“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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
– Matthew 5:43-47 (Jesus speaking; our 11th segment of the Sermon on the Mount)
This is the sixth and final example Jesus gives following the “You have heard…but I say…” format – and it is perhaps the best known. It deals with the meaning of love. First, Jesus distinguishes His teaching from what has been taught in the past…and what was being taught in His day.
Recall that the editorial practice of the New American Standard Bible (and many translations have the same or a similar standard) is to capitalize quotations of the Old Testament that are found in the New Testament. Note carefully, therefore, that while “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR” indeed came from the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18), “and hate your enemy” is a man-made addition that was not part of God’s word (and this is why it is not capitalized). Alas, it is an aspect of human erring to add to what God has said, and we should always seek to avoid being either the purveyors or the recipients of such additions.
Additions to God’s word aside, Jesus came to teach people how to be like God. Moses’ teaching goal had been far more modest – just wanting the Israelites to get along with each other. Jesus makes clear that loving as God loves does not mean just loving the lovely. Everyone does that.
God loves those who do not love Him. So strong and enduring is God’s love that it transforms enemies into friends. Therefore, disciples of Jesus don’t just love Him and each other; they also love their enemies…and pray for them.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, to the same degree that You have loved me, I want to love others – even enemies. I want this because You want it…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)