Matthew 5.43-48 – Love your enemies

Jesus said, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you”, which raises the question who is my enemy? This Sunday we look at that and other questions about this teaching within Matthew. How does this teaching impact all of our daily lives? Another easy week then!

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 5:43-48

Speaking Notes – Caveat

These notes are my speaking notes and are provided as an accompaniment to the recording. Please accept that they are not intended to be a published grammatically correct essay. I do hope and pray however they help you move towards Jesus.

Now onto the content…

Introduction

We are camped out in Matthew which is our background text when we are not looking at another series. Over the next few weeks before we head into Advent we will have a couple of opportunities to move on in this gospel. So maybe this is a good time to re-read chapters 1-6 and remind ourselves of this brilliant scripture.

We are currently reading Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount in Chapters 5 – 7 of Matthew. The more astute amongst you may have noticed that I have skipped a section. Matthew 5.27-32 deals with the painful subject of Adultery and Divorce. I wanted to let you know that sometimes we have to tackle difficult subjects and whilst we have jumped over them, for now, we will return to look at these difficult areas another time.

Not that the subject area we land on today is easy. Far from it, it is a most difficult subject and not least of all for me. Today we look at what Jesus may have meant when he said we are to love our enemies.

Outline

Jesus starts off by saying.

43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”

When we read the words “You have heard it said” this code for wake up, I am about to blow your mind.

These are the type of words a rabbi would use when they are about to interpret scripture in a way different from the one you expect.

Our rabbi Jesus is saying, I am about to interpret scripture is different way then you have heard from every other rabbi.

And he says.

43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”

Where have they heard that said?

They have heard at least part of it said in the law. In the Old Testament.

Leviticus 19.1 and 2 reads.

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: ‘Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy.

God speaks to Moses and says the people of God’s Kingdom are Holy.  That is they are set apart, different from others. And then he lists a whole load of ways they are different. Particular about the way they treat one another in the community.

They don’t steal or lie. They pay people on another time. They don’t gossip about others in the community or put them down. They are open and honest with one another, they don’t seek revenge or hold a grudge. And then in verse 18, he summarises how God’s people are to be when God says to Moses.

…love your neighbour as yourself.

There are two things we might note from this.

Firstly, where does it say you are to hate you, enemies? Jesus said

43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”

But in Leviticus it only says.  

…love your neighbour as yourself.

The clue is where Jesus says “you have heard it said”, he doesn’t say scripture says. Because of course, it doesn’t say hate your enemies, however, that is how people lived.

If you are part of my tribe, my clan then I will agree with you and love you just as God has called me to. But disagree with me, if you are outside of my group, I will hate you, slander you, treat you like trash.

We should be thankful that we would never be like that in the twenty-first century. We should be grateful that there is not any situation today where two sides that disagree with each other propagate hate about the other side!

But I am getting ahead of myself a little. Back to the second thing to notice about the fact that Jesus is quoting from Moses in Leviticus. The writer of Matthew if you remember from our introduction to his Gospel wants us to understand that Jesus is the new Moses.

Which is perhaps why he highlights here where Jesus upgrades the words of Moses.

Moses said this which is good, but Jesus the Son of God shows us the true meaning of these words when he says. If you want to see God’s kingdom come then:

love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Don’t Hate

Now if you are anything like me, my response would be OK Jesus I hear what you are saying. I will do what you want me to do, I will wish those who are different from me, or even though who oppose me not ill. I can do that. I will stay out of their way and they can stay out of mine. I will not propagate hate in the world. Job done!

But there is an issue. Jesus doesn’t say:

Love your neighbour and [wish] your enemy [no ill].

He says

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

Love

You see our response is more than not hating. Our response is not a matter of inactivity, it is a matter of being proactive. Our response for those of us who call ourselves apprentices to Jesus is to love them. Which brings me onto the word Love!

Love is such a rubbish, inadequate  English word. I love my wife Suzy. I also love my children. I love Bedhampton, I love being a church leader here. I love my dog. I love surfing. I love the occasional single malt whiskey, and I love pizza.

The issue is, you will be glad to hear is, I don’t love pizza and my wife in the same way. You may know whereas we tend to use love to mean many different things the Biblical greek uses different words for love.

Storge – empathy bond.

Philia – friend bond.

Eros – romantic love.

Agape – unconditional “God” love.

So what word do you think Jesus calls us to be like those who disagree with us, with those who persecute us?

We might hope for Storge the empathy bond type of love. Empathise with your enemies, yes we may be able to do that. But no, Jesus chooses Agape.  

[unconditionally] love your enemies [with a God-like love] and pray for those who persecute you

That is how we see God’s kingdom come to this earth when we love people that way, and if you ask me it is not fair.

That same agape love word is the same word we see in that most famous of passages.

 [Unconditional] Love is patient,  [unconditional] love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

Jesus is saying that with those we are to love unconditionally, we are to love as Father God loves us.

That is not fair is it!

And indeed the Levites reading is saying much the same thing. That we are to love our neighbour with unconditional Gody love.  And again we might think, OK that a stretch, but maybe, just maybe I could love people from my church community with the same love God shows for them. Now remember God is willing to die for those who turn to him so it’s a big ask, but maybe we could do it for those we know in our community.

Who Is My Neighbour?

But surely God doesn’t love his enemies in that way?

Well yes he does. Jesus reminds us in our Gospel.

[Your Father in heaven] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

He is saying you can’t go down the road and look at someone and say they are evil and unloved by God because their life is falling apart. Equally you can not say look at me God loves me because my life’s going so well. Jesus is saying the external circumstances are given as a gift to all by God no matter what their intentions towards him are.

Now go and love he says those who hate you and disagree with you with the same love that God loves you with, no matter what their intentions towards you are. And remember when Jesus lived this out, their response to him was to hang him upon a cross. So he is not saying it will always end well. He is not saying they will always respond well. But he is calling those of us who call ourselves disciples, apprentices to Jesus to live life like that. To love our enemies.

Application

So how do we do that?

Well I don’t know. But our we say in our vision that we want:

To be part of the whole community building relationships and seeing God’s Kingdom come.

So whatever we do we need to lead with unity even with those who disagree with us. And right now, right here in our country we could do with a little more unity with those of us who disagree with one another.

So the call to you and I this week is to look your live as I look at my life and ask ourselves the question.

Where in our lives do we need to start loving those who disagree with us.

Where in ur lives do we need to start loving our enemies?

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