Matthew 5:43-48, love your enemies
5:43 ‘“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’(Matt 5:43-48 WEB)
5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you,
5:45 that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.
5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?
5:47 If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same?
5:48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.’
The saying, “You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy,” does not come to us from the Bible, but had its source amongst the other teachings of Judaism.
The key to understanding Jesus’ instruction to love your enemies lies in Matt 5:45's explanation that this is so “that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven”. Jesus moved in a culture where sons were supposed to be like their father, trained by them to continue the family business and to implement their father’s wishes. Nor should we forget that he is primarily addressing a group of male disciples, most of whom would have been brought up within this system. If God loved his enemies, then, for them to be like their Heavenly Father, they too would need to love their enemies. Nor may a female disciple claim exemption on the grounds of gender, for, even though her mother would take responsibility for the day-to-day practicalities of training the girl to live as a woman, she was still expected to honour the will of her father, at least until she married.
God certainly loves his enemies. The world is full of those who would like to extinguish all notion that a Lord of the universe exists, yet he continues to maintain the cosmic order they depend upon. There are many who would like to kill off the servants of the creator, yet He gives them the breath of life on a daily basis. The eternal judge has countless foes who rebelliously undermine his decrees even as he sends rain to water their crops and feed them. There are many who hate the idea of God, but nevertheless benefit from the wisdom that he makes available to all men.
Be perfect, Jesus’ encourages, as God is perfect. If we only love those who love us then how are we any different from the rest of the world. In first century Jewish society tax collectors were generally despised, yet even these social pariahs would welcome their friends. How like our Heavenly Father really are we? Are our lives a true witness to his nature, or are we living a lie?