Monday, January 11, 2010

Loving your Enemies?

Matthew 5:43-48

Love for Enemies
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 must learn to love as Jesus loved.

But what does that mean?
Jesus said: “You have heard that it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Matthew 5 43.

Jesus was referring to the Rabbinic teaching which was supposedly based on Scripture. In Leviticus 19:18 we find the teaching about loving your neighbor It reads:

“You shall not take vengeance nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”

This teaching is clear enough. The problem was that over time it had become twisted, and things were added on. Where is the “hate your enemy part?”

It’s not there, they had turned a passage that was speaking about loving everyone and narrowed it down to the point that it no longer carried much meaning.

It’s easy to love the lovely!

Who’s my neighbor? According to the teaching of the day it was anyone who was your friend, family member, or someone who treated you well. Now Jesus is turning this completely upside down…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

To those listening to Jesus that day this must have seemed like an impossibility. How could anyone love his or her enemy? Enemies don't evoke love in anyone.

Jesus however wanted to make the point that He considered our neighbor to include our enemies. In other words no one is outside the scope of our love, or no one should be. We are called to show love to all people.

But then, Jesus takes it even further we are to pray for those who treat us badly.

He is not saying that we should pray for them to be struck by lightning or that a house should fall on them. Rather, He is saying that we should pray on their behalf. We should pray that God would begin to act in their lives, that they would be blessed by God so that relationship between us can be restored.

Prayer for our enemies is one of the deepest forms of love because it means that we have to really want something good to happen to those we can’t stand or who hate us.

I might do nice things for my enemy without any genuine desire that things actually go well with them. But prayer for them…genuine prayer is a matter of the heart. God knows if we are faking it or not.

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