43“You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. 44But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. 46If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. 48But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
There goes Jesus again raising the bar on ethical behavior for everyone and creating impossible standards to live by!
In Matthew 5, commonly referred to as the “Sermon on the Mount”, Jesus gives a series of statements related to his views on the Old Testament Law. The Law, which included over 600 commandments was already impossible to adhere to perfectly (though the Pharisees thought they could), and yet Jesus, with a series of “you’ve heard it said….but I say” statements elevates the demands of the law to an even higher standard.
Jesus’ comments conclude with this section on love. Jesus states that the Old Testament Law commanded you to love your neighbor and hate your enemy. This makes perfect sense to most people. Why would we love those who are our enemies? People who oppose us, especially those who seek to do harm are not going to get my love, they’re going to experience my wrath. “You mess with the bull, you’re gonna get the horns!”
This of course is how our culture views the topic of love. We love those who are friendly to us. We love those who are generous towards us. We love those who serve us and help us to achieve our personal desires. We LOVE those who agree with us and affirm our positions on everything from religion to politics to pop culture.
Oh wait! That person I loved just said something I disagree with. I no longer love that person. I loathe that person. I hate that person. I REALLY HATE that person. I hate that person so much I’m going to get other people to hate that person.
The difference between our love and Jesus’ love is conditions. We put conditions on our love (I’ll love you if….or….I’ll love you as long as you….).
Jesus doesn’t put conditions on his love. He loves you even if you are not friendly to him. He loves you even if you disagree with him or even if you HATE him. He loves you unconditionally.
It’s not surprising then that Jesus calls his followers to love this same way. He tells us to love our enemies because he demonstrates love even to those who don’t acknowledge or follow him. He demonstrates love even to those who say that they HATE Him!
What is the proof God shows love to His enemies? The proof is that He gives sunlight and brings rain to everyone, not just those who are in His fan club.
Now if you’re saying to yourself, “Wait a minute. That’s impossible! Nobody could live up to that standard.”
Congratulations. You understand the point. God’s standard is perfection. It’s HIS level of righteousness we must possess and display.
When we come to the realization that we have to be as perfect as He is, then we can stop pretending that we are “good” and we can start trusting Jesus to provide a way for us to be forgiven and cleansed from our sin.
Oh yeah, and even though Jesus’ standard for love is not achievable, He still expects us to love our enemies. Think about that the next time you prepare to enter into the social media arena!
What kinds of things tend to anger you about other people?
What are some things you’ve experienced from others that make it more difficult to love them?
Think of a person in your life that is hard to love for whatever reason. What are some tangible things you could do today to demonstrate love toward them.
What are some practical steps you could implement to begin developing love towards those to whom you’ve previously been opposed?