“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children 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. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (NIV)
Sometimes we come across passages, like this one today, that really do speak for themselves and need little explaining. However, I think the danger that comes with this is that often, because we understand the passage, we don’t allow the weight of it to settle on our hearts and minds.
Jesus, still in the sermon on the mount, is very clearly here telling us to ‘love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us…’. Who are our enemies? Who are your enemies? Who persecutes you? Who has really gotten on your nerve or insulted you or hurt you? Who do you think, is not deserving of your love? I’m not talking about your friend who has offended you recently; that’s forgiveness. I’m talking about that person that get’s to you. That you are set against. Who is that for you? Jesus is telling you to love them.
Why? So that ‘you may be the children of your Father in heaven. He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.’ Why are we called to love our enemies? Because we are to be like our Father in heaven. God loves all mankind; those who recognise him as their Father and yet still sin everyday. But God also loves those reject him. Who refuse to acknowledge him. Who consider God their enemy. And would love nothing more than to have nothing to do with him. Here we are given images of warmth and sustenance in the sun and rain, but what we are really being told is that God cares for all people; all of his creation.
What will this all result in? It will result in christians being distinct in this world. Because really, in our world, who loves their enemies? Why would people love their enemies? And how many people actually do? Our world encourages the identification of an enemy – often someone lesser than your self in some regard (be it morally, aesthetically, whatever) – in order to give you an obstacle to rise above. Whilst at the same time, telling us to do the very easy thing of loving those who love us; our neighbours. Jesus calls christians to be distinct, not just to love our neighbours, because even the morally corrupt tax collectors of Jesus’ day were loving their neighbours. Jesus expects us to work hard at doings this; ‘be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’
And finally, why does Jesus preach on this? Jesus is commanding us to love our enemies because God does, and that by doing this in our world, we might stand out, be distinct, and point people to the love our Father has for us.
Do you have enemies?
How hard do you work at loving all people?
What is your love motivated by?
Do you love all the opponents you come up against on the soccer pitch?
Joe Hockey, club chaplain
first published 2-6-2018