"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 NASB)
The next post will wrap this section of the Sermon on the Mount with some concluding remarks. This section Matthew 5:17-47 is Jesus laying out the fact that your righteousness must exceed the Law in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, He then proceeds to explain using various laws for examples, how that can be practically done. He does this by stating the law, then stating the intent of the law, then stating how practically to exceed the law. If you read the previous so many posts you will see how this plays out. I think it is important to see that Jesus is laying out a pattern here, and the precepts being taught in Matthew 5:17-47 are not limited to the laws directly mentioned. The principles can be applied to all laws regarding moral conduct. This will be discussed more in the next post.
So for this passage:
Jesus states the law: You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy...
It is important to note here the words that proceed Jesus stating the law "You have heard that it was said..." hating your enemy was not a part of the original law, however it was being taught that way thus the disciples had 'heard it said'. Jesus is not misquoting the law, He is dealing directly with the disciple's understanding of the law, and the Pharisees' teaching of the law.
Jesus states the intent: Love your enemies.
Again, the law was to love your neighbor, however the intent was that we would love all.
Jesus states how to exceed the law: Pray for those who persecute you...
This is one of the most difficult commands of scripture for so many people. The call to love your enemies is at first a very difficult pill to swallow, but the reality of it may not be as difficult as people think. The reason this passage seems nearly impossible to most people is because of the warped idea of what love is. If love was primarily an emotional endeavor in which we muster up positive feelings and affections for someone then loving and enemy is an impossible task, in fact if that is what love is then loving an enemy is an utter impossibility because to have positive feeling and affection toward someone would mean they were not an enemy. However the true meaning of godly love is 'to selflessly seek someone else's good...' in other words to find ways and means to do good for someone else, even at your own expense. When you love a spouse that is exactly what you are to be doing. Now, loving an enemy in that way truly is doable for the believer who has been empowered by the Spirit to exceed the law. Whilst it may be impossible to muster up feelings of affection for your enemy it is not impossible to seek their well being and to take action that benefits them. Feeding them, caring for them, going out of your way to offer kindness to them, and doing these things extravagantly. When it gets slammed back your face well... turn the other cheek... and when you keep getting walked all over... keep laying down to be walked on. This sounds so passive in our self-righteous culture, and our best life now easy believeism, but the truth is that your are called to lay yourself, and thus exceed the law.
Jesus gives a very practical way in which you can love your enemies and that is to pray for them. Again, this is not a selfish endeavor, and this certainly is not praying about them, you are to pray FOR them, that is to pray for their benefit. This is not a simple 'God open their eyes so they see things my way' it is a 'God bless my enemy' type prayer. To pray for them, for their benefit.
Well I am going to leave it at that. Concluding remarks on the last so many posts should be coming soon.