We may be coming to the end of a chapter in our Bibles, but today is a mere portion to the full sermon our Lord preaches on the mountainside that day so long ago. While we can take it in bits and pieces, giving us time to digest and mull over its implications, I feel for the people who sat or stood through the entire sermon in one setting.
Jesus’s words can’t help but overwhelm and convict us.
If you don’t think that’s true, maybe you need to go back to my first post on this sermon (they’re numbered for that purpose) and rethink your response.
As I look at today’s passage, I cannot help but see how Jesus reminds me how easy it is for us to pick and choose scriptures to follow. Listen to what he said:
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48 CSB
Jesus is talking that day to people who knew Scripture—obviously, some more than others, but if they’d been listening to the religious leaders for any length of time, I’m sure they would have heard this verse from the book of Leviticus:
Do not take revenge or bear a grudge against members of your community, but love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.Leviticus 19:18
When I look at that cross-reference, I can’t help but smile. The verse entreats us not to take revenge against members of our community. Did you catch that? Not sure about the others, but I think that’s why Jesus said in the past it was said it’s alright to hate our enemies. An enemy would be someone not from our community. Love those like us, but never mind about those who aren’t.
The true way of righteousness doesn’t choose sides.
Does God withhold rain from those who curse his name? Do people that reject Jesus and the Word of God not have the blessings of family and children? Is every farmer that brings a good harvest a Bible-believing Christian?
If God doesn’t choose sides in sending rain and blessings, then why would we withhold our greetings and love toward those who reject Christ? When we do, we’re no better than the world, where sides are very distinct, and favor is rarely shown across societal, intellectual, economical, philosophical, political, and sometimes even religious divides.
What are you doing out of the ordinary as a so-called Christ follower?
Jesus says you’d better be above all that is based on worldly concepts and be perfect, just like God is.
Where will you start today with this command?
Are you overwhelmed and convicted yet? You should be.
Thankfully, we know on this side of resurrection, that it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that we can love our enemies and do go to those who persecute us or say all kinds of evil against us. We can either remain among our own kind and keep a distance from those who are different from us, or we can love both our neighbor and our enemy by his…
Grace and Peace