Matthew 5:44-48 (NKJV) 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father 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 have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
This week we are examining another vital block in our supernatural foundation. Specifically we are looking at Matthew 5:43-48. In this section of scripture Jesus says, “You have heard it said that you should love your neighbors and hate your enemies. But I say Love your enemies.” This is a revolutionary statement and a completely different way to live life than that with which we are familiar.
To love friends and hate enemies makes perfect sense if you are a natural person. That is particularly true in today’s world. However, we are not supposed to be natural people. We are to be supernatural people. We are to be supernatural while we still live in this natural, sinful world. Verse 44 expands Jesus directive. It says we must bless those who curse us do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use us. When he uses the word spitefully, it takes out of play the thought that these are just ignorant people. The want to hurt us and they know what they are doing.
To do good and bless such people seems almost dangerous. To pray for them seems overly spiritual and weak. That would be true if we were alone. Paul tells us in Romans 8 that God is for us. Jesus is telling us to become seemingly vulnerable in the sight of evil and difficult people. Though we may seem vulnerable, when God almighty is your ally, you never are vulnerable.
The difficult part for us, of course, is to trust God with our lives and our futures. Sometimes God’s way of protecting us is not the way we would choose. God sees past the temporary. God also works through us to reach others. Sometimes that process takes us through some difficult ground. It may seem that we are being harmed. We must accept the fact that, in the end, God is going to work out everything for our good. This is most important when it does not look like it is possible.
The last few verses in this chapter give us some extra insight into the heart of God in this matter. Verse 45 tells us that when we do what Jesus is telling us to do we are like our Father in heaven. When I first read this verse, I was not sure how it could apply to us. God makes the rain fall and the sun shine on both the good and the evil. How is that relevant to our personal lives and the people who may threaten or oppose us? As I thought a little more about it, I understood that to God it is the same.
God created all people as his family. Some love him but some hate or ignore him. Some stand for everything that is contrary to his nature. Some desire to obliterate his influence from the earth. It is possible for God to withhold rain. It happened in the days of Elijah. It is possible for one group to have sun and the group living beside them to be in darkness. That happened under Moses in Egypt. In those times, God was judging and he used rain and sun to do it.
Jesus is reminding us that our Father loves all people the same. He does not hate those who hate him. He blesses them with sun, rain and many other good things even though they may be against him. He does this so that they may have a chance to know his goodness and repent. He uses us as the channels for that goodness. When we choose to be like him in loving our enemies, we are able to become the channels he needs to reach the most people possible.
In verse 46, he gives us a clear comparison between natural and supernatural behavior. If we love those who love us and greet only our friends we are no different from anyone else. We may be nice people or not so nice people. If we behave like the world, we have little to offer as a contrast. We will not display the nature of our Heavenly Father. We will not draw people to Him.
We are to be supernatural people in the natural world. We are to be examples of who God really is and witnesses of his salvation through Jesus Christ. What better way to be that than to love those who are our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. The history of the church is full of examples of how this kind of behavior broke the resistance of sinners and led to glorious salvation. Now it is our turn.
The last verse in chapter 5 really caught my attention. If we choose to live this way, Jesus says that we will be perfect, as our Father in heaven is perfect. Perfect! That is quite a word. If anyone else said this, I would not believe it. Jesus said it so I must accept that it is true. Perfect implies something much more extensive than just my reaction to those who hate me and are a threat to me. It means lacking nothing. I want to lack nothing in my relationship to God. If I will make a quality decision to cultivate this lifestyle, I will progress toward that goal. Nothing will get me there quicker than walking in the love of God especially toward my enemies.
There is a problem with all of this. It is not possible for either you or me. There is too much history against us to allow us to walk in this kind of love. We can acknowledge the goodness of the theory, but the application is beyond our ability.
We know we cannot be vulnerable to people all the time. We will get hurt. Many of us have already been hurt and that hurt makes it very difficult or even impossible to trust God the way this kind of lifestyle would require. Yet we are faced with the words of Jesus himself. He would not ask us to do what we cannot do. What is the solution? What do we need to do to get to the place where we can walk in this kind of love and trust?
We will answer that question tomorrow.