Church of Christ
at
Locks Cross Roads
14) Matthew 5 - Loving your enemy
Matthew 5:44 through end

The next section is a summary of practical Jewish morality which reveals an ethically inadequate, lovelessness, and
partiality, although it had seemed perfectly rational.  But God's mercifulness ignores this since He blesses even
those who spite Him in every way.

Matthew 5:43 ye have head that it was said; Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.  The first phrase is
as old as the Law itself and is left unchanged by the Lord (Leviticus 19:18).

Though there were laws commanding love for the individual sojourning in the land (Leviticus 19:33-34) and civil
rights and courtesies equal to those due any native Hebrew, yet the fear of contamination by idolatry, through any
kind of social contact with their surrounding pagan neighbors, caused the Jews to heed those commands which
enforced their separatism (Exodus 23:20-33, Exodus 34:11, Numbers 31, Deuteronomy 7:1-5 and 16, Deuteronomy
10:10-18).
This kind of hate is the natural outgrowth of self-righteousness which identifies itself with the cause of
righteousness. This kind of self-righteous cannot conceive of God's plans as having any expression except through
the person and his group.

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and pray for them that persecute you.  Instead of pampering
the prejudices of His audience Jesus shows Himself a true Patriot.  He offers them the only way to improve relations
with any enemy, personal or national.  This word of love must have aroused resentment in some who had unusually
bad relations with tax collectors and Roman soldiers.  How these words would have stung on the ears of those who
were just living for the day when they personally might draw Roman blood and drive the hated occupation army out
of Palestine.

Some examples of loving one's enemies:
    a) The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37)
    b) Jesus on the cross (Luke 23:34)
    c) Stephen being martyred (Acts 7:60)
    d) David spared Saul's life (1st Samuel 24 and 26)
What Jesus does NOT mean.  He does not intend just a natural compassion or good feelings, a natural affection or
fondness.  Nor is He implying a blanket, general love which takes in wholesale an enemy nation, or the whole
corrupt political machine, or an entire religious denomination, but rather He intends a love for the individual,
detached from the movement he represents.

What Jesus DOES mean by the word love:  He intends a purposeful, intelligent, comprehending love which cannot
ignore the hatefulness and wickedness of the enemy, but seeks in every way to free him from the sin which blinds
and binds him to those passions that drive him to be what he is.  This love commanded is a matter of the will.

Not only does this love surpass the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, but it raises the standard above all
law, especially that of Moses, so that it touches the perfect character of God!

Should someone object that the cost of love is too high (1st John 3:16), the cost of hatred is even greater (1st John
3:15).  He, who would shut out his neighbor's need from his heart, likewise shuts out the love of God!
Matthew 5:45 this is the first reason Jesus urges us to love our enemies:  that we might be like God.  God is the very
author and example of this outgoing love of others.  Our pattern and measure of love is to be no less than His!

The central idea is this:  moral likeness proves one's true parentage. (Contrast John 8:39-47).  To the Jews present
that day, the phrase "sons of your Father" would have been easily understood in the sense of likeness or chief
characteristic.

The honest man, whose conscience has been stabbed by Christ's words, and who feels his own imperfection, will be
reminded that God truly blesses him even in his sinfulness.  Such a disciple will be motivated to bless and help men,
especially his enemies, loving them as God had first loved him.

Matthew 5:46 and 47 Jesus' second reason for loving the unlovely and unlovable, is that refusal to do so is conduct
no better than that of the worst of men.  
Matthew, writing more to a Jewish standpoint, mentions two classes which to Jews were sinners without equals.

The stigma attached to a tax collector would not be chosen by any good men who had any regard for the good
opinion of their countrymen.  This left the office to those who had less self-respect to lose and no reputation to
protect and often few principles.  Considered as traitors as well as grafters, they were regarded as entirely out of
fellowship with God (Luke 3:12-13, Luke 19:1-9, Luke 15:1-2, Luke 18:9-14).

If one loves and salutes only his most intimate friends and family, he is acting just like those whom he would class as
flagrant sinners; worse yet, he is sharing their sin of partiality.

Matthew 5:48 Ye therefore shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Jesus' idea of real religion or true
righteousness is to make us like God, nothing else or nothing less!
How to be perfectly:  by loving perfectly.  The word translated by our word "perfect," can mean all that our word
signifies, i.e.absoluteness, the highest degree of excellence.  Yet it means more:  perfection is relative to the goal,
the end.  Something is perfect when it accomplishes the purpose for which it was planned (1st Corinthians 2:6, 1st
Corinthians 14:20, Ephesians 4:13-16, Hebrews 5:14).
Back to Matthew 5 Study Index Page