Teachings of Jesus: Love Your Enemies
The teachings of Jesus are often counter-cultural. Jesus’ words also challenge us as humans. Human history is full of sin. This sin stems from our sinful human nature. This sinfullness is something Jesus challenges in his teachings and one example is found in Matthew 5:43-48:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” -NET
Christians have heard these words many times and that can cause us to be desensitized to them. Even if you have heard these words thousands of times I would encourage you to look at these words as if this was the first time you read them.
Jesus says that the Jewish people around him were taught that loving your neighbor was just as warranted as hating your enemy. I think most of us could agree with this sentiment. It is natural for us to love the people who are nice to us and hate the people who hate us, however, we are not called to follow what is natural. We are called to follow what is godly.
Jesus goes against human nature when he says that we are to, “pray for those who persecute,” us. He then gives us an amazing reason for this attitude and behavior. He says that we should be like the Father because the Father, “causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” The reason for Jesus’ teaching is because many people saw the Old Testament passages against sinful and evil people as hatred on God’s part.
Assuredly, God does hate sin and we see this in OT passages. But God has the right to do so. He is perfect and holy. He has never sinned and he is utterly righteous. So, for God to hate sin and sinful people is acceptable. What the teachers of the Law, like the Pharisees, did was take God’s right to righteously hate sin for themselves. What they failed to realize was they were sinful just like the rest of humanity. What Jesus is saying is that even though the Father has every right to punish any sinner, he still causes the rain and the sun to benefit both the “evil” and the “good“. We should follow this attribute of God because it shows his patients and his love for all humanity. What Jesus’ forbids is taking God’s righteous judgement of sin for ourselves because we are all sinners.
Jesus then gives us an example of humanities selective love. He highlights that loving someone who loves you is not true love but natural love. Any person can love someone who is nice to them. Jesus tells us that “tax collectors” and “Gentiles” do that. For a Jew these words would be shocking! Both tax collectors and Gentiles were hated by Jews. Tax collectors tended to be Jews that worked for the Roman government. Many were seen as traitors to the Jewish people because they were placing their allegiance to the Roman Empire and not in God’s Kingdom. Another reason for the Jews hatred was that these tax collectors were often greedy. They would often over tax people so they could fill their own pockets. Tax collectors were not the only disliked group among Jews, Gentiles were also hated. Gentiles were seen as heathens. They didn’t have the written word of the OT Law and so they were outsiders. For Jesus to compare the love these Jews show with the love of these other groups is extremely divisive and counter-cultural.
Jesus challenges us to be different from the average person who loves only the lovable. Jesus calls us to love the unlovable. Jesus calls us to pray for those who persecute us. We are not called to be like the average person on the street. We are called to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” I pray that all of us will undertake this task to have counter-cultural and divine-like love for all.
Thanks for reading.
Posted on March 19, 2012, in Christianity, Life, Theology and tagged Christianity, Culture, Jesus, life, love, reformed theology, Teachings of Jesus, theology, truth. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.