Summary: Jesus is talking about the way we love others. We can only love perfectly when we have been changed by God’s perfect love.
Matthew 5:43-48 43 ”You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Intro: A professor of psychology had no children of his own, but 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!" [Sunshine Magazine]
-In v.48 Jesus said to be perfect just like Dad. What did He mean by that? In the language of the NT, perfect does not nec. mean flawless or attaining perfection. It means being mature in a moral sense. It often carries the idea of being complete. God wants us to be complete in our character, lacking nothing. He wants us to be complete in our ability to give and receive love. If we only love those who love us, then the love of God is incomplete in us. Incomplete love shows that we have not received God’s love to the extent that it has changed us and made us like Him. So Jesus is really talking about the way we love others. Here is the main thought I’d like to examine today:
Prop: We can only love perfectly when we have been changed by God’s perfect love.
TS: Let’s take a look at 3 thoughts on perfect love that will help us get a sense of what God is calling us to.
I. The Twisting of Perfect Love
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
-In Matthew 5, Jesus has been fulfilling the Old Testament by bringing out its deeper meaning. He does it again here in verse 43: He says "You have heard that it was said, "Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." The part about loving your neighbor is in the Old Testament. Leviticus 19:18 says "do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself" [or who is like yourself]. The rabbis taught that this verse only applies to loving other Jewish people. Therefore if a non-Jewish person didn’t treat you well, then it was okay to hate that person because he wasn’t Jewish! Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.
-In the past few weeks we’ve talked about the fact that every human being was made in the image of God. It may be hard to see God’s image in some people, but it is there, even if it is being covered up by other things. From my studies it appears that Lev. 19:18 gives the basis or rationale for loving our fellow man. We should love our neighbor because he or she is just like us – made in God’s image. There may be a lot of differences between you and your neighbor, but one thing you share is the image of God.
-Unfortunately, many of the Jews had misinterpreted this verse to mean that they were only required to love fellow Jews who were like them. You can find these words written in the Mishnah: “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” (Mishneh Torah, Laws of Murder 4:11). They understood their neighbor to be only a Jew; one who was of the same blood and religion as themselves.
-One day when Jesus reiterated this command to love your neighbor who is like you, someone asked, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus then told the story of the Good Samaritan. From that story we find that we should be a neighbor to anyone in need, regardless of their race, religion, denomination, and even things like sexual orientation or personal hygiene.