43“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Maggie Simpson knows who her enemy is; bonus points if you can name him (answer at the end) That’s part of what makes this passage hard to understand. I don’t have an enemy. I have some people that annoy me and there are some I would be glad see at the end of the slow line at the grocery store but I don’t have any ‘enemies’ as such. Maybe in Bible times everybody was more acquainted with an enemy or two – whatever the case may be – if you’re not careful, the shock of this statement will hide the really surprising cause that follows.
Why love your enemies? Jesus says, ‘so that you will be sons of the father’. Gender exclusive language aside, the point here is that when you love your enemies you resemble God. Why? Cause God loves His enemies all the time! God loves recklessly. God gives grace to those who don’t deserve it. He forgives people who aren’t sorry. God loves the good, God loves the bad. God’s standard for loving is outrageous. Who deserves to be loved? No one. So God loves anyway.
Who is God’s enemy? You and I are. Paul says in Romans 5: 10 that before we submit to Christ we are enemies of God. In Romans 8: 7 he goes further and says, “the mind set on the sinful nature is hostile toward God [kicking and biting]. It does not subject itself to God, nor can it.” God says love your enemies because He does it all the time.
We love our friends and our fellow church members and cast a spurious eye toward the hockey mom with the foul mouth or the guy at work who is fooling around on his wife. Jesus says we are like tax collectors, not God, when we act like that.
We make the mistake of thinking we are God’s buddy, and He must surely be pleased to have us on His team. If God is out on the playground and He is picking teams he will say to each of us, ‘You’re wicked and sinful, and I’m going to pick you anyway.’
Except for the grace of God there isn’t a lick of difference between any two of us. How can we ever look down on another person in light of the grace of God. Paul says,
14For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
Forgive us Lord when we judge another as unworthy of the grace of God. As you, Lord Jesus have warned us, we convict ourselves (Matt 7:1-2)
(Answer: Gerald Sampson, first appearing, briefly in episode 100)