Pastor Dominic Cardamone
In Matthew 5 we find Jesus preaching what some have referred to as the greatest sermon ever delivered, the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus imparted his kingdom principles to his disciples that were to govern their lives and ministries (and by extension ours as well). Jesus, in this sermon, addressed the letter of the law and drilled deeper into it. He gave the intent of the law. I’d like to focus particularly on verses 43-48.
A False Notion
Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
The Jews had a notion that they were to love their neighbors but to hate their enemies. Jesus said this was something that they had heard taught. To love one’s neighbor was a clear command in the law (Leviticus 19:18). But to hate their enemies was not a teaching found in the Old Testament. Perhaps they were taught this notion by teachers who added to the love command and passed it down through the generations by tradition or perhaps the phrase was a colloquialism that came to be used in ordinary or familiar conversation. Either way, it appears to have been a notion accepted among the Jews. As you study the Bible and history it is quite clear that the Jews had a distain (hatred) for the Samaritans and Gentiles. Jesus taught that this notion was false. It was based on a misconception of who God was and what God expected of his followers.
A Fanatical Norm
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
Jesus in contrast (“But I say”), preaches against common thought and tells them to love their enemies. That seems a bit radical and far-fetched. As he often does, he was calling his followers to embrace a fanatical norm. One that imparts love toward all. He wants us to love not just our friend but our foe too. He tells us how we can do that:
· Bless them: When you speak to/of them, speak well and wish well on them. Build them up, don’t tear down. Don’t speak curses but blessings toward them. Have good motives toward them.
· Do good to them: Serve them; don’t plot against them. Take every opportunity to help them. Good works demonstrate love more effectively than just good words. Have good manners toward them.
· Pray for them: When you speak of them to God, advocate for them. We must pray for our enemies as Christ did. Jesus exemplified this upon the cross when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. (Luke 23:24)” Have good mediations for them.
A Follower’s Nature
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Jesus further teaches that loving one’s enemy ought to be the nature of every follower of his. A disciple is a child of the heavenly Father and should resemble his nature. What is the Father’s nature? It is to bring sun to shine and rain to fall upon the just and the unjust (the good and the evil). His good manners and blessings (depicted in the reference to sun and rain and the benefits they provide) are bestowed upon all (those who would be a neighbor to him and those who would be opposed to him). His love, which in some aspects is referred to as common grace, makes no distinctions between who will be a recipient of his love and who will not. Our love toward others should have no distinction in this way either.
A Final Nudge
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye morethan others?do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Jesus makes a final appeal to their reasoning for this radical teaching. He does so by asking four rhetorical questions and making one concluding statement. Essentially what Jesus communicated in this portion of the passage was if his followers didn’t love their enemies, how then would they be any different (set apart/holy) from the rest of the world as Jesus has called them to be? What reward should there be given to his followers if they love in the same manner as the publicans/sinners did (only their friends)? It is God’s desire for us to have reward and to be fruitful by loving our enemies and leading them to Jesus. What more are we doing than the world if we only receive our neighbors? Jesus wants us to love in a manner more than the world does. He wants us to go further, to exceed, and to have an extraordinary love. It is God’s perfection and fullness to do good and love all. It ought to be our perfection and fullness to do the same as him.
If you pay even the slightest bit of attention to current events, you are probably well aware of the protests and riots (some peaceful and others shameful) that have been taking place in many cities across our nation and even here in the Pittsburgh area. These have been brought on by the wrongful death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota when a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. If anything should be clear amidst the mass cries of our society, it is that Jesus is the One to whom we should be looking for the answers and healing when confronted with police brutality, racism, and how we should move forward from here. We must let the mind and manual of Christ guide our thinking, assessments, and beliefs. Our false notions must be eradicated. Our love should be boundless reaching to every ethnicity, every social strata, and every walk of life. Every child of God should seek to embody the nature of their Heavenly Father in loving even his enemies.