Summary: In the Beatitudes, Jesus said that those who were persecuted were blessed because great was their reward in heaven. In today's section, Jesus explains how we are to respond to those who persecute and say evil things against us-we are to love them.
THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT (part 13)
In the Beatitudes earlier in the chapter, Jesus said that those who were persecuted were blessed because great was their reward in heaven. In today's section, Jesus explains how we are to respond to those who persecute and say evil things against us-by loving them.
1) Love, not hate.
Matt. 5:43-45, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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."
The first place we see the phrase, 'love your neighbor as yourself' is in Lev. 19:18. What you won't find is the second part, 'hate your enemy'. The religious leaders had added to God's command for their own benefit; so as to be able to declare anyone they wished as an enemy and therefore justify not helping such a person; even though God's word said contrary.
Ex. 23:4-5, “If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."
God wanted his people to treat others, even enemies, with love and kindness. The people of Jesus' day understood it as you needed to love a fellow Jew but you were allowed to hate a foreigner. But that was dealt with long ago, too.
Lev. 19:33-34, “ ‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God."
So, even though there were places where God commanded otherwise, the teachers of the law had maligned the scriptures and taught what they wanted. Thus, the understood rule of the day was, 'love your friend; hate your enemy'. To be declared an enemy, a person didn't need to have done anything against you, but just the fact that they were a foreigner was enough to be considered an enemy.
Times haven't changed much. There are plenty people today who dislike someone because of their color, race, culture or belief. They hate anyone who's different than them. But Jesus, as he's been doing all along, sets things to right. He's basically saying you are not allowed to hate anyone; even if they hate you.
That's hard though, isn't it? If someone doesn't like us our instinctive reaction is anger. "Oh, you don't want to be my friend anymore; well forget you then!" Obviously we're reacting out of being hurt but that doesn't mean the resentment stops once the initial anger subsides. Sometimes people reconcile but sometimes they don't.
If we know someone hates us it's automatic to hate them in return; even if we had no issue with them prior to that. But Jesus wants us to change the way we operate; he wants us to respond in love. He is asking us to do the most difficult thing ever-love our enemy.
It's hard enough to show love to a stranger, someone who's never done anything to me, let alone show it to someone who has shown they don't like me. When we know someone doesn't like us, we feel if we don't take revenge that should be good enough but Jesus wants us to take it a step further-bless them, do good to them, pray for them-love them.
This goes along with what he said in the verses right before this. Not only are you to not retaliate when wronged and take matters into our own hands, but Jesus wants us to bless them on top of it. If someone wants your tunic give him your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go two. Go the extra mile; go above and beyond.
That's hard enough to do for someone whom I have no issues with; let alone doing it for someone whom I have contention with. Do good to the one who has no desire to do good to me. Bless the one who curses me. Pray for the one who could care less about me? That's impossible.
Yes, by our own power it is. But that's why Jesus is calling us to do it; it will show the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus wants us to act in accordance with our spirit nature; showing ourselves to be children of God and showing the world the unbelievable ability of someone who operates in that power.