Jesus challenges us to go beyond what the rules say. He knows we focus on “what the rule says” and then find loopholes. Religion is about loopholes. GOD is about real love.
Our mission, according to Jesus, is an extraordinary kind of love. Our love is to be like GOD’s love. A love that almost can’t be understood. A love for even our enemies. His Spirit makes it happen for us.
God’s goal for us is to love to the extreme.
- Do we have a passion for God’s kind of love?
- Will we live that out today?
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.
English Standard Version. (2016). (Matthew 5:43–45). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
Nowhere did the Law teach hatred for one’s enemies. Passages like Exodus 23:4–5 indicate just the opposite! Jesus defined our enemies as those who curse us, hate us, and exploit us selfishly. Since our love is an act of the will, and not simply an emotion, He has the right to command us to love our enemies.
After all, Yeshua [Jesus] loved us when we were His enemies. We may show this love by blessing those who curse us, doing good to them, and praying for them. When we pray for our enemies, we find it easier to love them. It takes the “poison” out of our attitudes.
Jesus gave several reasons for this admonition.
- This love is a mark of maturity, proving that we are sons of the Father, and not just little children.
- It is Godlike. The Father shares His good things with those who oppose Him. Matthew 5:45 suggests that our love “creates a climate” of blessings that makes it easy to win our enemies and make them our friends. Love is like the sunshine and rain that the Father sends so graciously.
- It is a testimony to others. “What do you more than others?” is a good question. God expects us to live on a much higher plane than the lost people of the world who return good for good and evil for evil. As Christians, we must return good for evil as an investment of love.
Literal Translation From R. H. Gundry
“You [plural] have heard that it was said, ‘You [singular] shall love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18],’ and you shall hate your enemy [a paraphrase of Psalm 139:21–22 that takes the psalmist’s statements, ‘Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?… I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them my enemies,’ as a scriptural example meant to be emulated (compare Deuteronomy 30:7; Psalm 26:5)].
But I tell you [plural], love your enemies and pray for the ones persecuting you, so that you may become sons of your Father in heaven, because he makes his sun rise on evil [people] and good [people] and makes it rain on righteous [people] and unrighteous [people]. The growth of crops requires both sunshine and rain. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have [awaiting you]?” Answer: none, for mere entrance into the kingdom requires abounding in righteousness even more than the scholars and Pharisees do (5:20).
“Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? And if you greet only your brothers [= fellow disciples], what extra are you doing? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 Therefore [since disciples have to do a lot more than the tax collectors and Gentiles do] you shall be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect [compare Deuteronomy 18:13: ‘You shall be perfect before the Lord your God’].
Source: Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (p. 21). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.