Matthew 5:43-48 NASB
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is 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 do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Jesus was speaking to his disciples here, so this is being addressed to followers of Jesus Christ. We all have enemies, no matter who we are. We all have someone who doesn’t like us and who doesn’t approve of us and who we are and what we are doing. And they are people who are not going to want to be around us, and most likely they will be people who will oppose us (directly or indirectly) and who will speak evil against us. And some of them may strongly oppose us by treating us with hate and even abuse.
But we are to love our enemies with this “agape” love. Now God is love and love comes from God, so this love is going to align with God’s character and with his will for our lives. And to love like this is to prefer God and to prefer to live under the authority of Jesus Christ, and to prefer God’s choices for our lives, embracing his will, and obeying them in his power and strength. So when we love our enemies it will be with that kind of love which is surrendered to the will of God and to doing what is right and not wrong.
And we are to pray for those who persecute us. We are not to get even with them and “trade tit for tat,” i.e. we are not to retaliate in like manner when they do evil against us, doing to them what they did to us. Well, we are not to retaliate in any manner, actually. Instead we are to act kindly to them in return. And now kindly does not exclude speaking the truth in love to people who we know willfully do wrong to us. I believe we should give them the opportunity to make it right, but even if they don’t, we are still to love them.
Now in praying for them, what kinds of things should we pray? I believe we should pray according to the will of God, and it is God’s will that all should come to repentance so that they do not perish in their sins. So, I believe first of all we should pray that God would lead them to repentance and to save their souls from hell. Or if this is another Christian, we should still pray that they would come to repentance and make the situation right.
And it is true that both those who are following Jesus Christ with their lives and those who are far from God will have both bad and good come to them. Christians are not exempt from suffering just because they are Christians. In fact, we as followers of Jesus Christ are to share in the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. And suffering is for our good, for it works in us patience and perseverance and character, and it trains us in godliness and teaches us to rely on the Lord and not on ourselves, etc.
Now if we only love those who love us in return, what reward do we have with that? For it is easy to love those who love us, too. But it is harder to love those who hate us and who mistreat us and who do evil against us and who speak lies against us, too. But it is possible because we have the love of God within us. We just need to put that love into practice in the strength and power and wisdom of God. And this does require wisdom. And it is possible to love our enemies, too, when we realize all that Jesus did for us that we did not deserve.
Anyway, as followers of Jesus Christ we are not to be like the ungodly. We are not to have the same kind of responses to our situations as those of the world who are living according to the flesh. So many Christians, though, respond to situations just like the ungodly, for that is what many are having modeled to them, and it is what they are seeing put into practice on television and the internet and on social media, etc. But we are to be different from the world because we are to be being conformed to Christ.
[Matt 5:10-12; Matt 7:21-23; Matt 10:16-25; Matt 24:9-14; Lu 6:22-23; Lu 9:23-26; Lu 21:12-17; Jn 8:51; Jn 10:27-30; Jn 14:15-24; Jn 15:10-21; Acts 5:32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-14; Rom 12:1-2; 1 Co 10:1-22; Php 2:12-13; Tit 2:11-14; Heb 5:9; 1 Pet 1:1-2; Jas 1:21-25; Heb 3:1-19; Heb 4:1-13; 1 Jn 2:3-6,15-17; 1 Jn 3:4-10,24; 1 Jn 5:2-3; 2 Jn 1:6]
Oh, to Be Like Thee, Blessed Redeemer
Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897
Music by W. J. Kirkpatrick, 1897
Oh, to be like Thee! blessèd Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.
Oh, to be like Thee! full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wandering sinner to find.
O to be like Thee! lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer others to save.
O to be like Thee! while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love;
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.
Oh, to be like Thee! Oh, to be like Thee,
Blessèd Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.
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