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Love Your Enemies

“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 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” (Matthew 5:43-45).  The Pharisees taught the people to hate the enemies of Israel.  The implication was that this hatred was God’s means of judging their enemies.  Jesus taught the people just the opposite.  “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.

The Christian is to love others as God loves them.  This is God’s standard of love.  God doesn’t have to love us.  He loves us because He chooses to love; it’s only by His grace.  He loves us while we were alienated from Him as His enemies. The sinful mind is hostile toward God.

Jesus Christ died for us while we were enemies.  He died for us while we were helpless sinners (Romans 5:6-11; 5:8-9).

Christ died for the sinner, the enemy; that is the full measure of God’s infinite love.  Have you come to know that love by experience?  God loves you so much that He sent Jesus to die for you on the cross.

Because we are the recipients of this divine love, we are to love others as God loves them.  Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44).

The only way anyone can love with that kind of love is for Jesus Christ to be working in your life because of His indwelling love (Gal. 2:20).

Christian love is not a matter of feeling the “right way” about another person.  Divine love is a matter of choice.  It is a function of the will.  Because it is something we do, it is always possible and must always be expressed in Godly actions.  We can act upon what we know to be the right thing to do.

The critical issue is obedience.  We can do the right thing because God chose to send Jesus on our behalf.  We can behave in a manner that is kind and loving even to those who despitefully use us and persecute us.

The word “love” (agape) is in emphatic contrast to “hate” in v. 43.  Love is commanded in v. 4.  “Love your enemies.”

People who persecute you are the most difficult to love. Persecution is the acid test of spiritual prosperity. We can demonstrate the love of God by praying for those who persecute us. 

It is impossible to continue to hate another person in the presence of God. Pray for the person you are tempted to hate and watch God at work in your life. You cannot remain the same.

Jesus set the example for us by praying for those who were crucifying Him. “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:24).

The parable of the Good Samaritan teaches us how to act as neighbors to all men (Lk. 10:29ff).

Jesus defined our enemies as those who curse us, hate us, and selfishly use us.  These are the very ones who need us to show them love.  He loved us when we were His enemies.

Wouldn’t it have been utterly amazing to watch Jesus in the midst of an intolerant environment?  Hatred was everywhere!  But Jesus chose to love, and we can too.

Jesus went on to say in this context, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).  The word “perfect’ does not imply “sinless perfection” which is impossible in this life, but completeness and maturity as God’s children. This maturity is unattainable in our own strength.  It comes from God’s indwelling presence as we obey His Word.  We cannot love our enemies in our own strength, but Christ will give us the ability as we obey His command.


Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2006

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(c) 2006  Message by Wil Pounds. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.

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