“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 his 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 the 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.”
(Matthew 5:43-48 NIV)
Jesus has walked us through His re-definitions of our sins, our oaths, and sins against us. Now Jesus finishes His last illustration with the command to end all commands – to love everyone, and to be perfect as God is perfect.
The first part of this “you have heard…” was very familiar – to “love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18).This was a clear command from God’s Law that everyone knew.
The second part (“… and hate your enemy”) was not a command from God’s Law. This was more likely just a natural reflection of the hatred that the enemies of Israel had for God’s people. King David is very vocal about his feelings for those who hate the Lord in Psalm 139. But nowhere does David command others to hate their enemies. In fact, he ends his psalm by requesting the Lord to search his heart and show him any wrong thoughts.
There is no question that it’s hard to forgive – whether it be ourselves or others. But Jesus calls us to go beyond forgiveness, and to even love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us.
And why should we do this? Because God has forgiven us, and loved us while we were His enemies.
Can you imagine being one of Jesus’s disciples sitting at His feet? Or one of the surrounding crowd, listening in to His teaching? At this point, I am guessing, there wasn’t a sound, not a peep, only uncomfortable shifting in their sitting positions.
Be perfect? Love my enemies and pray for them? Really, Jesus? You are asking the impossible – no one can do that !!
That is why Jesus came to the earth – to make the impossible possible through His life, death, and resurrection.
For you, for me, for everyone – past, present, and future.
Father, help us to forgive and love others as You have forgiven and loved us. Lord, especially our enemies and those who persecute us – that feels like an impossible command. But yet, You loved us unconditionally while we were still Your enemies, trying to live our lives on our own. Only as we allow You to change us from the inside out can we be the salt and light to others around us, even to our enemies and those who look down on us as Your followers. May we show them mercy, as You have shown us Mercy.
How far does your love extend? To those you love, and who love you back, or to your enemies and naysayers as well?