But I tell you, love your enemies. Matthew 5:44
“I know what they’re saying. But I’m telling you . . .” As a boy, I heard my mother give that speech a thousand times. The context was always peer pressure. She was trying to teach me not to follow the herd. I’m not a boy any longer, but herd mentality’s still alive and kicking. A current example is this phrase: “Only surround yourself with positive people.” Now while that phrase may be commonly heard, the question we must ask is: “Is that Christlike?”
“But I’m telling you . . .” Jesus uses that lead-in a number of times in Matthew 5. He knows full well what the world is constantly telling us. But His desire is that we live differently. In this case, He says, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (v. 44). Later in the New Testament, the apostle Paul uses that very word to describe guess who? That’s right: us—“while we were God’s enemies” (Romans 5:10). Far from some “do as I say, not as I do,” Jesus backed up His words with actions. He loved us, and gave His life for us.
What if Christ had only made room in His life for “positive people”? Where would that leave us? Thanks be to God that His love is no respecter of persons. For God so loved the world, and in His strength we are called to do likewise.
When’s the last time someone extended love to you when you weren’t “positive”? What’s a tangible way today that you can show love to an enemy?
Father, it’s tempting to surround myself with only those who love me. But that’s not living, at least not the kind of living You desire for me. Help me to love even my enemies.
The teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) was a corrective to the teaching and practices of popular religion in His day. Thus, He repeatedly said, “You have heard that it was said . . . . But I tell you” (5:21–44). Of note is His command to “be perfect” (v. 48). As with the other commands, Christ calls His followers to a higher standard. However, the perfection that’s in view isn’t moral perfection (sinlessness). The Greek word teleios (from telos,) translated “perfect,” means “completeness” or “maturity,” something arriving at an intended end. Jesus calls His followers to “relational” maturity—an indiscriminate, mature love like the love of the heavenly Father. It’s a love that’s undeterred by pedigree or label, the kind of love modeled by the Samaritan in the parable in Luke 10:25–37.