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Climbing The Mountain

Matt Brownell, Tim Adams, and Van Owens

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Climbing the Mountain is a weekly podcast devoted to the Word of God and its application in the lives of believers today. Grounded in the Sermon of the Mount, we dive into connecting scriptures to explore themes and implications.

Episode 21 - Enemy Love - Part 2

February 24, 2023

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As we dive into Matthew 5:43-48 43 and look at what it means to really love others, we will be joined by a special guest, Darryl Owens, who is an elder in the Boston Church of Christ and a police officer who specializes in training other officers in the use of force. I can think of no one better to help us bridge the gap between retaliation and loving your enemy and all the thorny questions that usually arise when we study these passages.

Hey, I'm Matt Brownell.
And I'm Van Owens.
And I'm Tim Adams.
Welcome to Climbing the Mountain, where we dive into the scriptures and discuss themes,
connections, and real life application.
We're kicking off a series here where we're going to examine the Sermon on the Mount and
discuss implications for this teaching for Christians today.
All right, welcome back.
We are continuing our discussion on loving our enemies, which is the sixth command that
Jesus is discussing in Matthew 5.
It's been really cool both to talk about this one and I just found this whole conversation
we've been having over the past many episodes, very fulfilling.
But to summarize what we were last episode, we heard from Darryl, who shared a bunch about
his experience as a police officer and what that is and what it isn't.
He talked about the importance of non-retaliation and gave some really powerful examples of
But also the main thing that stuck with me was he said that his job has nothing to do
with loving our enemies because he doesn't serve enemies, he serves fellow citizens,
and he sees the people he's serving as his neighbors and someone that is worthy of love.
So paraphrase a little bit, but that was the crux that I took away that was really powerful.
And so we're going to jump off here and, Van, do you mind rereading that scripture to kind
of set the stage?
Sure thing.
We're in Matthew 5, we're going to start in verse 43.
It says, you have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be
children of your Father in heaven.
He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and
the unrighteous.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?
Are not even tax collectors doing that?
And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
So when I hear those words, they are extremely convicting, and I know that for each of us,
we can have a tendency to ignore those things that convict us the most.
So let's jump off with that question.
What can happen when we ignore Jesus' words to love our enemies?
Well, I have a real life example from my career.
When I was a young man, when I was a young police officer, there was a group of guys
that I would see all the time, and they were drug dealers.
And there was one time when I was in a position to search some of them.
We had all the constitutional green lights were in place.
We weren't violating their rights.
They were definitely suspected of crimes.
So we were performing a search.
And on one of these young men, I found a wad of food stamps, and I was enraged to find
food stamps because in my background, in our background, there's a lot of poverty.
And there's a long time when we were using food stamps to survive.
And I knew what it meant.
I knew that these young men had traded food stamps for drugs, and that somewhere there
was a child not eating because a parent, a guardian, or a custodian was using food stamps
to buy drugs.
And I was enraged that they would accept this.
And I launched on an independent campaign against this group of guys.
I was very aggressive.
I made their lives miserable as much as I could.
I disrupted them as much as I could.
And not all of what I did was right.
But this is who I was.
This is before I became a Christian.
And that was my mission in life.
But you know that there was a pain in my heart to have enemies.
I didn't know what it was at the time.
But there was one time when I'd said, you know what?
I'm not going to rush in there.
I'm going to get a parking spot, a respectable distance away from them where I can see them,
they can't see me, and I'm going to watch them.
And when I watched them, I was impressed by them.
I thought, so this is what they were doing.
They were comparing each other's sneakers to each other.
They were laughing and kind of ragging on each other.
And they were listening to music, like turning it up on the songs that I myself liked.
And I thought to myself, I said, I kind of like these guys.
I kind of like them.
They remind me of me.
They're younger than me, of course.
I was in my mid-20s and they were in their mid-to-late teens.
But I said, you know what?
I'm going to start talking to them.
I'm going to start being myself with them and talking to them.
And so I started, instead of being aggressive, I started being conversational.
I would talk to them about how I grew up and that I could relate to them.
I would talk to them about sneakers.
I had a brand name, still do have a brand name of sneakers that I love.
And so we talked about that all the time.
It was just, and I can remember one time on my way home, again, I wasn't even a Christian
yet, but I said, those guys are beautiful.
I was just thinking and I thought aloud, those guys are beautiful.
And what I didn't realize at the time, because I had no framework for this kind of vulnerability,
I said, 24, 25-year-old police officer, I really loved them.
I loved those guys.
And we had a relationship for many years.
And they gave me a nickname.
They called me Scotty because when I was young, I looked like Scotty Pippin no longer.
And I knew their names.
I knew their backgrounds.
I knew who their parents were.
I knew where they lived.
And we had an agreement that we would be courteous to one another.
And I now realize that I really loved those young men.
And I think that what you risk when you ignore the words of Jesus and you don't love your
enemies is just that not only do you risk not having those relationships, not having
that appreciation of their humanity and of the things that you have in common, but you
also risk what it is that we're all trying to be as Christians.
We're all trying to grow and become more like Christ.
We want to become more Christian.
We want to become more like Jesus.
If we ignore his words and we don't love, we risk that.
We lose that.
And I think it's really important to keep that in mind.
I like what you're saying about that because it reminds me of one of the other discussions
we had about the trajectories.
Our aim is to be more like God, our Father.
And I think that's what Jesus is talking about here.
He's making the sun and rain to come to the good farmer and the bad farmer.
He loves everyone and we should be like him.
And the risk is we could then not be like him and be like Satan, who's the father of
And so it gets into kind of a perverse, you know, it says we love before we love because
he first loved us.
Well, it gets into a kind of perversion of that we hate because they hated me first,
you know.
I'm going to hate because they hated me and then they hate that I hate them and they hate
even more and then I hate more because they hated me more and it's just this escalation.
It gets crazy.
You know, it's interesting that you would mention hate because sometimes when I've decided
to hate in my worldly life and not in my Christian existence because Christians typically stand
up to me when I start to separate myself.
But when I start to hate, no one interrupts.
But when I start to love and I start to serve and I start to give, I often get a question.
Why are you wasting your time on blank?
And you can fill in the blank and for that questioner, the blank is usually an enemy
that they think I should have or that they have.
Right now, when I was a young police officer, I didn't know what I could do.
In fact, I felt like I wasn't in a position to really serve and give to teenage men, teenage
boys and women.
But now that I've been on the job for 33 years and I'm 57 years old and I've got a
lot of experience and I work at the academy, I've been able to form this teen police academy
that really gives to kids.
And before it got really recognized the way it is now in the city of Boston, I had people
that I worked with saying, why are you wasting your time on those kids?
I had one person even boldly say, they're not going to amount to anything.
So stop wasting your time.
This is a sworn police officer in the city of Boston.
And I thought, I don't care about what you're saying.
And the answer for me was always when someone asks, why are you wasting your time?
The answer was because I love them.
I love who they are.
I love their good and their bad.
I love their polite and their disrespectful.
I love their beautiful and their ugly.
I love everything about them because I can really relate to them.
And I feel like it's what God wants me to do.
It's how God wants me to love.
Yeah, there's such like an opportunity here because we experience this brokenness and
we buy into the brokenness of the world when we say we've got to hate one another and we've
got to hate our enemies.
And when we're called to be children of our Father in heaven, to be like our Father, it's
a way out of that.
It's a way of ending that kind of vicious cycle that you were talking about, Matt.
And I find that very exciting, even though it's incredibly challenging to think that
there is a way of ending the cycle and breaking the brokenness, right?
And not contributing but actually restoring.
And Jesus is really just showing us like that.
This is the way to do that.
This is the way to not just be our fallen selves, but to be Godly, to be Godlike because
we're acting like God himself does.
I have a question.
Do you think Jesus is primarily aiming his words at interpersonal relationships with
and between groups defined by their otherness, what we might call tribalism?
Or do you think his words extend to all levels of society, geopolitically?
How do we define enemies?
And how would someone in Jesus' audience define it?
I think that the people who were in Jesus' audience were these Jews who were living in
Palestine during the time of the Roman occupation.
And they had enemies galore.
They had, so there were the tax collectors who overcharged them for their temple tax.
There were the Romans who were the bullies, who were in a certain sense the police officers.
They were the armed guys who would break up anything with violence.
There were the priests who were always coming down on their lives and enforcing the temple
I don't remember which Herod was in charge back then, but there were the king who was
subservient to the Romans, but still in charge of them, also taxing them, also violent against
They had any number of enemies, and that's not to even include the personal enemies that
they had even amongst themselves.
And so I think that in a way Jesus is talking about all of that and how enmity is virulent.
Like I was talking about before, I think in the last conversation, enmity spreads.
But if you have one enemy, then almost anybody can be your enemy.
It reminds me of a story that a police officer told me once.
I'll give a disclaimer.
I've often complained to everybody who will listen that I can't stand when people want
to only talk about my job, but here I am sitting here, and I'm only talking about my job.
So this story goes like this.
I was a young cop.
He said, you're young and everything is great.
You called me Dudley Doright.
He said, everybody's happy.
Everybody's good.
The world is awesome.
You got your dream job.
And then one day, a few years from now, you're going to think that everybody except police
officers stinks.
They stink.
You hate them.
You don't trust them.
And then you're going to think in a couple of years from that, you're going to think,
hmm, every, even the police officers stink except for the guys in my station.
We're awesome.
But everybody else, every other police officer don't like them.
Don't trust them.
They stink.
And then you're going to think this station is terrible.
This station is terrible.
I hate everybody else except for my shift.
My shift is awesome, but everybody else, I hate them.
Don't trust them.
Don't want to be around.
They're awful.
And then you know what you're going to think.
I hate the shift.
I hate the guys that work except for my partner.
The rest of the guys, I hate them.
Don't trust them.
Don't want to be near them.
And then a year later, you're going to be in the, in the cruiser with your partner.
And you're just going to look at him and go, I don't like my partner.
And so I, I mean, it's a funny story, but as humans, right?
We're, we're an integer.
We're a unit unto ourselves.
We're a singular thing.
And it's really easy to hate everything outside of self.
And if we allow ourselves to hate a group, like a geopolitical group, like pick, pick
a nation that is declared an enemy state of the United States, right?
It's easy to say, I hate all blank.
I hate the blank until you meet one.
Until you meet somebody who doesn't feel the same way and who you can connect to humanly.
So I think the answer to your question is yes.
And yes.
And yes.
I, I have kind of a hard time answering it because I, I think about that too.
It's easy to think about someone on the other side of the world and you're told they're
your enemy and, you know, but then you spend time with the people and, and you're like,
well, they're just like me.
And, you know, their circumstances may be different.
They may have different governments.
I think about the example of the Good Samaritan again, where, you know, we have someone who
was considered an enemy.
The Samaritans were not liked by anyone.
And he was a neighbor.
He showed mercy.
Yeah, I think this is, when I think about this, I kind of go back, I want to go back
to like a Leviticus 19:18, right?
That's the verse.
We talked about it when we talked about retaliation a little bit because they had forgotten the,
you know, beginning part of it, which says not to hold a grudge and, and instead love
your neighbor, you know, that the law expressly forbid taking matters into your own hands
and this tit for tat kind of retaliation stuff.
But what's interesting about what Jesus is highlighting here is he says, you've heard
it said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
Well, that love your neighbor, they cut off a pretty important part there.
It says love your neighbor, it actually says love your neighbor as yourself.
It has far less to do with who, which would be the natural kind of, well, who is my neighbor,
than how Jesus is really talking about.
How do you love?
And it's really everyone around you.
If there's no distinction between who is my neighbor, which is the point that Jesus makes
in the parable of the Good Samaritan, then if everyone's my neighbor, then I can't, I
don't have any enemies in the same way that we, we think of unless we're meditating on
this, there's, or so much that does unite us.
Now it doesn't mean that there's not tension or challenges, right?
Or differences of opinion at times or, you know, any of that, but there's being able
to recognize the commonality and recognize that this person is creating the image of
God just like me.
What makes me valuable makes this other person valuable.
And that's, that needs to be the defining way that I see this person, not all of the
stuff that makes it, you know, that makes my blood boil when I, when I just think about
them in the abstract.
That has a lot more to do with how you view other people too, I think what you're saying,
Like they were all, you know, made in God's image.
Some of us may not realize that, but we should decide to love other people, kind of what
we were talking about before.
And how I think is so much more the focus of what Jesus is talking about here.
He's, you know, it's sort of the, you know, how, well, think of how easy we are on ourselves,
Like we, we mess up, I'll give myself another chance.
I'll mess up again.
77 times in one day kind of chances.
That's the, that's the kind of image that we get here.
And isn't it, isn't it just so personally corrupting when you feel hatred towards a group?
I feel, I feel corrupt and I feel like when I'm doing that, it's just, it just feels terrible.
But as with any terrible feeling, you can kind of get used to it.
You can kind of get used to being tired or being sore or having a headache or, or even
an annoying noise and we can tolerate that corruption in ourselves.
And I think our world, especially now is just so rife with this corruption and people are
satisfied with it and are content living in it.
And they don't, and because they haven't, they haven't submitted to, to Christ.
They haven't, they haven't truly taken up his cause in the area that you guys have been
discussing that they become satisfied with that corruption.
Even on the smallest level, it can be even a disdain for people who drive a Prius, right?
You can even, oh, there's another one driving a Prius, right?
It sounds funny, but it's so corrupting when we allow ourselves to do that.
We wall ourselves off from interpersonal relationships with people who are different from us.
It's funny, I think about social media with this because it was supposed to be, hey, we
got this wonderful thing and it brings people together and what has it done?
It actually, it's so perverse.
It separates people even worse into these camps where that's tribalism right there.
We've got like, I think this certain way and I hear all the same information all the time
and how could anyone else think you over there when they could be right across the, could
be literally your neighbor.
And that's what's natural and what comes from God is us.
There's only us.
What's artificial is them.
And we create thems out of our fear, which morphs itself into hatred.
And it's so, it's so, and I think that's why Jesus again is so extreme in his language
about these things and all of these things sort of lead in, everything leads into the
next thing and it's just, we cannot accept a 'them' because as soon as we do, we're opening
ourself up to creating an enemy.
There isn't a them, there's only us.
That's pretty deep.
I just, this is one of those things where I do just want to be able to live the way
that we're talking about.
Like it's, we're talking a lot about the world and the dynamics of the world, but there's
so much of this brokenness that we're still working on and that we're working on in our
church and in our relationships and especially if you think about the broader church outside
of any particular region or denomination, I mean, there's so much of labeling, you're
this person, you're that person.
I'm not going to associate with you.
And I know that like that, and I've just been so convicted like having this conversation
because it's like, it's so easy for me to do that.
And you can make it sound really righteous and you know, like you are totally within
your rights, but it's just, it's totally not the spirit of what Jesus is saying here.
And no, it's not.
It's, but it's one of those things that Darryl said, you can get used to it.
You can get used to it.
You can just, oh, this is just the air I breathe, right?
I breathe, go into church and hearing, you know, nice things and convicting things.
And then I go home and I feel exactly the same way towards my boss or my brother or
whatever it might be, right?
And I think I'm, yeah, especially with, you know, brothers and sisters who I know, but
maybe I am like, I want to, I don't see eye to eye or I'm wrestling and I just want to, I want
to make it about it's me versus them, right?
Instead of having this heart that we've been talking about.
So I just wanted to like be open with that because I don't want to ever pretend that
like we've got it figured out or that I have this figured out.
You know, I really appreciate that, Tim, because it's something, it's something that we can
struggle with.
I even struggled with it today.
I was with a disciple and he was, you know, and we sent, we tend to tell these stories
about outreach, right?
Met this couple, they live close by to us.
They're about our age.
We've invited them to a few things they haven't wanted to come because they've been going
to their own church.
And then last week they called me and they said, they invited me to their baptism.
And initially I wanted to say, oh man, they got baptized someplace else.
But immediately I said, I was able to check that that's my raw emotion.
That's what the flesh in me wanted to say.
But I said, you know what, bro, that's encouraging.
You know what that means?
It means that there are people out there who are our age, who are searching for God.
I pray that I can be that for someone.
And he said, yeah, you know, I really love my neighbors.
And he said, I love my neighbors, interestingly enough, to me today.
I really love my neighbors.
I'm going to hang in there with them and just keep being their friend and keep reaching
And I was like, that's really good.
So when you said that about, we've got to be cautious not to speak theoretically about
the world.
It's right here.
Because my first impulse was to go, oh man, we could have had, you know, and oh man, I
hope that they're in some church, you know, but the first impulse was to say, oh, they're
one of them now.
The first impulse was to other them immediately.
But I said, you know, that's really good news.
And you know, that's really the encouraging thing is that there are people out there of
our age and stage who are still looking for a relationship with God.
And we're here.
We're fortunate enough to be here to reach out to them.
I like the way that you connected it to the other examples because all of these are related.
The first one on anger is so super applicable to this and how people are name calling, rock
a, like in that society, that was like, we don't consider you saved basically.
You're not part of the community.
You're not part of us.
And you know, to judge people that way.
Well, there's more.
I think we should, we should come back to this because I think the next couple of questions
are too big to start on another one.
And wow, this time flew by.
Thank you so much, guys.
Thank you.

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