Matthew 5:43-48. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I remember when I was around 10 years old I made an “enemies list.” A list of all the people that I didn’t like very much. I’m not sure why I made such a list or how it served me emotionally as a fourth grader.
Who is on your “enemies list?” When Jesus uses the word enemy in his sermon he means anyone who is not like you. It might be personal or it might be social. For Jews, all Gentiles were enemies, and Samaritans were really enemies. Even other Jews of a different status would be your enemies.
So who are your enemies? Your spouse? Your in-laws? Your ex? Your boss? Your co-worker? Your neighbor? The Democrats? The Republicans? The Muslims? The homosexuals? The immigrants?
Jesus’ teaching here is so radical, so beyond anything ever taught before or after him. He admits as much – You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. This is how the law was being interpreted by time Jesus arrived on the scene. Love your neighbor had turned into hate your enemy.
But this is not the way of Jesus’ upside down kingdom. Jesus’ ethic, the greatest ethic, is to love your enemy, and pray for your persecutor. In fact, to love your enemy is to achieve perfection – You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. The word perfect here means “goal,” or “completion.” To love your enemies is to be a full and complete person.
Why? Because it is the perfection of God himself. God is love. God loves everyone. Therefore, God loves his enemies, because everyone begins life as an enemy of God. God doesn’t love us because of what we have accomplished. He doesn’t love us to satisfy a need.
God loves us because he loves us.
God’s perfect love is detached – For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. It is not connected to our behavior or our commitment level. God loves the evil and the good. The just and the unjust. God’s love does not demand reciprocation – For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?
This is perfect love. This is moral completion. This is the fullness of the law of God. This is godliness.
This is impossible.
It’s OK. I know you were thinking it. You’re not alone. Many have criticized Jesus’ teaching as being so out of reach, so unrealistic, so impractical, that it’s all just some “pie in the sky” ideal that no one will ever achieve.
But the problem is that love of enemy is necessary for life. Without it we would all die. If we don’t ever choose to love our enemies, we will be consumed with hate. If we only live by reciprocity, we will never move beyond our selfish desires and we will never conquer our fears of rejection and loss.
So how can we achieve this level of love? This level of perfection? Jesus says that when we love this way we will be sons of your Father who is in heaven. So how do we get there? Has Jesus jut given us an impossible standard that we can never live up to?
Yes. Which is why we need the gospel. We need to first experience the perfect love of God for his enemies (us) before we can begin to love our enemies like God.
“To live is Christ” means you have been loved by God when you were still the enemy of God. Praise him! And it means that the perfection of Christ, the fullness of his love, has been given to you by grace. Because you are loved by God, your heart has everything it needs to love others, even enemies.
Who do you love?
You in Christ
How does knowing that you are a beloved son or daughter of the Father free you to love even your enemies today?
Christ in you
What enemy can you choose to love today?
Playlist: Since there are no songs about loving our enemies, here are some songs about God loving us, his enemy.