Love For Enemies


‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Matthew 5:43-48

The Old Testament law nowhere stated that they should ‘hate his enemies.’ This was a false interpretation by the Jews, Leviticus 19:17-18.

Therefore, Jesus doesn’t here argue against the Old Testament law, but against those who falsely interpret it for their own personal desires. The principle of loving our neighbour fulfils all that the law would command concerning our duty toward our fellow man, Matthew 22:35-40.

The principle of loving our enemies is valid and binding upon everyone who follows Christ. There’s no room in the Christian’s heart, especially since they’ve had their sins forgiven, to have hatred towards anyone.

The kind of love used in our text doesn’t necessarily refer to sentimental and affectionate love as we have towards our own family members. The kind of love meant here is the love manifested by God Himself in that He sends rain on the good and evil, etc.

The implication is that Christians should treat their enemies with fairness and impartiality, doing unto them as they would desire people should do unto themselves.

Underlying these verses is the challenge that Christians should be ‘like their Father who is in heaven.’

That’s what it’s really all about, that Christians should be like the pure and holy God whom we are taught to worship through Christ. God loves sinners, even dying for them while they were yet in sin, so, Christians should love all men, sinners included, even their own personal enemies!

To live the other way is to be no better than a publican, the gatherer of the Roman taxes and, in the Jewish dictionary, that was about as low as a man could get! The character that Jesus has just explained identifies those who are of the spirit of the Father, and thus, sons of the Father. God’s love is impartial, He loved us when we were His enemies, Romans 5:8.

Christ here pronounced a new and thrilling principle to take the place of the old proverb that ‘One rotten apple will spoil a barrel of good apples!’ That is, ‘One good apple can heal a barrel of rotten apples!’

Only Christ could have revealed such an exciting new and effective doctrine as this. A true heart isn’t one of malice or hate, hearts of malice and hate, identify those individuals who are of the world.

Luke adds here that we should do good to and pray for our enemies.

‘But to you who are listening, I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.’ Luke 6:27-28

There is no reward in a love that acts out of selfish motives to do something for others for the purpose of receiving something in return. True love must be unconditional, it mustn’t seek a reward. These Jews worked as tax collectors for the Roman government, and thus, were despised by the Jews. They were allowed to take a portion of the taxes that they collected.

If we embrace only those of his approval, then there is no true manifestation of love. The disciples’ greetings must extend beyond what the world would do to and for itself. God’s people are to be different in that they are disciples who unconditionally love others. They are expected by God to do more than those who are outside a covenant relationship with God.

Jesus establishes a needed high standard of conduct in order that His disciples be made aware of their need for salvation and their need to struggle in order to have the kingdom reign of Jesus within them.

The word ‘perfect’ here can refer only to one who is complete as a result of God’s accredited righteousness that results from His grace. Christians aren’t perfect in behaviour but are perfect in Christ through the blood of Jesus, Colossians 1:28 / Colossians 1:28.

In what way would Jesus’ teaching on loving and praying for our enemies help us in our outreach efforts?

It certainly tells us that we will have enemies and we will be persecuted at times, but it also teaches us to continue to love them
and pray for them.

Remember that prayer may not change their attitude towards you, but it may change your attitude towards them, John 15:18-21.