Summary: Lesson 18
This lesson is more or less a continuation of the previous one. In verses 38-42 we learned what we are not supposed to do when we’ve been mistreated by others. That is, we are not to retaliate in like kind. The Biblical principle of an "eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was not given to individual citizens, but rather to the governmental "powers that be." It is not up to us as individuals to mete out our own form of justice. If we did that, before long, we would all be blind and toothless.
In the verses now under consideration, Jesus explains explicitly what we are supposed to do when we’ve been mistreated by others. What Jesus proposes is nothing short of radical. Perhaps nothing will show how seriously short we fall of God’s intended mark than will these verses. The individual who can honestly say that their life is governed by the principles set forth in verses 43-48 has truly reached a spiritual milestone.
I. A MISREPRESENTATION THAT IS TYPICAL
By the time we reach these final verses of Matthew 5 we have come to expect what we find in terms of the actions of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. Once again they have taken the words of God and have misrepresented them to the people. Actually, they have gone beyond mere misrepresentation and have crossed the line in that they have both added to and taken away from the sacred canon of Scripture.
A. An Omission that was Considerable
2. What the religious leaders had omitted was the fact that those of Jesus’ day, as well as we, were to love their neighbors as they loved themselves.
3. To love our neighbors as we love ourselves is to love them with the greatest of care. It is to show them the highest degree of love humanly possible.
4. The meaning of the verse is changed considerably when you do away with the words "as thyself."
B. An Addition that is Convenient
1. Nowhere in Leviticus 19:18, or in all of the Bible, will you find the command to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. This was clearly a rabbinical addition and not one intended by the Lord.
2. What we find in this verse is a convenient twisting of the Scriptures to justify the sinful, prejudicial behavior of the Jews.
4. The error of the Jews was their misunderstanding of the word "neighbor", a misunderstanding that Jesus cleared up in Luke 10:25-37.
5. The Jews had restricted the word "neighbor" to friends or those closely related to them. To the Jews a "neighbor" was someone of their nation and particularly those who belonged to their own party.
6. The meaning of the word "neighbor" should have been clear to the Jews because of its usage in the Old Testament. The word’s common usage in the first Testament was used to refer to anyone with whom we may come in contact.
7. When the Lord gave the commands against bearing false witness against one’s neighbor and coveting a neighbor’s wife, clearly He wasn’t placing any limitation on the word. He was speaking in reference to mankind as a whole.
II. A CLARIFICATION THAT WAS THOROUGH
Jesus had definitely raised a few eyebrows up to this point as He preached, but when He got to the words about loving your enemy He must have shocked the entire audience, including His disciples. The clarification that Jesus gave on that day had to be the most radical thing these people had ever heard. LOVE YOUR ENEMY? BLESS THEM THAT CURSE YOU? DO GOOD TO THEM THAT HATE YOU? PRAY FOR THEM WHICH DESPITEFULLY USE YOU?
The teaching of Jesus here was intended to show that our neighbors include even our enemies. In other words, no one is outside the scope of our love. The love that the Lord spoke of in these verses is Ideal, Indicative, and Impartial.
A. Ideal Love
"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;"
The love that Jesus is speaking of here is vastly superior to what we normally call "natural affection." "Natural affection" is a natural instinct or feeling that is found even in the most wicked of people. Even animals have a sense of "natural affection."
The love we are to demonstrate toward our enemies is the same love that the Lord demonstrated toward His. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). It is a love that seeks the highest welfare of another. It is a love that manifests itself in deeds.