Many times, we focus on our needs, not that it is bad for us to ask that our needs be met by God. He Himself has promised us that much. Problem comes when we use the degree to which our needs have been met as the standard for judging the health of our relationship with God.
Thus, you find that those who consider their needs to be more than met see God as good and that they are pleasing Him in whatever they are engaged in, even if such engagements are spoken against in His word.
On the other hand, those who seem to be struggling to have their needs to be met, even when they are engaged in things obviously in the will of God often either doubt the goodness of God, their own good works for God or even their relationship with God.
We forget that no matter what, in this life, somethings are just very difficult for us. Some are even not meant to be no matter how much one desires them!
It even becomes quite perplexing for us when we discover that many things that we are commanded to do as believers in Christ are very difficult if not impossible.
Because of such difficulties or seeming impossibilities, many have tried to excuse their failures concerning certain commandments of God. They will usually claim that God will understand their failings, or they may try to re-interpret the word of God to fit their own ideas that make them feel comfortable.
But the truth is that whatever God has commanded, He expects His people to obey.
God gives us difficult things to do because He is willing and have indeed made provision available for such to be accomplished. We only need to realise our utter dependence upon Him and then ask for the help we need to do that which pleases Him. Hence, our difficulties and challenges should point us in the direction of God and cause us to depend more on Him.
The Lord Jesus Christ had numerous teaching sessions with His disciples. His disciples were those who believed in and committed themselves to following Him as their Saviour and Lord. Many of such teaching sessions were held in public with members of the public often in multitudes in attendance. One particular teaching session seemed to have been more popular than the others and is commonly referred to as the sermon on the mount. In addition to the disciples, the public was present as a mixed multitude (Mat 5:1-2).
As the Lord taught the disciples on human relationships, He began to correct the errors in their thinking and attitude. Manu of such errors emanated from the rabbis, religious and political leaders who hid under the guise of the traditions of the elders as they taught human opinions and other things to make the laws of God of no consequence.
Some of these teachings of the Lord are found in Matthew chapter 5 (especially Mat 5:21-48). The Lord was speaking on relationships. So, here he speaks of one relationship everyone abhors. A relationship which everyone has in one shape or another. This is one relationship too many for numerous people believers and unbelievers alike. Yes, the one relationship which many wish either does not exist, or will just disappear with a wave of the of the hand as you make of an irritating fly!
Indeed, numerous people actually spend a large proportion of their resources trying to eradicate this relationship wherever they think it exists whether real or imagined. And many so-called ministries, so-called ministers and industries have arisen whose exclusive preserve and reason for existence is the promise to somehow make this relationship disappear in the life of anyone who will buy into their errors. Yet this relationship clings tenaciously to thriving life in the midst of the cacophony about it.
While the purveyors of deception smile all the way to the bank as they live lives like rock stars, their victims continue to groan and moan as they ever search for means to at least mend the deep holes made in their financial pockets.
But in the passage that we are going to look at the Lord focused His attention on one of the many relationships. This relationship that piques even the most self-controlled amongst us is that relationship with the enemy.
Perhaps you never thought of it this way but truly you have a relationship with the enemy. This relationship is of such importance that the Lord of glory focused His attention up it. It is so important that His followers have a clear idea of this relationship.
Hear the Lord yourself:
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mat 5:44).
Let us look at one of the very difficult command, one which if I say is one of the most disobeyed commandments will not be an exaggeration.
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mat 5:44).
The passage of which this verse forms a part (Mat 5:43-48) occurs within the section of the Holy Scripture commonly referred to as the sermon on the mount which spans Matthew 5:1-7:29.]]
To say that the Lord’s teachings of a new and higher standard of inter-human relationships were as radical and unacceptable in the days He taught them to His disciples even as they are today is no exaggeration.
How easy are you finding the Christian lifestyle?
You have heard
The Lord first reminded the disciples what they knew. They were not being taught for the first time about their enemies. It was not a strange topic of discussion for them.
His audience, the disciples were adult Jews and the multitudes were made up of majority of Jews brought up in the laws of Moses. Most of them would also have heard and some would have known the additions and other interpretations their religious leaders had added to the law.
This was why Jesus reminded them:
“Ye have heard that it had been said” (Mat 5:43).
The religious leaders when adding their own additions and interpretations to the law still spoke as if God was speaking. This was so as to gain credibility amongst, and obedience from the people.
The Lord knew of their deception to present their ideas as the law of God. Hence, He openly rebuked them as He quoted the prophet Isaiah to refute the errors:
“–Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition–” (Mark 7:5-13).
How true that this is what many people are doing today: they refuse to come to God so they can continue with their way of life unhindered!
What the law commanded:
“Thou shalt love thy neighbour” (Mat 5:43).
The is what the law commanded. For the Lord was quoting the law:
“Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” (Lev 19:18).
But what the religious leaders added
“and hate thine enemy” (Mat 5:43).
This is the part added by the religious leaders, and is the part of what the Pharisees, and the Lord referred to as “the tradition of the elders” (Mat 15:2; Mark 7:3, 5, 8), and for which the unbelieving Saul of Tarsus, was zealous before his conversion (Gal 1:14).
It is as if their thinking was that if you love your neighbour you must do the opposite to your enemy. They possibly forgot that their neighbour could be their enemy or they did not understand who their neighbour was.
This is one command that natural man will find attractive, for it sounds reasonable to wipe out someone who otherwise would like to harm you. The law of self-preservation, if there is anything like that, would demand this to be right too. Hence, many would be eager to obey this than to love their neighbour. But this was not what God would want, and the Lord set out to correct the error.
A radical departure
Then comes our verse,
“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mat 5:44).
The Lord now speaks with authority, and not as one of their religious leaders, and even the people recognised the presence of this authority (Mat 7:29; Mark 1:22). But as might be expected, the religious leaders who were supposed to know the law questioned, and then rejected the authority of Christ (Mat 21:23; Mark 11:28).
The true disciples are in mind
He spoke to His disciples, not the fickle-minded multitudes that followed Him. The disciples of Christ are given this command to obey. They are the ones to carry out this command while they face the hostile actions of the enemies.
“Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mat 16:24).
This is for those who will truly follow Him according to what He commands them not according to their own ideas and desires.
This is a serious issue for seriously minded and committed ones. The Lord was not suggesting good behaviour or giving good advice. Rather, He was commanding them, compelling them as to what they should do concerning a specific issue: their enemies. Their response to entities they are aware to be their enemies. The obligation is upon the disciples of Christ and not on their enemies. That obligation is to obey their Lord in all circumstances.
Are you one of those committed to following the Lord as His disciple?
Remember that He is the Word of God. He is the Son of God who came to fulfil the law. And He is above the religious leaders and the tradition of their elders. In spite of their refusal to believe, He was the Messiah they had been waiting for, and He demonstrated His authenticity in both word and deed.
Enemies are human beings
The enemies are the enemies of Christ and the disciples. They are numerous both spiritual and human.
Enemies here are human beings who are antagonistic to God and to the people of God. These are human beings at enmity against God. Often their thinking is since they cannot hurt God, they can try to get God through harming you. Hence, your credentials that qualify you for earning these oftentimes vicious enemies is that you are a child of God, you are a disciple of Christ. These enemies act like a hostile force against you and your interests. They do this sometimes to see if they can stop God in your life by making you to sin.
Do you realise that you may be sinning by hating your enemy?
You need to realise that if you are a true child of God your enemy is also an enemy of God. More often than not you will have enemies simply because you are a child of God and not because you have wronged anyone in particular.
It is true that Satan the devil is the archenemy of man, he is the adversary especially of the believer in Christ and may even hide behind humans who act as his instrument for his nefarious activities. But this passage is focused on human enemies of the people of God. Flesh and blood enemies and not some phantom in someone’s imagination.
How do I know these enemies are humans?
Remember, God never says and will never say we should love the devil or do good to the devil or any of the evil angels or demons that follow him. Rather, the believers are to resist the devil.
“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (Jam 4:7).
As we are further taught on the pages of Holy Scripture:
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph. 6:12).
And the weapons for that resistance we are told,
“(for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)” (2Cor 10:4).
To deal with the devil and his hoards know the weapons and use them. And if you suspect another human being as a potential tool in the hand of the devil, then address the strongman behind that visible enemy with the weapons God has provided to believers for that.
But here the enemies the Lord was drawing the attention of His disciples to are our fellow human beings we can see and interact with during our daily activities and are the ones classified as neighbours and or enemies.
Remember, love is what you choose to do.
Love is strong affection for another. It is an affection based on benevolence. It is an act of the will. While love is not primarily of the emotions, it has much emotional content. It is not how you feel but goes with a lot of feelings. It is a “doing” and not a “feeling.”
The command by the Lord to love here shows that what is asked for is not natural. It is not what a person will naturally choose to do. This is especially borne out by the objects of that love. Humans naturally love those whom they like and perceive love them. Love in such situations is more of a prorated thing. You love to the level you feel someone loves you.
Speaking naturally and from the human point of view, one can say this, loving one’s enemies is a herculean task, something impossible from the natural man.
But the Lord commands to do what is not natural because He speaks to the spiritual man, the born-again child of God who has the Holy Spirit resident in him. To such a one is made available the resources of heaven.
So, what are the things required to be done?
We are to love them. Here the love commanded is that based or appreciation and right regard. It is not something to be done flippantly or half-heartedly. Rather to be done excitedly and cheerfully! Are you kidding me! You say. But I am not joking neither am I pulling your leg. You are to love these people seriously.
How did I know that you asked?
Because in doing this we will be emulating God, our heavenly Father (Mat 5:45). And God does nothing half-heartedly. Rather, God does everything joyfully and excellently.
To bless is to invoke divine care for someone. To speak well of and favour that person. We are to invoke God’s blessings upon them and to ask God to bless them! As far as God is concerned, for another human being, it is “Bless, and curse not” (Rom 12:14).
To curse is to cause injury or harm by means of a statement regarded as having some supernatural power, because a deity or supernatural force has been evoked. A prayer or invocation for harm or injury to come upon someone by a deity. It is the evil or misfortune that comes as if in response to imprecation or as retribution. Hence, this is not just words but includes the desire to carry out the intentions.
This is not talking about the rather common idea of asking someone to stop using abusive language by saying stop using “curse words.” This is serious business as it speaks of people who actually believer that there is the supernatural power of a deity empowering their words as they speak malicious words in anger over their perceived enemies. The enemy is perceived to be so evil as to deserve the most horrible punishment possible that a deity can inflict! This is more than just words as it involves desires, intentions and actions.
To do Good is to speak to and do things to and for them that are to their benefit.
Hate is extreme dislike and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury. To hate is to dislike so strongly with the implication of eversion and hostility. Just mentioning the name of the one so hated sends the blood of the hater boiling!
Pray that is, speak to God about and for them: Entreat, implore God on behalf of someone which despitefully use you.
Despiteful that is, expressing malice or hatred. To be despiteful is to mistreat with the implication of threats and abuse.
To Persecute is to harass or punish in a manner designed to injure, grieve, or afflict specifically to cause to suffer because of belief. To persecute is to systematically organise program or event recurrently to oppress and harass people.
If there is one word that can describe the varieties of enemy action, it will be persecution. The enemy persecutes in a diversity of ways: It often raises up false scholars, false teachers, false prophets to name a few to pervert and to corrupt the word of God in attempts to lead the people astray and possibly into apostasy.
Failing in that, but often in addition, fanatics are raised up who then physically pillage the properties of believers and even physically attack them leading to grievous bodily harm and even death. Ultimately the desire of the enemy is to do maximum damage, and all his resources are calculated to achieve that goal often at whatever cost.
The Lord knew what He was talking about
The Lord did not speak in uncertain terms. Rather, He spoke with certainty and mentioned few of the enemies and the actions of the enemies and how the disciples were to respond. This teaching was radical to say the least that day. It is even more so in our day. To many today as it was in those days, this is unreal. You cannot be serious!
Specific enemies and their acts representative of a wide spectrum of enemies and enemy actions that could be directed against the people of God are mentioned here. Many more are enumerated on the pages of Holy Scripture.
The enemies curse and imprecate evil on the believer in Christ. They desire the doom of the believer in their intentions, planning and actions. They hate the believer with cruel hatred, detest and viciously pursue the believer. At every opportunity, they despitefully use the believer.
They revile, insult and otherwise abusively entreat the believer in Christ. They persistently persecute the believer. They molest, harass and trouble the believer persistently. It is a continuous and unrelenting pursuit that is premeditated and have the goal of either destroying the one being pursued, and failing that, to make life as unbearable for the believer as much as is possible. They will elicit and avail themselves of any help they can get in this ungodly enterprise.
Remember, the righteousness of the believers in Christ is to exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Mat 5:20). As usual the Lord is not in the business of asking His followers to do things that are easy. Of course, if things demanded of the believer are easy there would be no need for God’s help through the Holy Spirit.
So, the Lord meant real enemies who meant to do you and other disciples harm are to be loved by His disciples! There is no getting around it. The Lord Jesus Christ asked, rather, He commanded His disciples to love their enemies. There are no get-out clauses, no loopholes, and no exceptions.
The Lord came to fulfil the law
All these corroborate the testimony of Christ as He said:
“17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Mat 5:17-18).
Obviously, He was talking about the true law devoid of the additions of the traditions of the elders. Hence, this teaching and command.
Do remember that the Lord was not talking from the comfort of a house like someone who did not know what he was talking about. In addition to His rightful position as the Lord with authority, He had experienced the evils enemies are capable of more than any human being. Yet He did not repay evil with evil to those enemies.
The ultimate demonstration of this love was His volunteering to go to the cross and while He hung in agony and excruciating pain as He was dying for the sins of the same enemies that cried crucify Him, he prayed for the same enemies as He said:
“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).
His foremost apostle gave more details:
“19 For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. 20 For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. 21 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: 22 who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: 23 who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: 24 who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.” (1Pet 2:19-24).
Part of the law the Lord came to fulfil is to love our neighbours as ourselves. That neighbour may be a friend or an enemy. Again, the Lord is our supreme example. We are informed that while we were sinners and still in enmity against God the Lord died for us (Rom 5:8).
On what authority is your practice of Christianity based: the word of God or the traditions of men? Please, check!
Love for the enemy is a trait of the children of God
Perhaps some of them were playing dumb: hearing what he said and knowing that He is Lord, they still asked a question.
Why must we love our enemies?
As if in answer to that unverbalized question, the Lord further said:
“that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mat 5:45).
This is not saying that this will make believers become the children of God. You do not become a child of God by your works. Rather, you do those good works because you are a child of God. The believers are already sons or children of God through salvation by Jesus Christ. Rather, now that they are children of God, obeying the commandments of God, in this particular case, loving their enemies, demonstrates them showing their resemblance to their heavenly Father.
You are still a little child to God
Though you are an adult, you are still a little child in the sight of God. Hence, He takes care of you as a little child in His family meeting you at every point of your needs. He is the reason you are still alive despite all that life has thrown at you. You may not realise it, but you are weathering all adverse situations because of His everlasting arms beneath you.
Remember when you were growing up about 5-8 years old? Mummy said do something. You ask why? And she answers, because mummy says to do it. And you did it because mummy or daddy said so. I am sure if you have brought up children, you also have used that “because mummy said so” or “because daddy said so” cliché.
Further, remember what the Lord said about entrance into the kingdom of God?
“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mat 18:3).
And I put it to you that irrespective of spiritual growth and accomplishment for the Lord, you are the Lord’s little child. So, you do this and many other things because your heavenly Father says to do it! And that settles all dissentions.
Further, the apostles regularly addressed adult believers in Christ as little children (cf. Gal 4:19; 1John 2:1, 2:12, 3:18, 4:4). And believers are admonished to,
“as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” (1Pet 2:2).
As children of God, believers in Christ are to go the extra mile. They are to do much better than unbelievers (Mat 5:20, 41). This can only be possible because Christ is living His life through the believer (Gal 2:20). Such have the grace that is due to the divine life they possess through the presence of the Holy Spirit resident in them. As we are told, the believers are partakers of
“the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2Pet 1:4).
Believers have the character trait of peacemakers who are blessed, called children of God, and also followers of God who are referred to as His dear children (Mat 5:9; Eph. 5:1).
Similar to many of the things He commands believers, God first demonstrates such by or in Himself. Hence, because He is Holy, He says believers should be Holy. And here, he first demonstrates His none-discriminatory action in terms of provision for all His creation. He is truly the God of providence.
As in the physical climate or weather, God had the ability to be selective as He demonstrates in the way different areas have different weather at the same time. But such selection is not usually on the basis of the location of evil and good people as all people in any particular location experience the same weather at the same time.
Similarly, in spiritual matters, generally people groups are not singled out as a whole for punishment. Though God punishes the wicked and evil person, we may not always know the process by which His judgements upon the ungodly are carried out in the interim before the final judgement.
Please remember that though believing children of God cannot be perfect as God is, God still demands our sincere best rendered faithfully.
Many believers will want to please God because that is the right thing to do even when they might not even know what to do.
Now a powerful contrast
If the fact your Lord commanded, and obeying enables you to demonstrate your similarity with your heavenly Father, may be the desire to avoid a notorious appellate will do the trick!
Humans like good accolades. Many even go out of their way to court such praises. The average person would be happy and thumb his chest in elation if commended as being Christlike. But not many especially amongst the children of God would like a negative appellate. This brings us to the next verse.
“For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?” (Mat 5:46-47).
To love the one who loves you is the way of the natural man. This is what is most natural and usual for every person: love them that love you.
What goes for love, goes also for greetings in all its different forms. Even the worst of men (this is what these tax collectors had become to the Jewish society of Jesus’ day), would greet only their brethren. And believers are definitely expected to do better than even the best of men!
The Lord speaks to this nature of man because He knew man (John 2:24-25). Most people do things for reward.
But Christian character as reflected from God goes beyond doing what is natural or commonly expected as the earthly nature of man. The Christian has been regenerated and has the Spirit of God living in him. He is therefore to walk in the Spirit. It is the indwelling Holy Spirit that empowers and thus enables him to put his body under subjection or control and thus go beyond and above his sinful nature.
Again, the Lord demonstrates His knowledge of man: man does things for reward or the potential for reward. In that day, to be likened to the publicans was a powerful negative appellate. To be described as a publican was one of the terrible things you could say to a Jew.
But who were the publicans?
Why were they so hated by the Jewish society?
The publicans were also called tax collectors. Ordinarily the tax collector is someone who collected taxes for the government.
In that day, the term “tax collector” was a term of abuse as here (Mat 5:46; and Mat 18:17). It was also a foil to the hypocrites (Luke 3:12; 7:29). It was also joined in vituperative apposition to “harlots” (Mat 21:31-32). They were commonly referred to as “sinners” as they were lumped together in the phrase “tax collectors and sinners” (Mat 9:10-11; 11:19; Mark 2:15-16; Luke 5:30; 19:2-10).
In the areas ruled by the Roman empire, contracts for collecting taxes in a region were usually given to wealthy foreigners through a bidding process. The agreed amount of tax was paid in advance to the Roman government by the bid winner. He in turn then sub-contracted specific smaller geographical areas to subcontractors. The subcontractors further subcontracted to lower level contractors too. These then hired local inhabitants to which he contracted smaller geographical areas to collect the taxes.
This arrangement provided ample opportunity at several levels for considerable personal enrichment through the unrestricted inflation of taxes and toils as a portion of whatever was collected went into the pocket of the collector.
One of such local inhabitants is Zacchaeus called a tax collector who amassed wealth in the Jericho area (Luke 19:2-10). They collected much more than was required and pocket the excess themselves. Hence, they were perceived to be corrupt. In addition, the local tax collectors were seen as traitors who were collaborators with the enemy of the people, the Roman government.
The only standard for the believer is God.
And finally, the Lord commanded:
“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Mat 5:48).
This is the crux of the matter, the glory of God and becoming godlike.
To be perfect is to be complete, to be matured. It does not mean to be flawlessly perfect which is impossible for us believers until the final glorification in the presence of Christ. But in our current state on earth, each believer is to through the enablement of the indwelling holy spirit to aspire to Christlikeness.
This calls the believer to engage in things that are not natural to humans, but which God has commanded and thus made are possible to those in whose lives Jesus Christ is Saviour and Lord.
And whatever character traits of God we are to aspire to are glimpsed from the personality of Christ:
“For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col 2:9).
He is the one who had come down to earth to declare God to man, and to reveal Him to whoever He will (John 1:18; Luke 10:22).
A very tough command indeed
If we are honest with ourselves, we will agree that it will infinitely be much easier to obey the command of the Lord concerning love amongst believers,
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” (John 13:34).
Even with the help of the Holy Spirit, loving fellow believers have not been easy for many. Hence, there is much strife, divisions, cliques and party spirit reminiscence of the Corinthian church of old (1Cor 3:1-10ff.) in the churches in our day. So, look up to the Lord to see you through as you make sincere efforts to obey Him.
Do bear in mind that from the point of view of the Lord He was not asking us to do anything extraordinary. Rather, He is asking us to do that which should be, though it is not, natural to us as children of our Father in heaven (Mat 5:48).
The Lord lived what He commanded
The Lord Himself was to demonstrate what He commanded His disciples while he hung on the cross. Despite all the humiliation, severe beating, and the excruciating pain He must have been in, He prayed for those who crucified Him out of envy and hatred:
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:24). He says that it is for the disciple to be like his master (Mat 10:25).
His disciples demonstrated obedience
Stephen while being stoned, in excruciating pain and at the point of death prayed for those who were killing him:
“And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:60).
God’s standard remains the same
God’s commandments are universal to all His people in all ages. The same standard was demanded of the old testament believers. They were to give their enemies food if hungry and water to drink if thirsty (Pro. 25:21). I would venture that this passage is more than just food and drink.
Remember that love is a central tenet of the kingdom of God. It is a core trait of a genuine believer in Christ. The true child of God manifests lives a life of love. This bears repeating: love is entrenched in both the Old and the new covenants.
“37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Mat 22:37-40),
It appears that the second great commandment, rather than excluding enemies includes them. Or I should say that it does not distinguish between friends and enemies.
Christ Himself died for sinners while they were yet at enmity against God. Hence, in the new covenant believers in Him are commanded to follow His example. Believers are commanded to love one another as Christ loved them (John 13:34). They were to be known to be disciples of Christ by the way they showed love (John 13:35).
But the disciples of Christ are in a better covenant that demands a higher standard. Hence, they were to love their enemies in this new dispensation as it was from the beginning:
“4 If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 5 If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” (Ex 23:4-5).
“19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:19-21, cf. Pro 25:21-22).
This should be expected since it is the same God that is sovereign over both the Old and New Testaments, and that His standard has remained the same.
As love for the enemy encompassed the care of this known enemy. Even to taking care of the enemy’s valuable property:
“4If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 5If thou see the ass of him that hateth thee lying under his burden, and wouldest forbear to help him, thou shalt surely help with him.” (Ex 23:4-5).
So, it should continue with the disciples Christ. We are to do the same as people of God.
Identify with positivity and not notoriety
If the positivity of being commanded to love their enemies so as to be like their Father in heaven is not enough to ensure their obedience, the notoriety and negativity associated with the much-hated publicans will perhaps shock them out of their lethargic practices of their traditions of the day and into obedience of the tough command.
Certain misconceptions, what loving you enemies does not preclude:
- Loving your enemies does not preclude you protecting yourself.
- Loving your enemies does not mean close association.
- Though we are informed that acts of kindness towards the enemy will be like pouring burning coals upon them, we are not told the details of how this pans out when it comes time for God to deal with them (Pro 25:22; Rom 12:20).
- Hence, you are not to keep one eye open hoping to see the burning coals raining down on your enemy as a result of your acts of love towards them.
- That is, do not let the motive for loving your enemies be your expectation that God will soon punish them.
- Remember, God sees your heart and can know if your love for your enemy is genuine or not.
- Indeed, we are told that God may even stop the punishment of the wicked if He sees you rejoicing at their misfortune! (Pro 24:17-18).
- You should not be afraid of the possibility of God answering your prayers for the welfare of your enemies. Do not be a Jonah in this wise!
- Loving your enemies does not prevent or protect from persecution. So, do not see loving your enemies as potential advance payment against persecution.
- It is only God who can make your enemies to live in peace with you (Pro 16:7).
Your willingness and faithfulness demanded
The difficulty of a commandment has no bearing on our responsibility as believers in Christ to keep that commandment. Therefore, it is not a question of whether we have the capacity to perform any of the commandments. It is our willingness that is required.
Why should we children of God love our enemies and do these things?
- Because God commands us to love them.
- Because God demands our obedience as His children.
- Because God alone gives us the grace to be sustained in the midst of the enemies.
- Because God says the punishment of the enemy is His exclusive preserve: vengeance belongs to Him exclusively.
- Because God has “made all things for Himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Pro 16:4).
- Because God alone knows all the enemies and all their abilities.
- Because God alone restrains the enemies so they cannot do all the evils they want to do.
- Because God alone restrains the enemies so they cannot do all the evils they are capable of doing.
- Because God alone commands and even the devil obeys.
- Because God alone knows the reason for the existence and the assignment of the enemies in your life.
- Because God alone is a righteous Judge.
- Because God alone loves us like no other human can.
- Because God alone can and does protect and keep us secure.
- Because God alone has the power over and above all the enemies.
- Because God alone has the power to answer prayers and He can set aside any imprecation you may invoke against your enemies.
- Because God promised that the wicked shall by no means go unpunished.
- Because doing these recognizes God’s sovereignty: He exercise His right to do as He pleases.
- Because we affirm God’s right to treat all alike if He chooses to do so.
- Because obeying these conforms to the mind of Christ (Phil 2:8).
- Because our obedience shows the unsaved something different from what they are used to, and which is more than they are capable of doing (Mat 5:46-47).
- Because doing so tries and proves our obedience.
- Because it gives God the opportunity to work on our behalf.
- Because it forces us to examine ourselves intently as to our faith and spiritual growth.
- Because living this way takes spiritual maturity and the more we live this way, the more we reflect Christ (Mat 5:48).
Believer in Christ, are you willing to obey your Saviour and Lord?
I pray that your sincere answer is yes.
When you choose to obey, then the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who is there to help and to assist our obedience will enable you to do what you need to do to please God. Though, the commandment to love our enemies is quite hard, we have the Holy Spirit to help us.
Hence, tough as this commandment may seem, and it is truly hard, the true believer in Christ has no excuse not to keep it. For as he walks in the Spirit, he will not fulfil the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). And the Holy Spirit will supply the supernatural enablement to do this difficult task.
The Lord commanded you to do it knowing that in your natural self, you will not be able to do so. In a sense His hard-to-obey command is an invitation to you to come and be dependent upon Him for the enablement to do His will. He knows you intimately. He knows all the enemies to the depth you cannot. More than that, He superintends both you and all the enemies.
Then, He went ahead a gave His Holy Spirit, who will then empower you to do that which is beyond your natural ability. It is because of the Holy Spirit in their lives that the people of God are able to have peace and joy in the things of God (Rom 14:17) and, God’s commandments are not burdensome or grievous to His people (1Jhon 5:3).
Do not rely on yourself to walk your Christian journey.
Rather, depend on the Holy Spirit. Ask the Holy Spirit for help Now. Remember, He is the comforter who comes alongside you to help you. And you will be able to love your enemies as or Lord commanded.
So far so good for the believer in Christ, the child of the living God. God ever watches over all His children. He restrains their enemies while He gives His children the grace needed to obey Him and overcome every onslaught of the enemies for the battle belongs to the LORD who is Man of War who is always victorious.
But what if you are not yet a believer in Christ?
Please understand that the above concerns the followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. They can with the help of the Holy Spirit and the written word of God, and a humble spirit be able to be obedient to God, even in the worst of circumstances. This is because what God demands of His people can only be done with the help of God who superintends the lives of His people.
So, if you are not yet a believer in Christ, if Jesus Christ is not yet your Saviour and Lord, the above may sound to you as unreal or a fairy tale. But I assure you it is real and not a fairy tale. And better still, you can come in and have what genuine believers in Christ have.
By becoming a born-again child of God:
Accept God’s verdict concerning human beings:
“All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).
That is, in the opinion of God, we all fall short of His standard. Further, our sin has earned a deserved wage which is death or separation from God in hell.
But while we are still in our sin, God took the initiative to reconcile us with Himself as we are told:
“But God commendeth His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Yes, while we were all still in our sin, God showed His love for us by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ to die for us. God gave Jesus Christ to the whole world (John 3:16). So, all we need to do is to accept that Christ has died for our sin by standing in place of us.
We do this by doing what the word of God commands all would-be believers:
“If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10). “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Everyone who appropriates the sacrifice of Christ is acceptable to Him. And He Himself extended the invitation to all:
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
So, I encourage you to appropriate the finished work of Christ and confess Him as your Saviour and Lord NOW!
I prayer that God will accept you into His household through Christ in Jesus’ Name, Amen.