“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father 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 have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."
History and Context:
This is Jesus speaking in what has become known as the "Sermon on the Mount". Though this sermon is brought together in Matthew, in chapters 5-7, the other Gospels have the same teachings spread out. Scholars believe that Matthew used a stylistic approach, in which he brought together all the most powerful, and most popular teachings of Jesus into one section of his Gospel. This is towards the beginning of that section. Matthew was writing to the Jews who many of them may have heard the teachings in person.
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus declares that He has "not come to destroy [the Law] but to fulfill." (v. 17)Then He proceeds to explain how He is fulfilling the Law. In this case the law simply said "Love your neighbor as yourself." (Leviticus 19:18) But Jesus tells us that loving our neighbors is not enough, we must love our enemies as well. We must pray for those who persecute us and bless those who curse us. This is a hard saying to follow!
The challenge is obvious. Do you know someone who just gets on your nerves? Or maybe someone who is going out of their way to hurt you? Well Jesus said to love them. If they are going out of their way to hurt you, then find a way to go out of your way to love them. Give them gifts, smile at them, open the door for them, but most of all pray for them. Ask God to bless them. It is difficult, but the scripture says that this is how we will be perfect like our Father in heaven.
Lord, I do want to be like you. And in orderto be like you I know that I must learn to love my enemies. Help me to find creative ways to reach out to and love those people who seem to be set against me. Help me to love them with your love and to see them with your eyes. In Jesus name, Amen!