love our neighbors, and that there should be no dichotomy, nor disparity within our hearts and souls surrounding this love. It is with this in mind I would like to invite you to consider the following words which are found in the fifth chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, as well as the second chapter of the New Testament epistle written by James, and the words found in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome:

            “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:3-12).

            “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: but I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).

            “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of law estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but over evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).

            “My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; and ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath  not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despied the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the yoral law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: but if ye have respect ot persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy: and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man sat he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace; be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?” (James 2:1-20).

            The words which we find within these passages of Scripture are a powerful invitation given unto us—not only to love our neighbors as ourselves, but also to love our enemies. As I write these words I can’t help but want to ask you whether or not you have within your own heart drawn a distinction between loving your neighbor and loving your enemy. What’s more, is I can’t help but ask you whether or not you could love your enemy the same way you loved your enemy? Have you within your heart, mind and soul drawn a distinctive and dividing line concerning and regarding loving your neighbor and your enemy? As a direct result of drawing this dividing line between your neighbor and your enemy, have you in turn chosen to love your neighbor while hating, abhorring and despising your enemy? It is truly something worth thinking about and considering when reading the words which are found in this portion of Scripture that nowhere in all of Scripture were we given license to love our neighbors while at the same time abhorring our enemies. Even that which we have called and referred to as “The Golden Rule” admonishes and encourages us to do unto others as we have them do unto us—a powerful statement and truth which does not grant us the ability to do unto others as they have done unto us. The Golden Rule does not give us license to do unto others as they have done unto us, but rather it commands and instructs us to do unto others as we would have and want them to do unto us. The Golden Rule places the responsibility of doing good unto others based solely and squarely upon our shoulders—regardless and irrespective of what others might have already done unto us, and even what we want them to do unto us. The underlying foundation of that which is known as The Golden Rule is an incredibly strong and powerful invitation given unto us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. We must needs realize, recognize and understand that we have not been instructed and commanded to do unto others based on what they have already done unto us, nor even what they might do unto us in the future. The Golden Rule anticipates that others are inherently good within themselves, and calls on us to do unto them—and not only do unto them, but also do good unto them—based on a tremendous trust within ourselves based on the goodness that might very well lie within others.

            If there is one thing I can’t help but think about when considering The Golden Rule, it’s that it entirely and altogether removes any and all form of cynicism within our hearts and our minds. As you truly take the time to review The Golden Rule you will find that at the very heart of it is this trust that others are good and that others can be good. If you do unto others as you would have them do unto you then you are required to believe and trust that others can do unto you as you would have them do unto you. That which makes the Golden Rule golden is the tremendous emphasis it places on our trusting that others can be good, as well as the fact that there is goodness in the hearts and souls of others. We dare not, we cannot and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely incredible this truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the wonderful truth that we must believe there is goodness that lies within the hearts and souls of others. To truly fulfill the royal law, and to truly live our lives by and according to the golden rule we must dispel all cynicism and all partiality within our hearts and our souls. If we are truly going to love our neighbors and our enemies, and if we are truly going to do unto others as we would have them do unto us, we must needs believe that there is and that there can be goodness within the hearts and lives of others. Oh if you are truly honest with yourself and with the Lord your God—have you lived your life with a tremendous amount of cynicism as you have viewed others before and around you through the lens of distrust? Have you been unable to truly love others as you love yourself, for you live in a world that is entirely and altogether cynical? There is a great and pressing need within our hearts and our minds to truly come to terms with this, for we cannot live our lives partial and cynical. If I am being honest with you who are reading the words found in this portion of Scripture I must needs admit and acknowledge the fact that there is absolutely no room in the kingdom of heaven for cynicism and partiality, and we dare not and must not live our lives distrustful of and toward others.

            The question which the lawyer asked Jesus concerning who his neighbor was has at the very heart and center of it cynicism, partiality, and distrust—perhaps even a dividing line between those who we perceive as our neighbor and those who we might very well perceive as our enemies. For this lawyer to ask who his neighbor was suggests that he viewed certain individuals before and around him as his neighbor, while at the same time he viewed others as being less than neighbors—perhaps even as enemies. In fact, I would dare say that this certain lawyer had a tremendous disparity and dichotomy within his own heart and soul, as he viewed some before and around him as neighbors, while viewing others as enemies. This man understood that he was to love his neighbor as himself, however, he had limits, borders and boundaries upon that love. This man understood that the commandments hinged on loving the Lord his God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength, and loving his neighbor as himself, however, it was that second commandment which this lawyer truly took issue and offense with. It’s interesting and worth noting when reading the words found in this passage of Scripture that this certain lawyer did not seek to justify himself based on loving the LORD God with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his strength, and with all his mind. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find that this lawyer did not seek to justify himself based on how he loved the LORD his God, but rather how he loved his neighbor. In all reality, we cannot and must not point any finger of judgment, accusation and condemnation at this lawyer, for I am convinced there have been times when we have sought to justify ourselves based on how we love our neighbor—and not only how we love our neighbor, but even who we view as our neighbor. I am absolutely and completely convinced there are those among us—even me myself—who have been guilty of seeking to justify ourselves based on who our neighbors are. What’s more, is I would dare say that not only have we sought to justify ourselves based on who our neighbors are, but also on how we have loved those who we perceive as our neighbors. There is not a doubt in my mind that we have indeed and have in fact viewed others as neighbors, while at the same time viewing others as enemies. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we can view everyone before and around us as a neighbor rather than an enemy. If you were willing to be truly honest with yourself right now—could you view absolutely anybody and everybody before and around you as your neighbor while at the same time having no enemies?

            COULD YOU LIVE YOUR LIVE WITH ABSOLUTELY NO ENEMIES AND ONLY NEIGHBORS? When I grew up there was a popular children’s show which had at the very heart of it an incredibly important and powerful question. This popular children’s show was simply entitled “Mr. Rogers,” and was named after the main character of this show. If you have ever watched this show, or even watched the movie which bears the same name, nor even read anything about this particular individual, you will notice that the theme of the show—and not only the theme of the show, but also the theme song of the show—was centered around and upon the question, “Won’t you be my neighbor.” The reason I mention this particular truth and question is because it forces me to acknowledge whether or not I could live my life with absolutely no enemies and only neighbors. I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the greatest challenges facing us as disciples and followers of Jesus is whether or not we are willing to live our  lives without the presence of enemies, and viewing absolutely anyone and everyone we encounter and come in contact with as neighbors rather than enemies. What’s more, is if you were to break down the number of individuals whom you viewed as enemies versus the number of individuals you viewed as neighbors—which would be the greater of the two? If you were to count the number of enemies you might very well have in your life and compare it with the number of neighbors you have in your life, which would be the greater of the two? What’s more, is there is a great need for us to ask within and of ourselves whether or not we are willing to live our lives completely and altogether absent of any enemies. Permit me to ask you very candidly and very openly whether or not you are willing to live your life with absolutely no enemy, and without viewing anyone before and around you as an enemy. We know that Jesus instructed us to love our enemies, to pray for those who persecute us, to bless those who curse us, and to do good to those who despitefully use us, but perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to allow those whom we once perceived as enemies to transition into the realm of those whom we view as neighbors.

            WOULD YOU GIVE THOSE YOU VIEWED, AND THOSE WHO VIEW AS ENEMIES THE OPPORUNITY TO TRANSITION INTO THE WORLD AND REALM OF NEIGHBORS? In the realm of dating and relationships there is a realm  known as “the friend zone,” and it speaks of and refers to that particular individual who has been relegated to the friend zone without the possibility of ever transitioning into the realm of romance, intimacy, affection, and relationship. There have even been movies made around this subject, and about the tremendous difficulty surrounding those who have been and those who are in the friend zone being able to transition out of the friend zone and into the realm and zone of relationship, intimacy, romance and affection. With this being said, I am absolutely and completely convinced we must needs take this same principle and this same concept and apply it to what I would call “the enemy zone.” One of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is not only whether or not we are willing to live our lives completely and utterly free of enemies, but whether or not we are willing to allow those whom we perceived as enemies to move and transition out of the realm of being an enemy, and into the realm of being a neighbor. What’s more, is I would dare say perhaps the single greatest way we permit and allow an enemy to transition from the realm of being an enemy into the realm of being a neighbor is simply by loving them—and not only loving them, but perhaps even loving them as a neighbor. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this incredibly important and powerful question, for it strikes at the very heart of how we are willing to live our lives. One of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves within this life is whether or not we are willing to live completely and utterly free from having enemies, as well as even perceiving others around us as enemies.

            THE INVITATION TO LEAVE “THE ENEMY ZONE!” Please note that what I am speaking of and suggesting might very well be easier said than done, and cannot and must not be attempted without the personal work of the Holy Spirit, as well as a deep and abiding sense within your heart and spirit to  live your life as Jesus, while at the same time being transformed into His image and likeness. I fully realize that you might have been burned, you might have been bruised, you might have been wounded, you might have been hurt, you might have been scarred and you might have been hurt. I fully realize that you might very well have experienced some type of trauma within your heart and life, and it might very well be incredibly difficult to allow someone to transition out of “the enemy zone” and into “the neighbor zone.” What’s more, is that I would dare say that there is something which be equally as hard, and that is to allow that particular individual to transition beyond “the neighbor zone,” and to enter into “the brother zone.” THE ENEMY ZONE! THE NEIGHBOR ZONE! THE BROTHER ZONE! I still cannot help but ask myself how many of us live our lives with perhaps more enemies than neighbors—and not only how many of us have more enemies than neighbors, but also how many of us have very few brothers. I am absolutely and completely convinced that one of the truest marks of discipleship—and not only discipleship, but also of being a true disciple and follower of Jesus Christ—is allowing those whom we have viewed, and those we view as enemies to transition out of the realm of being our enemy, and to enter into the realm of being our neighbor. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize and understand that such a transition has absolutely nothing to do with those we view as enemies, and has everything to do with us. Those whom we have confined and relegated to “the enemy zone” can never and will never be permitted the opportunity to transition out of that realm without and apart from the willingness on our part to invite them to come forth out of that realm and to step into the realm of being a neighbor.

            Permit me to ask you whether or not you would be willing to speak and say unto that one whom you view as an enemy, and whether or not you are willing to ask them whether or not they are willing to be your neighbor. What makes the words which the apostle Paul writes in the twelfth chapter of the New Testament epistle written unto the Roman saints is that he places the emphasis upon us, for he emphatically declares, admonishes and instructs us to as much as lies within us to live peaceably with and among all men. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous responsibility that is placed upon us ourselves to allow those whom we might view as enemies to transition and move out of the realm of being enemies and to enter into the realm of being neighbors. I cannot help but be absolutely and incredibly gripped and challenged by what life would be like to have absolutely zero enemies and/or those we view and perceive as enemies. I can’t help but think about what it would be like to live our lives completely and utterly free from having enemy enemies, and to live our lives having only neighbors. Pause and consider how liberating and truly freeing it would be to live your life completely and utterly free from enemies, and to live your life  with only neighbors. What’s more, is stop and think about what your life would and could be like if you lived without any enemies and viewed everyone before and around you as a brother or sister. I would dare say that one of the truest marks of being a disciple and follower of Jesus Christ is living your life completely and utterly set free from having enemies, and even viewing others as enemies. I absolutely love the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the good Samaritan, for Jews did not have any association or dealings with Samaritans. There was a disparity, division and dichotomy which existed between the Jews and Samaritans, and yet within this parable Jesus taught of both a priest and a Levite passing by this one who was hurting and in need, and taught of a Samaritan being the one who not only stopped to care for this victim, but also brought him to an inn, secured further care for him, and offered to pay for the additional care that was needed.

As I bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw our attention to these three zones which I have referenced in this writing: “The Enemy Zone,” “The Neighbor Zone,” and “The Brother Zone.” I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a great need within our hearts and lives to be those who are truly able to live completely and utterly free from enemies, and even thought we might very have those who have hurt, wounded, bruised and scarred us, we don’t have to live our lives with them as enemies. Oh this isn’t to say that those who we perceive as enemies might not allow themselves to leave “the enemy zone,” but we can allow them to transition from “the enemy zone” into “the neighbor zone” by and through forgiveness and love. Oh there is a great and pressing need within our lives to allow ourselves to—through love and forgiveness—allow those whom we might perceive, and those whom we have perceived as enemies to shift and transition into “the neighbor zone” through our willingness to love them, as well as forgive them. Simon Peter sought to justify himself, and perhaps thought he was being righteous when he offered to forgive someone up to seven times, and yet Jesus flipped the script and declared that we ought not forgive others seven times, but seventy times seven. Oh I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Simon to hear these words of Jesus and to consider how Jesus instructed and commanded him to have forgiveness without limits and without boundaries. Perhaps the single greatest question we can ask ourselves at this juncture is whether or not we are willing to live our lives with forgiveness absent borders and boundaries and limitations, as well as having love without borders, boundaries and limitations. Oh that we would truly recognize and understand the great and powerful need within our hearts and lives to live completely and utterly free from enemies, and to live our lives with those whom we view as neighbors—and view as neighbors within our hearts. Oh that we would recognize and understand that even though others might not allow themselves to transition out of “the enemy zone,” we can within our hearts, minds and souls allow them passage from “the enemy zone” into “the neighbor zone.” Not only this, but it is entirely and altogether possible to allow others to transition even further into “the brother zone,” or what I would even call as “the friend zone.” Oh dear brother, oh dear sister—are you willing to live your life absent and without enemies, and are you willing to allow enemies to become neighbors, and neighbors to become brothers, and brothers to become friends? Are you willing to love and forgive from the very depths of your heart and soul? Are you willing to grant a jubilee for all those whom you have held captive and prisoner in the prison of being an enemy and allow them to go free within your heart, mind and soul? Oh that we would be men and women who would allow ourselves to experience our own personal jubilee as we allow prisoners and captives of unforgiveness, offense, bitterness, anger, malice and resentment to go completely and utterly free, and allow those whom we have viewed as enemies to transition into the realm and place where we can honestly view them as neighbors.

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