For is while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.          Romans 5:10

Our text is perhaps one of the most important passages in all the Bible.  I’d even tend to rate it above the well-known John 3:16:  “for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Romans 5 actually says MUCH more, because this little passage gives us an insight into the depth of God’s love.   John 3:16 opens the door to the thought that because God loves the whole world, and since I see myself as generally a pretty good person, therefore God has no problem loving me.   On the other hand, Romans 5 bluntly says that God can love me because God loves His enemies.  The whole emphasis changes from me-centered, because I am so lovable, to God-centered, because HE loves even enemies.

St. Paul’s message is so blunt that I’ve seen people reject the thought, saying that this passage couldn’t mean them.  They aren’t that bad.  In fact, there was one comment at one meeting that “but we aren’t God’s enemy” – after all we were a church-sponsored, God-centered group – how could we be His enemy?!  Yet to not understand what that word means is to rob the passage of the tremendous depth of God’s love for every individual one of us.

That one word or idea, “enemy”, rubs people the wrong way.  What does “enemy” mean?  In the Greek, the word for enemy is one who is hostile toward another and who fights against him – to the point that the enemy hates this other person.  The dictionary defines the English word “enemy” as one that seeks the injury, overthrow, or failure of an opponent.  In both languages, the word “enemy” doesn’t come across as anything very favorable.

But the rub comes in when St. Paul attaches the word “we” to the “enemies” – “while we were enemies” – that’s when the hostility really begins!  Just watch the fireworks start!!  That’s because the word is quite harsh, really.  And that’s not really the picture of ourselves that we would like to see.  Truthfully now, how many of you consider yourselves as God’s enemy?  In fact, we find it hard to consider ourselves as even being unfriendly to Him.

No, we like to think of ourselves as being on God’s side, as seekers of God and His Way – oh, perhaps we might be a little misled in this deed or may chase after that belief or may throw in any ideas which we think ought to be there, but certainly not His enemies.  After all, some of us have actually read the Bible!  And above all, aren’t we right here in church – how could we be even possibly considered as God’s enemies??  Paul certainly can’t mean us!!

Or can he?  Well, “enemy” has the idea of hostility, of rebellion.  The enemy is one who seeks the overthrow, the failure, the removal of the one he fights.  Can that really describe us – hostile to God, seeking His overthrow, His failure?  Again, it still doesn’t seem to fit does it?

Well, then, let’s take an even deeper look.  Hostility is more than just strongly disagreeing, it goes to the point of fighting.  Rebellion is to utterly reject the way that a leader or master wishes us to go.  We refuse his plan of how things should be – instead we want to take over, we want things to go the way we wish them to go.  We end up ignoring or even downright challenging his authority over our lives – we would rather follow anything instead, even our whims.  Hostility builds when he won’t co-operate with us.

Between two people, how quickly that can happen!  Years of friendship can rapidly deteriorate because one wants to do something and the other doesn’t, one thinks this method is best and the other doesn’t.  Sometimes it is surprising how little it takes for that to happen.  And then the hostility grows.  Ultra-sensitivity, disapproval and snide comments follow; then comes little attempts to sabotage the other person’s goals, along with condemnations about the person himself.  And you think we don’t treat God any differently?

Ever have a week or even much longer of bad fortune?  When does hostility and rebellion toward God erupt in you?  Like with Job losing all his wealth and all his children and losing his health, sometimes it seems as though the Lord knocks you down and then gives you a few extra kicks in the ribs for good measure.  It always seems that long after we feel we’ve had enough, God still gives us a couple more bad breaks.  And at a time like that, the very rare person does not experience times of anger, resentment, even open hostility toward God.  And right there you see the enemy within us erupting through to the surface – maybe just momentarily – but still there, none the less.

The death of a youngster, or perhaps a young parent, or a physically or mentally handicapped person, perhaps severely – and immediately we rebel against the seeming waste of so precious a life – so untimely, so unfortunate.  And our hostility begins to raise its head – if only we were in charge, we certainly wouldn’t let this happen – if God were so loving, so powerful, then why, why??  And that’s the enemy in us showing his face.

How come we don’t always follow God’s commandments?  We can’t claim ignorance – everyone of us knows the commandments to some degree, some even know the enlarged meanings that Luther gave us which not just showed what we shouldn’t do but also what we too often omit.  So how come we don’t follow them?
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More often than we care to admit, it is because we don’t want to.  We expect  that God is trying to rob us of pleasure, popularity, comfort and ease, or whatever.  And here, very subtly, but just as strongly, rebellion and hostility is evident.  We are not going to do it God’s way, we are not going to follow His will, and sometimes we feel so strongly that we challenge Him to do something about it, trying to blackmail Him into cooperating.

Depression often is often the realization of how truly helpless we are; how weak and powerless to do or control the things we consider are vital for our lives.  The parent gets depressed about his children, because try as he might, he really can’t control them the way they need to be – he just doesn’t have the physical, much less the spiritual, power which only God has.  The young person gets depressed because he can’t control certain things about himself – he can’t make himself more liked or appealing for others – he can’t even control his own acne.

How weak, powerless and frustrated teachers, bosses, government officials can be when they can’t make people be the way they should be, even for things which can be necessary for their own good.  You know what it is like to be helpless, in regard to a bad habit in yourself – and how frustrated and angry – how hostile you can get about it?

Depression, anger, hostility surface because we don’t have control like God, lacking His command, power, and authority.  We feel like incidental nothings, and we don’t like that feeling.  So we rebel against God, the universe, laws, you name it.  That’s why we are enemies.

It’s surprising, isn’t it, as we go deeper, the more and more that word “enemies” really does fit us.  We aren’t the most pleasing thing that God has ever come across.  We can be ugly, fighting, rebellious, hostile enemies, kicking, biting, scratching at Him, trying to depose Him and take His place for which we are miserably equipped – which gives us all the more reason to resent Him.

This why Romans 5 just floors me – because it is precisely during our being enemies – hostile, fighting God – it is at this point that God died for you and me.  He didn’t wait until we were finally friendly with Him, because without Him first taking action, that would never happen – enemies just don’t suddenly become friendly.

And it isn’t that God’s love is conditional – that God supposedly saw that you would love Him in the future, therefore He died for you.  No, the Bible says that He died for the sins of the whole world – everybody – even those whom He knew would never accept Him, whom He knew would die still fighting, still hostile, still rebellious.  God would pour out His Blood, His life, suffering agony beyond our imagination – not for friends, but for enemies. That’s love beyond understanding.

Can you understand a love that would die for enemies? You know it is hard enough to die for a friend, although there probably are a few good friends you might actually die for – but to die for someone kicking, scratching, biting, who is fanatically intent in removing you forever???  That’s amazing – simply amazing.

It doesn’t even stop there.  Paul says, now look, if this is the kind of love that God has for enemies; the kind of God who would die for hostile, fighting enemies; the God Who care that much about us, even when we could have cared less about Him – just think – with that kind of love God has for enemies, can you possibly imagine the kind of love He must have toward those who have become His own Sons and Daughters who love and obey Him.  That side of His love defies any kind of description – it’s just too great.

You know, we are those Sons and Daughters of God, through Baptism.  Truly we have the enemy part of us still within, something to repent of each day and which will only be permanently removed on the day of our resurrection – yet in spite of this, astoundingly we are His dearly beloved Children, placed on equal par with Jesus.  And realize how eager Jesus is to share the very core of His Being in the Bread and Wine – His Body and Blood – specifically and personally with each of us.

Think of that: we who are responsible for putting God’s Son to death, to do away with Him – His delight is to give us everything He possibly could.   Can you possibly imagine how God must love us?  What a joy this can be for daily life – to know that you walk moment by moment as the child with a very special relationship to a heavenly Father who would die even for an enemy.

What a joy to face even the hardships and the inconveniences of life when you know that this God of tremendous love is by your side – in fact He dwells within you, proved to us by the Holy Spirit and the Sacraments.  And therefore nothing can touch you without this God being totally involved, making things go according to His plan of your life, guided by this wonderful love. This God is ever present, His love is always at work.  That’s God’s secret of making a friend out of an enemy.

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