Love Your Enemies

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. ~ Matthew 5:43-48.

Summary
A Christian must always do good to others, even when enemies oppose him. His generosity will evidence his desire to follow God’s directions, as far as possible. His perfect heavenly Father is his standard.

Analysis
“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy” (v.43) — The quote referred to by Jesus is a composite.

1. “You shall love your neighbor” is from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus seems to see this as a crucial text, even listed with the Ten Commandments in Matt. 19:18-19. In Mark 12:31, it is the second greatest commandment after Deut. 6:4-5, and in a similar way in Luke 10:25-28. Paul uses this text as a summary of the entire Law in Rom. 13:8-10.

2. “And hate your enemy” is not a quote from the OT, but a commonly drawn inference by Jewish, exclusivist religionists (i.e., scribes, Sadducees, Pharisee). Jesus was referring to the Rabbinic teaching which was supposedly based on Scripture. Such a precept which required the Israelites to entertain any hatred toward their enemies cannot be found in the OT. You shall “hate your enemy” was a purely rabbinical invention.

How different is the new Kingdom ethic from the fallen world model of “self,” “more for me at any cost,” “what’s in it for me”! Knowing God changes everything (cf. Matt. 5:20,48)!

“Love your enemies…bless…do good” (v.44) – Jesus commands to “keep on loving and praying for” “the one who keeps on persecuting.” These speak of ongoing commands both of loving and forgiving on the part of the believer as well as the possibility of ongoing persecution. The Kingdom is radically different from the current world order!

“that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (v.45) — Believers’ lifestyles clearly reveal whose family they belong to: God’s or Satan’s. Children act like their fathers (see Leviticus 19:2).

“If you love…if you greet” (v.46-47) — The actions of believers must go beyond the expected social acts of unbelievers.

“rewards” (v.46) — This was a recurrent theme in the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matt. 6:1,2,4,6).

“Therefore you shall be perfect” (v.48) — This is an allusion to Leviticus 11:44,45; 19:2; 20:7,26. This term literally meant “mature” or “fully equipped.” This is a strong statement that God’s ultimate standard of righteousness is Himself (cf. Deut. 18:13). Humans cannot achieve perfection except in Christ (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21). However, believers must strive for it in their daily lives. There must be a balance between (1) salvation being accepted as a free gift of God through Christ, and (2) striving toward Christlikeness.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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