Summary: This is Part 10 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus as he delivered what is familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” In this part we examine Jesus teachings about an eye for an eye, loving our neighbor, and being perfect.

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect

Sermon on the Mount

The Christian Character

Matthew 5:3 - 7:27

(Cf. Luke 6:20-49)

This is Part 10 in a 14-part series of studies I call “The Christian Character” as described by Jesus to a crowd of people on a Galilean hillside as he delivered what is more familiarly known as the “Sermon on the Mount.”

The 14 parts are as follows:

Part 1 – Introduction

Part 2 – Beatitudes – the poor in spirit

Part 3 - Beatitudes – those who mourn

Part 4 - Beatitudes – the meek, and those who hunger and thirst

Part 5 - Beatitudes – the merciful and the pure in heart

Part 6 - Beatitudes – peacemakers

Part 7 - Beatitudes – the persecuted and insulted

Part 8 - Salt of the earth and light of the world

Part 9 - Righteousness exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees; divorce, oaths

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect

Part 11 - Three things to do, not to be seen by men and a model prayer

Part 12 - Laying up treasures, eye is the lamp of the body, serving two masters

Part 13 - Do not judge, do not give what is holy to dogs and pigs

Part 14 - Ask, seek, and knock; the narrow gate; false prophets; building on the rock

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Quickly review last week’s class

In Matthew 5:21-37, Jesus is not re-teaching the old familiar things they had all known for a long time – some from the law and some not. He does not -as others do – teaching what was already known. Jesus was teaching another way of looking at those old commandments.

Clearly, Jesus’ purpose is not to teach the disciples and the crowd things they had already all learned, but to give them his own teaching ABOUT those things they had already been taught, some of it true and some of it false.





In fact, the teaching from the law of Moses (Deut 24:1-4) about divorce did not say “let him give her a certificate of divorcement.” Moses had there only said, “IF A MAN does this sequence of actions, which included giving a divorced woman a certificate…” But to rivet our attention onto the certificate is to miss the point that the real teaching of Moses is that if a man divorces his wife and she marries another, HE MAY NEVER TAKE HER AGAIN AS HIS WIFE, FOR THAT IS AN ABOMINATION BEFORE THE LORD.

It is unfortunate that the very abomination Moses describes has often been prescribed by preachers, church leaders, and family member as the remedy for a complicated marital history.

Jesus does not make an attempt here to lay out a comprehensive teaching about divorce. He is simply speaking to something they had heard, and teaches them that there is a single circumstance in which remarriage does not result in adultery.

To sum up the teaching of Jesus about breaking oaths, I use the word “integrity,” which is derived from the English word “integer,” meaning a whole number, not a number with a fraction.

1 is an integer, 1.5 is not. 5 is an integer, 5.5 is not. The idea is that with regard to any oaths or vows we might take, we are a whole person – not a group of fractional parts.

As I have pointed out before, Jesus obviously didn’t bring those old sayings up so the people would know not to murder, commit adultery, how to document a divorce properly, or not break an oath. They already knew what had been said for centuries, although they had grossly distorted what Moses said about a divorce certificate (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4).

Jesus is illustrating the beatitudes, as he does throughout the sermon.

End of review

Part 10 - Eye for eye, loving neighbor and hating enemy, being perfect


Jesus said “You have heard that…” read Matt 5:38-42

Yes. That was in the Torah, and they were no strangers to it.


It was the law, written by Moses in the Torah several times – most broadly in Leviticus 24:17-20 – Read it.

In Numbers 35 the law provided for a procedure in the event someone accidental accidentally caused a death. Briefly, the one who accidentally killed another could flee to a “city of refuge,” pending a judgment. In the city of refuge, he was free from the avenger of blood, but if he left the city of refuge, the avenger could kill him. If the congregation judged him innocent of intentional murder, he could return to the city of refuge and remain in it until the death of the current high priest.

The Law provided a legal framework of remedies when a person does harm to another or his property. HOWEVER, except in the case of intentional murder, although the Law provided specific penalties and remedies, the one harmed or his kinsman was under no obligation to exact the penalty the law allowed.

The Law allowed one who was harmed to pursue the prescribed remedies, but Jesus taught and demonstrated a better way. When you are wronged by someone, you can “let it go.”

Peter asked “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” Jesus answered seventy times seven,” or 490 times (not sure why, by the ESV says 77 ??).

It is obvious that Jesus means forgive without limit.

Paul said as much when he wrote to the Corinthian church that love…

…does not take into account a wrong suffered.

Write --? FORGIVE

Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome:

Romans 12:19 ESV Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord."

Our problem with leaving vengeance to God is that we lack patience. When we’ve been harmed, we want the offender to get what’s coming to him while we watch (and grin with satisfaction). But Jesus said:

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy (the 5th beatitude).


Now Jesus makes a shocking statement.

Matt 5:43-47 - Read


Will someone show me where in the law this commandment is found?

Here is what the law says about love and hate:

Lev 19:16-18 (NIV) Do not go about spreading slander among your people. Do not do anything that endangers your neighbor's life. I am the Lord. Do not hate your brother in your heart. Rebuke your neighbor frankly so you will not share in his guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.

Wait a minute! Didn’t we just a moment ago see the exact terms of vengeance spelled out in the plain language of the Law?! But as we also saw, Jesus showed that there is a better way than the strict demands of legal justice. In so doing, he gave an early glimpse of how the demands of divine justice would be met under the Law of Christ.

The passage we just read says:

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.

To the Jews, the word “neighbor” meant someone of the Jewish race. Anyone not a Jew was an enemy, whom it was their duty to hate!

Listen to one of their teachers, Maimon:

“If 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 thy neighbor, but this is not thy neighbor.”

When Jesus spoke to the Jews in his audience, He was referring to what had become a fully accepted idea well established in Jewish culture--that they could hate those of different race and religion, wish for, and in fact, enable their death. Their attitudes and actions were far from the meaning of Moses’ teaching in Leviticus 19:17 -

Do not hate your neighbor in your heart.

Instead, their focus was on “your people” in the ancient commandment.

Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people.

Jesus gave a different a definition of a neighbor. A lawyer asked him:

Who is my neighbor?

Jesus told the story of a man on the Jericho road, robbed, stripped, beaten and left for dead. A priest and a Levite passed by him, offering no assistance. But a Samaritan man – a Samaritan man! – ministered to him. Jesus asked,

Which one was neighbor to the one who fell among thieves?

The lawyer answered:

The one who showed mercy.

Jesus said,

You have answered correctly. Go and do likewise.

On the Galilean mountain, Jesus told the crowd:

“Love your enemies.” (Matt 5:44)


Is there a more challenging passage in the Bible than this?

It is an act of the heart and also the will. It lies at the center of all Jesus’ teaching on difficult relationships. When we “fall in love” with a sweet person, it doesn’t happen through effort, but naturally in our hearts.

• To love our nearest, dearest friends, there is nothing for us to do to bring it about.

• To love one who is “hate-able,” we must overcome natural responses through our will.

• To love one who has set himself against us, we must conquer anger and bitterness.

Personal relationships are tightly coupled with – and reflective of - our relationship to God.

1 John 4:20 ESV If anyone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Proverbs 24:17 goes to specifics and places it within the heart:

ESV Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles…

Does Jesus tell us to love our personal enemies? Or are we to love those who are enemies of Christ, and are our enemies by association with him?


Jesus didn’t specify what enemies we are to love, so neither can we.

We are not excused from loving all enemies, even those who are declared enemies of Christ.

Put another way, the only enemies we are not to love are those for whom Jesus didn’t die (facetious).

Jesus taught in the 8th and 9th beatitudes:

Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.

Is this doctrine workable?

Is it even possible?

It is. Paul wrote to the Romans (5:10):

…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…

Jesus didn’t leave the principle un-illustrated.

Jesus asked his Father to forgive the soldiers who executed him

If this doctrine will not work in real life, then the whole sermon is an empty husk--all we have learned from Jesus about regard and concern for others leads to this teaching and it goes directly against human nature.

But we are partakers of divine nature.

Is the teaching something we should strive for but will never fully apprehend? Like Paul wrote to the Philippian church,

Philippians 3:12 NASB Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.

But by so doing--turning the other cheek, going the second mile, being faithful in our marriages and true to our word--we rightly recognize that we are morally charged with promoting the well-being of others - even those who do not deserve, desire or appreciate it.

And that is agape.

The 8th and 9th beatitudes are relevant to this teaching:

Matthew 5:10-12 ESV "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. "Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.


Then Jesus says something even more shocking:

Matthew 5:48 ESV You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Is Jesus saying what it sounds like?!

Can this even be done? We’re not God!

Are you perfect? Am I?

Has anyone ever succeeded in meeting this standard?!

“Perfect” is in the original teleios, tel'-i-os; complete (in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character, etc.); of full age.

Perfect does not mean sinless, unflawed, and error-free.

Being perfect means being complete and mature.

In this usage, “therefore” is an adverb, modifying the verbs, “must be.”

It means that the foregoing words “make the case” for what follows.

Either “love your enemies,” or the whole of what has been said, including the beatitudes, leads to “Therefore….be perfect.”

If we gain a mastery of the doctrines we have studied in the beatitudes and how they are borne out in the applications Jesus makes in this sermon, we are prepared and equipped, and enabled to act and react in a mature way, perfected for living in the way he teaches.