Jesus, Actually: Beyond Preference

Writer: Patrick McDonald 

Key Passage: Matthew 5; 8:5-13. 

Big Idea: “To be for Jesus, you’re against ____.” We usually fill this in with a certain group of people, a policy, situation, person, social issue, etc. But there is only one thing that belongs in that box: sin. There is a concept Jesus presents that is world altering and perhaps the most overlooked in our history because, quite simply, it sounds impractical, unrealistic and too counter-cultural. Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” The reason why Jesus can say this, is because He literally loved the enemies who would betray and crucify Him. The truth we see modeled in the life of Jesus: God loves His enemies. According to Scripture, that includes us. (Rom. 5:8) Practical: Being a follower of Jesus is more about what God is for, rather than what God is against.  

Invest and Invite Challenge: Who are you investing in and inviting into the story of Jesus? 

Right after graduating from Biola, I started my first full-time job in vocational ministry. After four years of studying, I was ready to take on new challenges and excited to start this new chapter in my life. I was eager to get started and knew that God would teach me a lot along the way. While I experienced several highlights, this ended up being a season marked by a lot of emotional pain. 

Someone I worked with did and said very hurtful things to me and my co-workers. For months, I often fluctuated between feeling angry, confused, and sad. I remember thinking countless times, “If only this person will get fired, my problems will finally go away.” However, when this person was fired, I didn’t feel any better. I was still angry and hurt. 

Soon after, I was reading through Matthew and came across a passage where Jesus tells His followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matt. 5:43-48) I immediately felt convicted, because I knew I wasn’t handling my situation the way Jesus calls us to live. So, I started praying. 

In all honesty, my first prayer sounded something like this, “God, I’m praying for someone who I hate right now. I don’t want to do this, but Scripture seems clear that I should. I’ll try and do better tomorrow. Amen.” I wish I could say that my prayer the next day was a lot better, but it was more of the same. My prayer didn’t change much for more than a week. 

But over time, as I read scripture each day and as I prayed each night, my heart and my attitude started to change. I realized that God really does love me unconditionally, and that His love never changes, even when I’m at my worst. And I realized that Jesus calls us to love people especially when it is hard, because that is what differentiates Christ’s love from the rest of the world. 

I learned that while God is against sin, He desires transformation and restoration. Seeing someone turn away from sin and live a life that honors Jesus is something to rejoice over. And over time, I came to a place where I could genuinely pray for healing and transformation in the heart of someone who had wronged me. 

Discussion Questions: 

  • What are Christians typically against? 
  • What are Christians typically for? 
  • How do you think these lists line up with what the Bible teaches? 
  • Have you ever tried to “love your enemy” in the past? What was that experience like? 
  • Who are you having trouble loving right now? What do you think Jesus wants you to do in this situation? 

Weekly Prayer Focus: Pray that we would be known as a church by our love for one another and what we are for rather than what we are against.