Is there anybody you just don’t like? What do find yourself thinking about when you think of them? Jesus calls His disciples to be His ambassadors (2 Cor 5:20) and witnesses (Acts 1:8). As witnesses, we testify to the extraordinary power, love, and goodness of Christ. In other words, we testify about something better than what the world offers. This is the essence of Jesus’ message in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus has revealed the character of a disciple (Beatitudes) and the impact His disciples will have on the world (Salt & Light).
Jesus, next, addressed the role of the Law of Moses in the kingdom of God. Jesus does not abolish it but fulfills it. In His fulfillment, He clarifies the good commands in the Law (hatred, murder, marriage, etc.) and how they apply to His disciples. For example, while it is good to avoid murder, we must also avoid hatred and anger. While it is good to not commit adultery, we must also refuse to lust. Marriage must be held in high regard and not flippantly cast aside. Don’t pretend to be honest, actually have integrity and prove yourself trustworthy. Jesus’ disciples must not retaliate to personal insults, but take the opportunity to show love and compassion.
It is at this point that Jesus told His disciples to love their enemies. Yes, when Jesus said “love your enemies”, He was talking to His disciples in the 1st Century; and He is talking to you about your enemies. He’s talking about the first person(s) that popped into your mind when you heard the word “enemies”. Why does Jesus tell His disciples to love their enemies? Because if they are not Christians, they are also His enemies (Rom 5:10) and He wants to save them. He loves them, He wants you to love them, and He will help you love them. You just have to trust Him and be obedient. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in you to replace your anger/hatred/bitterness/resentment with love and compassion.
Hate Your Enemies?
Let’s study this section more closely. We are at the end of Matthew Chapter 5 and Jesus is giving His sixth correction on the misuse of the Law of Moses. Jesus used the “You have heard…but I tell you” formula to highlight an aspect of the Law of Moses, to correct its abuse by the Jewish religious leaders, and to clarify God’s original intent. So, for example, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said Love your neighbor…” (Teaching found in the Law of Moses – Lev 19:18) “…and hate your enemy” (Oral Tradition that is not found in the Law of Moses). Jesus affirmed the teaching of the Law (“love your neighbor”), rejected the Oral Tradition (“hate your enemy”) and clarified the truth for His disciples (“love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”) Nowhere in the Law of Moses are the children of God told to hate their enemies.
Love Your Enemies?
Pay close attention to what Jesus taught. Jesus did not teach that we should just stop hating our enemies. Jesus went further and said we must love our enemies. It is not enough to stop fighting our enemies, Jesus wants us to start blessing our enemies. Why does He do this? He calls us to love our enemies “so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.” Loving your enemies is one way people will know that you are one of God’s sons. In other words, this is what the children of God do. If you refuse to love your enemies, you need to examine whether or not you know the love of your Father in heaven. Christians are being conformed into the image of Christ (Rom 8:29), are to “train yourself for godliness” (1 Tim 4:8) and “pursue holiness” (Heb 12:14). Jesus calls His followers to remember that they are children of God and, therefore, should reflect the character and likeness of God. We are to imitate our Father in heaven who “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” This does not mean that God does not show distinction between the righteous and the unrighteous (Psalm 4:3), but that He has certain common blessings (sunshine & rain) He gives to all without distinction as a witness of His goodness (Acts 14:16-17). While we are unable to provide sunshine and rain and by no means condone wickedness, Christians have ways we can bless others as we provide a witness for the extraordinary love and mercy of God. Keep your focus on God.
Jesus wants His disciples to show extraordinary love. Anyone can be nice to those who are nice to them. Anyone can love the loveable. There is nothing special about liking someone who is easy to like. Can you love someone who is hard to love? What motivates you to love the “unlovable”? Jesus said, “If you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary?” Jesus wants His children to exhibit extraordinary love because “God is love” (1 John 4:8). Keep in mind the great love of Christ for you. Once you were ungodly and Christ died for you while you were ungodly (Rom 5:6). Also, “God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” (Rom 5:8). God loved you when you were unlovable and His enemy (Rom 5:10) and He calls you to go and do likewise.
Are you testifying about the extraordinary power, love, and goodness of Christ? Do others see hope within you that is difficult for them to comprehend? When you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, you display extraordinary love. You display the love of God. Extraordinary love is what God uses to draw sinners to Jesus. Do you want your enemies to go to hell or heaven? Do you want them damned or redeemed? God loves your enemies. God wants to save your enemies. God calls you to show extraordinary love in His name. Ask God to provide you with the strength you need to love.