“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matthew 5:44–45
What does it mean to be a loving person? What’s required for someone to truly be a loving person?
Our focus text sets the bar high in regards to the answer to these questions.
A legalistic approach would allow us to only be required to be patient, kind, generous and nurturing to those who were already part of that circle of people we would call our family and friends. Those a bit further out might be deserving of our respect and civility but little more and those that were out even further we might be justified in giving only our indifference. And then there’s that class of people that we might consider our enemies. The legalistic heart would consider that these would justifiably deserve our hatred.
Jesus’ heart doesn’t approach relationships like the sinful heart of man would approach it, and the legalistic heart is still a sinful heart because it’s relying on the unconverted spirit and will of the person to produce responses and actions to earn salvation.
Jesus’ instruction is that we ought to love our enemies, bless those that curse us, do good to those that hate us and pray for those that treat us badly and persecute us. When this kind of response to mistreatment is present in our lives Jesus goes on to say that we have within us evidence that we’re truly becoming sons and daughters of God.
Many are amazed, puzzled and appalled by the wanton and blatant unkindness and disrespect so often exhibited in the world today. People’s reactions to small mistakes on the road, the venomous replies some people give to posts on social media, even some interactions we’ve experienced in church all reveal that as a people we have a lot to learn and a long way to go before we can say we’ve learned to love as Christ loves us.
It’s easy when we begin to identify ourselves as Christians to start seeing ourselves as something better than all the sinners living around us but Jesus makes it clear that if we only give our love to those we’re fond of and those we already hold in high esteem we’re no better than those we consider the most blatant sinners; that’s what a tax collector was to a Jewish person.
Jesus freely gave his love to each and every underserving person he met. Day after day he lavished his love on the disciple Judas, knowing that he was a prideful, unrepentant, unconverted thief and would one day betray him. That’s the kind of love Jesus wants to put in our hearts. That’s the kind of love we must receive from him if we’re going to become true children of God.