Summary: This has to be the hardest of Jesus’ teachings in Matthew 5.
A story in the Sunshine Magazine about a professor of psychology illustrates how difficult it is to love others. Although he had no children of his own, whenever he saw a neighbor scolding a child for some wrongdoing, he would say, "You should love your boy, not punish him." One hot summer afternoon the professor was doing some repair work on a concrete driveway leading to his garage. Tired out after several hours of work, he laid down the towel, wiped the perspiration from his forehead, and started toward the house. Just then out of the corner of his eye he saw a mischievous little boy putting his foot into the fresh cement. He rushed over, grabbed him, and was about to spank him severely when a neighbor leaned from a window and said, "Watch it, Professor! Don’t you remember? You must ’love’ the child!" At this, he yelled back furiously, "I do love him in the abstract but not in the concrete!"
I imagine that upon first reading this text, most people think something like, “Yeah, right!” I agree. This teaching more than the earlier ones confronts our very lifestyle and culture. How can you “love” those terrorists responsible for the WTC and Pentagon bombings? How can you “love” a murderer or rapist that has permanently altered your family and your life? How do you “love” a person who has swindled you out of your money or your job? It almost makes you angry to even consider it, but still, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the very Word, says we should. Now, if you’re like me, sometimes you need an explanation along with the commandment because it seems so impossible to keep. Today we will examine some very valid and even life-changing reasons that Jesus tells us to love our enemies.
I. THE TWISTED COMMANDMENT (v. 43)
A. It’s Foundation
Lev. 19:18, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear
any grudge against the children of thy people, but
thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the
1. The teaching that calls on people to “hate
your enemy” can be found nowhere in the Bible.
2. It is a misinterpretation, coupled with an
addition, to Leviticus 19:18.
B. It’s Falsehood
We find two errors here:
1. Narrow interpretation of the word “neighbor”
as being only a Jew. In our time this would be
akin to saying that a white man’s neighbor could
only be a white man, and so forth.
2. Assumption that you can’t love and therefore
can justifiably hate anyone who is not of your
own origin. The Jewish rabbis were in effect
advocating open and deliberate racism on the
grounds of national origin.
3. Hear their own words: “A Jew sees a Gentile
fall into the sea, let him by no means lift him
out; for it is written, Thou shalt not rise up
against the blood of thy neighbor:-but this is
not thy neighbor.” Maimon. This shows that by
neighbor they understood a Jew; one who was of
the same blood and religion with themselves.
II. IT’S TIME FOR A CHANGE (v. 44-48)
A. Why Should I Love My Enemies?
1. The common sense argument
a. Five times Jesus told His disciples to be of
good cheer. He also spoke about our joy being