Sermon on the Mount - Loving Enemies

(Matthew 5:43-48)

By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Sermon on the Mount, Sermon on the Mount (Bible Study)

Matthew 5:43-48

  • After being filled up by the beatitudes, the disciples are given “commands.”
  • Another command says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’”
  • There are passages in the Old Testament where, in fact, we are to care for our enemy, we are to be kind to our enemy, we are to do good for our enemy.
  • It really does not say anywhere in the Old Testament, “Hate your enemy.”
  • There are texts in the Old Testament that command God’s people to love what God loves, and hate what God has rejected. Obviously, that would be the Canaanites, the godless, the heathen, all those outside of Israel, — the enemies, right?
  • The intention of God’s people is to promote wholehearted service to God. That is honorable, but it certainly includes restraint upon any self-righteous crusades for God.
  • We are not God’s designated destroyers of His enemies.
  • Moreover, the love that is commanded is an unselfish concern that seeks the good of others.
  • How are we going to love our enemies, not just be civil towards them, but really love them?
  • Jesus continues, “But I say unto you, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’”
  • These words are all in the imperfect. We are to keep on doing good, to keep on praying for them, etc.
  • As we pray, we allow the divine will to permeate us until we are able to feel God’s love for them.
  • We are not required to love their deeds if they are evil, but we must love the doer.
  • We are to do this so that we may “become children of our Father in heaven.”
  • Now we have already been identified as God’s children, so in fulfilling this command, we essentially become what we already are, that we might be in act what we already are in fact.
  • Any reward for our loving behavior is rooted in our relation to God, not in any material advantages or human gains.
  • God’s maturity is so great that He “causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
  • As His children, we are commanded to do the same.
  • Jesus continues that it’s not hard to love those who love you. Even the tax collectors do that. (Tax collectors then are known for dishonesty and disrepute.)
  • “And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?” Even the Gentiles do that.
  • Christians are called to do more in response to God’s blessings.
  • Last, but not least, comes the admonition: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
  • This is written in the future tense. This is a promise, a glorious prospect.
  • It is of a similar emphatic form as the “you are” from the salt and light stories: “You, you be perfect....”
  • Many commentators see in this a summation of Chapter 5. Everything up to this point has been aiming us in this direction: as we live the beatitudes, witness to the world, and keep the commands, we will be perfect.
  • The difficulty comes in how we understand the word “perfect.” Does it mean faultless, impeccable, or following the laws to the letter?Is that what is at stake in this entire chapter? Of course not.
  • In its simplets form, “perfect” means “nothing that is needed has been left out.”
  • The previous section has just described the maturity of God.
  • And that concept is essential to the Greek understanding of the word in this context.
  • God is perfect, complete, mature, having unconditional love for everyone.
  • The promise for us is to become like that, to love unconditionally, to become mature. It is a commitment to the protection of others.
  • The New English Bible translates this as “goodness, just as the heavenly Father is all good.”
  • When Luke writes this statement in his gospel, he says, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”
  • Our perfection, our maturity enables us to wholeheartedly embrace others, as the Father does.
  • In its context, perfect does not mean strict behavior. It is a width word like mercy. It is not a height word that has to be climbed.
  • The Sermon takes us back to the beatitudes so we can get filled up by God; that allows us to go forward in facing the challenges of loving our enemies.

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