The last passage in Matthew 5 is where Jesus lost many a follower:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Did you do your Bible assignment yesterday? If not you too may want to leave this devotional. This teaching of Jesus’ takes real honesty and our Lord has put a new and tough commandment upon us. Why? Because we are going to have to give up the right to ourselves, the right to not be cursed, hated, or persecuted. Here’s how Wiersbe explains this passage:
Jesus defined our enemies as those who curse us, hate us, and exploit us selfishly. Since Christian love is an act of the will, and not simply an emotion, He has the right to command us to love our enemies.
Oh but Bro Dave I don’t feel like loving my enemies; it goes against everything I feel! Of course it does, that’s why Wiersbe describes it as an act of the will and not an emotion. Of course you’re not going to feel like doing this! That’s why I wanted you to spend time on this passage and answering the questions. You have to get past emotion.
Why did Wiersbe claim that Jesus has the right to command us to love our enemies? Because He died for us so we would no longer be enemies of God. Notice the Apostle Paul’s teaching:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” (Romans 5:6-11)
Here is what we are saying if we feel slighted about having to love our enemies. What Jesus did on the cross wasn’t right; He shouldn’t have had to do so. In a way you’re right and in a world with no sin He wouldn’t have to. But I love what Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Beloved, Jesus didn’t wait for me to come to Him to apologize and confess my sins and then say, “Okay, I forgive you and so I’ll pray and pay the cost for you.” No, gloriously NO! He died for me WHILE I was still a sinner. Why? It is an heavenly demonstration of God’s love for us; a manifestation of how desperately God wants to reconcile us to Him. And it is through our Lord Jesus Christ “we have now received the reconciliation.”
But Bro Dave Jesus, Jesus says in the last verse of Matthew 5 that we are to be perfect like God in heaven is perfect. Ah yes, our escape clause! Right? Because we all know that nobody’s perfect. Well you are right on that point but it is not an escape clause.
Jesus is calling us to Christian maturity and Christian completeness. And Jesus left us equipped to become so through His Word and His Holy Spirit. That was the cry of His heart:
“And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:22-24)
When we love our enemies, within and without the Church, then the world will know the God sent Jesus, that He wasn’t just some righteous teacher and philosopher. Jesus doesn’t seem Godlike to a wicked world because His ambassadors act Godless.
Bro Dave how is it we are acting Godless? It’s because we look just like the world. What a minute Bro Dave, we are a moral people! So are many atheists and agnostics, at least using the world’s morality ruler. Lost people love those whom they love; lost people greet their brethren.
Oh and the church divorces just as much as lost people. One thing we do better than the lost people is fight among ourselves. The Lord has had to break my heart over the hours I’ve wasted going after individual Christians who are not living up to the standards of the Bible as I perceive them. I’ve realized that it is not my job to separate the wheat from the tares and contrary to popular preaching, that process has not yet begun. That job is Jesus’ and He will do so when He returns to reign on earth. I’m not saying we don’t stand on God’s truth but I need to spend more time spreading the Gospel to a lost world then going after stray sheep.
We have looked at Matthew 5 for signs of true righteousness; basic and simple instructions for being a Christian. Notice I didn’t say easy. These instruction are basic enough for even the simplest of minds to understand but they are in no way easy. That is why we must exert our wills over our feelings, our emotions, and let the perfect will of the Holy Spirit allow us to love, bless, do good to, and pray for our enemies.
If we don’t then we are no better or different than the world.
If we do not pursue true righteousness then we will not be able to truly worship Jesus in the way He expects.
We’ll begin looking at that tomorrow.
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Copyright © 2011 David Jeffers