Summary: This is about loving our enemies.
Read Matthew 5:43-48.
This is yet another hard saying of the Sermon on the Mount. This goes beyond the revenge we looked at last week. Jesus said that we shouldn’t seek revenge. Okay, fine. I’d love to take revenge, but I won’t. Now he says that I have to love them. Isn’t it enough that I don’t punch the other guy in the nose? You say I gotta love him!
1. Reasons to HATE
Our reasons to hate are as numerous as our reasons to take revenge. We can rationalize anything. Notice that Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” The part about hating your enemy is nowhere in the Bible. The part about loving your neighbor is from Lev. 19:18. We come up with good reasons to hate people.
A. Not my NEIGHBOR
Since it was said that we should love our neighbor, some drew the conclusion, that we should only love our neighbor. The logical conclusion was then to not love someone who wasn’t a neighbor. In the OT mind, the neighbor was a fellow countryman. It meant that a neighbor was someone like us (in thought, appearance [dress, race], belief, etc.).
B. My ENEMY
An enemy is someone who is against us. An enemy is someone who is different from us. It could be our nemesis at work, school, or wherever. Why should we love someone who doesn’t like? What have they every done for us?
C. My PERSECUTOR
A persecutor is the one who picks on us for who we are. This goes beyond an enemy. This is the bully who puts threats into practice. Okay, so I shouldn’t seek to do the same to him, but why can’t I sit and stew about him?
D. They are EVIL
It was also considered noble to hate the enemies of God. Someone who is an evil sinner should be hated. There used to be a minister from Topeka, Kansas that picketed various places and preached, “God hates fags.” His rationale was that since they were “evil” people, God hated them and so should everyone else.
E. They are UNJUST
The unjust are those who seek to do harm to others. The execs at Enron were unjust. My cousin lost all his retirement when Enron went bust. That’s not fair. Shouldn’t I be able to hate them for that gross injustice?
2. Rewards for LOVE
There are rewards for loving others. Jesus said that greatest commandment was to love God, which few have a problem with. The second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. Part of the problem is the definition of who our neighbor is. Who is our neighbor? Jesus defined our neighbor in the story of the Good Samaritan. If their was any group that Jews hated in Jesus’ day, it was the Samaritans, along with the tax collectors and Gentiles, which covered about anyone who wasn’t like them. In effect our enemy is our neighbor.
A. To be a CHILD of God
Jesus said that one of the benefits of loving our enemies (who really are our neighbors) is that we will be children of God. Children bear the resemblance of their parents. People say I look like my parents, and my kids look like my wife or me. Sometimes we even see a resemblance between parents and adopted children.
To be a child of God is to reflect his image. We were created in the image of God. The mere act of loving our enemy doesn’t make us a child of God, but it shows that we are a child of God. To become a child of God we must begin a walk with God. The result will be that we will love our enemies.
B. To make new FRIENDS
Another reward for loving our enemies is that we can make a new friend. Read Matthew 5:14-16. If we show genuine love to someone who hates us, it may well turn into a friendship, but at the least we will show them that we are children of God and that may bring them into a relationship with God. If we hate them and claim to love God, what does that say? 1 John 2:9 says, “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.” If you hate someone, are you really a child of God? We are called to…
3. Real PERFECTION
The last verse is a tough one. How on earth can I be perfect? Notice it doesn’t say to be as perfect as God is? This begs the question, “What is perfection?” To be perfect is meet our function. When we fulfill our function, we are perfect. We are perfect if we fulfill the design that God gave us. We were created to bear the image of God. To love our enemies is be a child of God, and therefore bear his image. God loves saint and sinner alike, and when we do that we are perfect in the NT sense. My car is perfect despite defects.