Summary: Jesus refutes the false teaching of the Pharisee’s regarding loving their neighbors.

Matthew 5:43-48

“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 and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46“For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47“If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In the verses which preceed Matthew 5:43, which is what we looked at last Sunday, Jesus has plainly laid before us the principle of self denial for the Christian. He has in a way raised the question, “Is it not better to lay down you rights to certain things, for the sake of others and especially for the sake of God’s Kingdom?”

We finished last Sunday with a quote from George Mueller in which he said there came a day when he had died to himself, he was no longer controlled or driven by the likes, dislikes, wants and desires or even the needs of himself.

This morning I want to begin with a quote from D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones:

“No man can practice what our Lord illustrates here unless he has finished with himself, with his right to himself, his right to determine what he shall do, and especially must he finish with what we commonly call the “rights of the self.”

This is Jesus’ 6th and final illustration regarding true righteousness where he compares the false, man-centered righteousness of the Pharisees with the true standard of God’s righteousness.

Here, Jesus contrasts the kind of love they had with the love of God.

God’s Standard Has Always Involved Loving Others

Leviticus 19:18

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

Rabbinic teaching was correctly based in part on the portion of this verse which simply says, “love your neighbor as yourself”. However, tradition and interpretation over the years had twisted that simple command and added, “and hate your enemies”.

The simple truth is that God’s standard for human relations has always been that we should love one another.

Deuteronomy 22:1-4

You shall not see your countryman’s ox or his sheep straying away, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly bring them back to your countryman. 2“If your countryman is not near you, or if you do not know him, then you shall bring it home to your house, and it shall remain with you until your countryman looks for it; then you shall restore it to him. 3“Thus you shall do with his donkey, and you shall do the same with his garment, and you shall do likewise with anything lost by your countryman, which he has lost and you have found. You are not allowed to neglect them. 4“You shall not see your countryman’s donkey or his ox fallen down on the way, and pay no attention to them; you shall certainly help him to raise them up.

The principle of concern for each other was also extended to include those who were considered enemies. (Note: this refers to enemies on a personal level rather than enemies on the battle field for instance.)

Exodus 23:4-5

If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return it to him. 5“If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him.

Proverbs 25:21

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink

Throughout the Bible, God’s standard for His people is to treat even their enemies like their friends and families.

2 Samuel 16:5-13

3He came to the sheepfolds on the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the inner recesses of the cave. 4The men of David said to him, “Behold, this is the day of which the LORD said to you, ‘Behold; I am about to give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it seems good to you.’” Then David arose and cut off the edge of Saul’s robe secretly. 5It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. 6So he said to his men, “Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD’S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD’S anointed.” 7David persuaded his men with these words and did not allow them to rise up against Saul. And Saul arose, left the cave, and went on his way.

8Now afterward David arose and went out of the cave and called after Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David bowed with his face to the ground and prostrated himself. 9David said to Saul, “Why do you listen to the words of men, saying, ‘Behold, David seeks to harm you’? 10“Behold, this day your eyes have seen that the LORD had given you today into my hand in the cave, and some said to kill you, but my eye had pity on you; and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the LORD’S anointed.’ 11“Now, my father, see! Indeed, see the edge of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the edge of your robe and did not kill you, know and perceive that there is no evil or rebellion in my hands, and I have not sinned against you, though you are lying in wait for my life to take it. 12“May the LORD judge between you and me, and may the LORD avenge me on you; but my hand shall not be against you. 13“As the proverb of the ancients says, ‘Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness’; but my hand shall not be against you.

Beware Of The Error Of Omission

The most effective way to teach falsehood is to mix it with a little bit of truth. And that is what the Pharisees had done. Their teaching included the truth “love your neighbors as yourself”, but to that truth they added the false doctrine that you should also hate your enemy which was clearly not what God had said.

Which points out the real flaw in their system. They knew what God had said, but they reduced the law of God , His righteous standard, to what was reasonable and to what they felt they could actually accomplish.

Could they love their neighbors, sure but could they love their enemies? Well that was something different all together. So, they taught something that was easier to follow.

Also, they conveniently narrowed the meaning of “neighbor” to include only the people they liked, or that were similar to themselves. The people they approved of were the people they considered “the neighbors that they were commanded to love.”

For the Pharisees, that meant that they pretty much hated everyone that was not like they were.

Sinners, tax collectors, for example.

The heads up for Christian’s today is that we might look at people who are still outside of the Kingdom, living in the word by the world’s standards, and judge them as people we are not required to love. And that would be wrong. It would be very close to the very mistake the Pharisees were making.

We Prove Ourselves To Be God’s Children By Showing God’s Love

Agape love is not based on the desirability of the object.

1Corinthians 13:4-6

Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.