Some Christians have become so allergic to work or effort that they blanch at the prospect of practice, virtually cursing any kind of effort as a legalistic bogeyman of some sort. However, it’s no mistake that the competitors for this year’s Super Bowl practice—a lot. Imagine a player from the Seahawks or Patriots who tried to tell his coach, ‘You know, we’ve done this before — lots of times — I could get burnt out. It’s fairly legalistic to practice, especially when it hurts.’ In other words, what percentage of practice antinomians do you think were in the Super Bowl? Practice is needed.
It’s no accident that other professions do the same. A doctor is in a medical PRACTICE. An attorney has a law PRACTICE. Maybe instead of speaking of application we should call for practice. I wonder if our sermons might not be better if we practiced what they call for. And instead of whining that one has not been spoon-fed enough application or handed fill-in-the blank sheets, maybe shepherds need to be more consistent in urging sheep to practice the Word that they hear, lest we look in a mirror and walk away disheveled (James 1:23-25).
Maybe we need to practice certain applications of some sermons over and over. I think we probably need to repeat our practice of this particular sermon by Jesus.
And what would happen if we did repeat his calls contained in the Sermon on the Mount?
In Mt. 5:43-48, Jesus concludes by clearly commanding how we are to love our enemies. “The preceding commandment had only spoken of the passive endurance of evil; here Jesus goes further (43-48)…and bids us…actively to engage in love towards our enemies.” Notice how Jesus contradicts the scribal tradition but not God’s Law.
The Scribes taught concerning “you have heard it said,” that one was to love your neighbor and hate your enemies. The first duty to love your neighbor was clearly mandated in the OT (cf. Lev. 19:18). That’s God’s Law. But where in the Law of God are we commanded to hate our enemies? Nowhere. This was a scribal addition and an unwarranted deduction. The Scribes, in seeking to justify their own ill-practice, argued that since they were not naturally and easily disposed to loving their enemies, then surely God (who would always approve of what they approved) must not intend for them to love their adversaries. Thus they implanted onto the law this parasitical tumor “And hate your enemies,” despite the clear evidence that numerous times, elsewhere in the Old Testament, they had been commanded to love their enemies. All they needed to do was to define neighbor as a very small sub-set of the population, i.e., “their own” and presto they fulfilled the Law. What law they fulfilled, however, was the law of man, not the Law of God.
John Stott put it well: “A blatant perversion of the law is the instruction, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ because of what it omits from the commandment and adds to it. It deliberately narrows both the standard of love (leaving out the crucial words ‘as yourself,’ which pitch the standard very high) and its objects (qualifying the category of ‘neighbor’) by specifically excluding enemies from it and adding the command to hate them instead.”
They’d compressed the law and Jesus sought to decompress it back to its original extent.