08.02.08 Mt. 5:43-47; Lk. 6:34-36; Mt. 5:48
LOVE FOR ENEMIES
Mt. 43 “You have heard that it was said,
“Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
44 But I tell you,
love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46 For if you love those who love you,
what reward will you have?
Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers,
what are you doing out of the ordinary?
Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?
Lk. 34 And if you lend to those
from whom you expect to receive,
what credit is that to you?
Even sinners lend to sinners
to be repaid in full.
35 But love your enemies
do what is good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return.
Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.
Mt. 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
“Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Jesus was referring to both the written and oral laws. The first part was recorded in Leviticus 19:18, while the other was in the Oral Law and reflected the popular thinking of the elite concerning non-Jews (cf. Lev. 19:33-34; Ex. 23:4-5). Non-Jews were considered both as enemies and sinners. These words of Jesus were not only directed to these elitists, but also to the Essene movement, which explicitly commanded its members to love each other and hate all outsiders, including other Jews. Yet this concept was not a “new” idea, but was a common teaching in Jewish history and appeared in some pre-Christian writings.
“Love your enemies.” This command is distinctively different from many other commands in rabbinic writings. The love espoused by Jesus is a hallmark of divine significance. It was already understood that God desired His people to love their neighbors (Lev. 19:18). The word “neighbors,” however, had a narrow definition. The Jews desired an explanation to which Jesus responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25ff). According to Jesus, true love will cause the believer to pray for his enemy and persecutor and, thereby, reflect the loving character of God Himself. Here Jesus breaks all boundaries of the traditional concept of who needed to be loved and who would be rejected. The early church fathers had an interesting parallel to this in the early second century:
Anything you do not want to happen to you, do not to another.
It is unknown why they placed this teaching in a negative format, but some scholars believe it is because the Ten Commandments were also written negatively.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is the summary statement of the Sermon on the Mount! Jesus requires perfection from His disciples, but that perfection is the attitude toward godly perfection that determines actions. No one can achieve perfection by his own efforts. Only by the grace and forgiveness of God is perfection acquired. It is a lifestyle of humility, knowing who we are before a perfect God, and a lifestyle of faith, knowing that a loving God desires to be an integral part of our lives.
. See the Dead Sea Scrolls 1QS 1:4,10; 2:4-9; 1QM 4:1-2; 15:6; 1QH 5:4.
. Two examples are found within three books of The Testament of the Twelve Patriarchs. They are The Testament of Dan 5:3; The Testament of Zebulon 5:1; and The Testament of Issachar 7:6.
. The Didache is a book on church order that was written within a century of the life of Jesus. For more information, see 02.02.08.