Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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,”
With all of the unrest in our world today, it’s easy to get caught up in the mayhem. Many have taken what were once justifiable causes and turned them into opportunities for rage and violence. The violence isn’t isolated to one region of the world, there have been numerous attacks on churches, synagogues, and many public institutions. Frustration has turned into hatred and this has formed what we are witnessing today.
In a world that doesn’t understand why it is so broken, the only recourse is for the people of God to stand up, to once again be the voice of one calling in the wilderness…”prepare ye the way of the Lord“.
As followers of the King, we are called to march to the beat of a different drum. The sounds of compassion, and grace, forgiveness, and love is what Jesus expressed and it resonated among the people.
How do we take the directive to love our enemies and relate it to our circumstances today?
Romans 12:14 “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.”
The beauty of it is how the call of Christ hasn’t changed at all, He didn’t make it complex or difficult to apply.
When examining Jesus’ directive in Matthew 5 we see elements that are easy to follow.
“Love your enemy”— Is to love those who treat you hatefully.
“bless those who curse you”—Is to bless those who put you down, ridicule you, say hateful words,
“do good”, “—Allowing the Spirit of God to work through you.
“pray for them”—Lifting up your enemies to the Lord, knowing He loves them.
These short but powerful statements are reminders that we live by a different creed. We take our orders from the One who loves us and gave His life for us and that we might will dwell with Him for eternity.
When we live by Jesus’ standard we reflect our Father’s heart. Our Father’s heart is full of love, not just for us but for our enemies, and that is a pill that can be hard to swallow. Loving our enemies is a doesn’t come easy but it is necessary. The love we ultimately express is a love for our Lord who loved us when we weren’t so lovable. We express His grace that we might show others there is hope beyond the pain and frustration.
There are a lot of wounded and hurting people in our world. How they express that pain may be difficult to deal with but if we can look past the front and see the person behind it, we can see the value God has placed in them which extends beyond anything they might have done or said to us.
We are called to bring healing, hope, and restoration and the only way to do that is to be filled with the Spirit of God daily. Unless I allow the love of God to be expressed through me, my love is meaningless.
Matthew 5:46-47 “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?”
Jesus’ reminder is how it takes exceptional people to love those who are often considered unloveable.
Jesus makes His people exceptional.
- True Agape, self-sacrificial love looks like loving those who may not want to be loved.
- Loving those who don’t reciprocate love.
- Loving even when we don’t feel like it.
- Loving those who hate us.
This concept of loving our enemies isn’t new, Moses was instructed by God to reveal to the Israelites a similar pattern of grace we see today.
Exodus 23:4-5 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.”
In an age when people have grown increasingly skeptical of the law of Moses, we witness how God encouraged His people to be set-apart from this world in how they live toward others.
I have an old acquaintance who turned his back on the church and has become an outspoken critic of God’s Word. His accusations are such that he tries to demonstrate how the Bible is full of violence, genocide, prejudice, and injustice, often commanded by God—and it’s been used by Christians to justify more violence and oppression.
So on one hand we see God instructing His people to hold to a strict standard of righteousness and cleanse the land of all inhabitants and then tells them to love their neighbors as themselves.
Leviticus 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
Was God showing a contradiction of character?
The obvious answer is NO.
As God commanded the Israelites to purify the land of its inhabitants because their ways were continually evil, so God expected His people to purify their lives in how they lived.
Proverbs 25:21 “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink”
The same manner God meant to purify a people for His own name is the same manner today we are called to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Our sin was covered by the grace of Jesus upon the cross and then we in turn are commanded to walk in His perfection.
God’s reasoning for purging the land of Israel became more obvious as the years went by, those who had been allowed to stay brought corruption among the people and led to their downfall.
Proverbs 24:17-18 “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
and turn away his anger from him.”
The world thinks that a hardline system of godliness is narrow minded and yet the enemy of our souls has a more devious plan to corrupt God’s people and render them useless in His Kingdom. Following God’s leading may seem confusing at the time but God’s people have been left with no doubt…God always remains faithful, His ways always turn out for the good.
The Lord will take vengeance against those who are living in disobedience, the concern is less about what people are doing to offend you and more regarding their position before God.
We are called to love them and in doing so we reflect our King and honor Him. This is our highest call…to consider less of maintaining our pride and position and more of elevating the Lord as He leads us.