Read Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
How is the love of Jesus different from the love of the world?
It’s no secret that the world is extremely divided. We keep splitting up into different camps based on what we are for and what we are against. But the biggest problem is that we don’t tend to view the people in the other camps simply as people we disagree with, we tend to think of them as our enemies.
So I want you to imagine someone in a different camp than you when you read today’s verse. When Jesus said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” He was quoting the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. But only the first part of that quote is actually Scripture: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).
The scribes and Pharisees, who were responsible for teaching the people what God said, were not presenting the Scriptures accurately. The Old Testament Scriptures do not teach that we are supposed to hate our enemies. It actually teaches that we aren’t supposed to make enemies in the first place. The Lord God explicitly said not to take revenge on people who have wronged you and not to hold a grudge. The scribes and Pharisees were cherry-picking the parts of Scripture they liked, leaving off the rest.
King Solomon also taught to love your enemies. He wrote: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21). Now, heaping burning coals on your enemies head doesn’t sound very loving. Unless you understand that metal is softened, refined, and molded with fire. No, the Lord won’t reward you for torturing your enemy with scalding coals. King Solomon was using a metaphor to show that unexpected acts of undeserved kindness have a way of softening and changing hardened hearts. Sometimes, by loving our enemies well, we gain an unexpected friend and earn a soul to Christ.
Once again, Jesus’s teaching is calling us to a higher and holier standard the world would expect. He is calling us to have a heart free of any hatred and full of His love. Loving the world as He has loved us. Yes, even our enemies.
Romans 5:7-8,10 remind us that Jesus died for us while we were still enemies of God: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.... For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
Friends, the love of Jesus is uncommon and He has called us to love as He has loved us. If we only love our family, friends, and people who are nice to us, we are no different from the rest of the world. But when we love our enemies, when we pray for the people who have wronged us, that is an uncommon love that points the world to the origin of that love—Jesus.
Lord, You have asked me to do a difficult thing. And yet, when I am reminded that You loved me and died for me while I was still a sinner and an enemy of God, it softens my own heart toward those who have wronged me. Help me to forgive, Lord. Help me to show Your uncommon love towards those I consider my enemies. Amen.
~ Pastor Nat Crawford
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