Journey Through The Bible
Old Testament Reading: 2 Chronicles 31-33
New Testament Reading: Matthew 5
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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matt 5: 43-45).
Growing up in America in the 60’s we all knew our enemy was the communist. Whether it was the USSR with the Cuban Missile Crisis or China invading Vietnam, communism was our enemy. Today, our enemy has changed to Islamic terrorists.
While we as Christians should love even our country’s enemies, Christ is making it more personal. There may be people at work we don’t get along with and believe things would be better if they were not around. Maybe you have a neighbor you don’t get along with or someone in an organization you belong to. Even at church, there may be people with who you may disagree, and you don’t care to be around. You may even think that your church would grow and have a more effective ministry if they were not around. All these are our enemies!
The first half of verse 43 about loving your neighbor is taken from Lev. 19:18 Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord. But the portion about hating your enemy is found nowhere in scripture. It was the gross distortion of the law twisted and manipulated by the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who let their emotions dictate their behavior, choosing to hate their enemies rather than love them.
However, Jesus reverses the traditional teaching, But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (v44). We are never told to love the evil they do, but to love them. True love sees beyond the treatment it receives. True love prompts us to pray against all odds. And why are we to love our enemies? Jesus tells us, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven (v45a).
There is no reward if we love those who love us; Jesus says that even unconverted tax collectors do that! (v46). That type of love requires no divine power. Neither is there any virtue in greeting our brethren (v47) (our relatives and friends). The unsaved can do that; there is nothing distinctively Christian about it. If our standards are no higher than the world’s, it is certain that we will never affect the world.
Jesus said that His followers should return good for evil so that they might be sons of their Father in heaven. He was not saying that this was the way to become sons of God; rather, it is how we show we are God’s children. Since God shows no partiality to either the evil or the good (in that both benefit from sun and rain), so we should deal graciously and fairly with all. God the Father loves His enemies and seeks to make them His children and we should strive to assist Him!