Summary: A look at the difficult command to love our enemies.
What “Love Your Enemy” Is. . . And Isn’t:
- Matthew 5:44.
a. It is not excusing their actions,
- Often those who are our enemies have done things to us that have hurt us. Many people misunderstand Jesus’ command to forgive as a call to excuse their actions.
- Forgiving someone (and then moving beyond that to actually loving someone) is not saying, “What you did is no big deal.” In fact, it’s the opposite. Forgiving someone requires that we acknowledge that there is something to be forgiven there. It requires us acknowledging the hurt they caused us.
b. It is not hoping their evil succeeds.
- Some people might misinterpret the command to “love your enemy” as a call to hope they get what they want. Even if that means bad things happen or I get hurt, I’m supposed to hope they get what they are striving for.
c. It is shifting from wanting their destruction to wanting their redemption.
- “I hope for good things for your life.”
- “I hope to see you find God, peace, and joy.”
- This obviously can include wanting their repentance. If they’ve done things that are wrong, it would be unloving of us to hope that they are able to continue in evil, since we know the ultimate destruction that evil brings.
- There is a strong desire within most of us to seek revenge. We want to see our enemy pay for what they’ve done. We want to see them brought down.
- Loving your enemy involves shifting from the desire for revenge over to hoping that God will work in their lives and bring about good things. Those “good things” may not be at all what that evil person right now is wanting for their lives (they may be heading down a self-destructive path), but it is our hope for them to find ultimate good.
- It’s instructive to note the last half of verse 44. After calling for us to love our enemies, Jesus further instructs us to “pray for those who persecute you.” This is obviously not a prayer for them to succeed in their persecution of God’s people, but rather that they come to know God’s love instead of fighting against God’s people. That’s a helpful picture of the kind of prayers we’re supposed to be praying: for God to move them from the negative over to His goodness.
- It is not “I hope you succeed in your evil,” but “I hope for good things in your life.”
What’s Your Motivation?
a. God acted this way toward us when we were in our sin.
- Matthew 5:45.
- The line between good and evil runs through each human heart.
- We’ve been on the wrong side of the line in our relationship with God.
- We’re all been “enemies of God.”
- Every single one of us were away from God. None of us had the righteousness required to be able to be right before God.
- And yet, even while we were in that situation, God still cared for us and brought blessings into our lives, both great and small, as v. 45 speaks of.
- It would be easier for us to have a case in arguing that we shouldn’t love our enemies if we hadn’t each experienced God loving us even when we were His enemies.
b. God is using us in His attempt to transform the world.
- If you do what comes naturally, what reward is there in that?
- As we love those who frustrate us, we have the ability to transform the situation to a redeeming one.
- Verses 46-47 remind us that the world loves those who love them back. Showing that kind of love doesn’t make us stand out – it just makes us fit in with everyone else.
- God wants to use us to help reach the world with the good news of what He’s done. One of the most effective ways that we can do that is to simply stand out. Standing out requires love that goes beyond what’s normal and expected.
- One of the most dramatic ways that we can transform the world is by love in the face of hatred.
Why It Works: We don’t really have much defense for love in the face of hatred.
- Matthew 5:43.
- This goes so strongly against our natural human inclination that it is nearly breathtaking when you see it.
- The omission and the addition.
- In v. 43 Jesus quotes the words that many Jews of His day had been taught on dealing with enemies. The religious leaders’ words, though, contain a crucial omission and addition.
- The omission is that it fails to say, “as yourself.” As in “Love your neighbor as yourself.” In Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 it speaks of having that kind of great love – to love someone else the way you would want to be loved. This was a truth that the New Testament emphasizes (Matthew 19:19; Matthew 22:39; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).