Mat 5:43 “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 that you may be sons 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
We, as Christians, are embarking on a whole new venture. We have sought to be the friend of all, but the time is coming when we will be the friend of some and hated by others. Our culture is becoming increasingly hostile to us as Christians, to our doctrine and to our Lord. As Jesus warned us (John 15:18-20; Matthew 24:9), all those who live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Timothy 2:12). Our friendship will be met with enmity and persecution. How do we live on a higher plane in an increasingly oppositional culture?
In Matthew 5:43, Jesus quotes the Pharisees (“You have heard that it was said”) who were deliberately distorting the commands in the Law. They were narrowing the standard of love by leaving out the words “as yourself” from Leviticus 19:18 and qualifying the category of “neighbor” by excluding enemies from the list of neighbors. God did not teach his people a double standard of morality, one for a neighbor and another for an enemy – our neighbor includes our enemy. Today, we will talk about what an enemy is. Next week we’ll talk about the different nature of God’s love.
Let’s get down to earth here. Our enemy is someone who has hurt us personally, has diminished our way of life in some way. Someone is not an enemy who simply does wrong, a story we have heard about in the newspaper. Rather, an enemy is someone who has done wrong to us or to someone whom we love and protect or who threatens our way of life. Furthermore, our enemies are probably those who don’t live by God’s rules. They might even seek to sow discord among us, are jealous of us, are angry with us, seek to sow dissension and factions among us, are envious, and live a profligate lifestyle. They might even be caught up in idolatry and witchcraft. They do what they do not only because they don’t love us, but because they don’t care about the effects which their behavior have on us. For some of them, people are not important, things matter more than people. Some of them might be totally given over to hatred and seek to destroy us. Our enemies are against us.
Yet, Christ died for exactly the types of people who oppose both Him and us and He loves them unconditionally. He loves them while they are yet sinners (Ephesians 2:4,5), before there is any repentance, before they have any thoughts of living a different lifestyle, before they really care about God or the things of God. We, as Christ’s people, are to imitate Christ and demonstrate to them a higher standard. When they hate, we love; when they seek to destroy, we seek to build; when they live only for themselves, we live for others; when they use other people, even us, we seek to build them up; when they choose to live in sin, we choose to live in righteousness; when they blaspheme God, we glorify God; when their hearts become hardened, we seek to soften their hearts through our love and prayer. The darker our culture becomes, the more we have the opportunity to let our light shine in the darkness. The time is coming when we will increasingly have the opportunity to demonstrate Christ’s love for our enemies and pray for our persecutors.