April 11, 2010
Vv. 43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate your enemy. 44 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 hurt you, and persecute you, 45 That ye may be the children of your father that is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to arise on the evil, and the good, and sendeth rain on the just, and unjust. 46 For if ye love them, which love you, what reward shall you have? Do not the Publicans even the same? 47 And if ye be friendly to your brethren only, what singular thing do ye? do not even the Publicans likewise? 48 Ye shall therefore be perfect, as your Father which is in heaven, is perfect.
Now we come to the last "ye have heard," which is closely connected to the previous ye have heards.
This ye have heard illustrates the last beatitude, v. 11Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
And this illustration also expands on the conclusion of the beatitudes: 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven, with v. 45, That ye may be the children of your father that is in heaven:
Vv. 43 & 44 can be difficult, with several different understandings. However, as usual we need to consider vv. 43-48 in the context of the Lord's sermon. All the previous ye have heards deal with personal relationships, and this one is no different. V. 43, use the words thy and your, showing us that the enemies are ours, and not God's. Scriptures teach there is a different attitude required toward God's enemies, which we will only touch on.
God's enemiesThroughout the Old Testament, Israel was to war against the anti-God nations, particularly the nations that inhabited Palestine. With only one exception that I can think of, Old Testament Israel was never told to feed and cloth the enemies of God, and that was in 2 Kings 6, where the king of Syria sent an army to capture Elisha. In fact, as a result of King Hezekiah's welcoming of the ambassadors of the prince of Babylon, the kingdom of Judea was destroyed. We must not consider it our duties to feed and support those enemies of God and Godliness. The anti-God nations of the world which are now destroying this once Christian nation, China, Russia, &c., would not exist today if the US had not supported and propped them up over the years. Many who demanded those ungodly nations be supported used Matthew 5:43-48 to justify their unbiblical support.
Throughout his message, our Lord did not give abstract ideas in his sermon. Rather, he gives very practical out-workings of the Mosaic law. Let us look at the passage he quoted in 5:43, love thy neighbour. The religious teachers, as have all false teachers, only used the part of the law that fit what they wanted to teach.
In vv. 43-48, the Lord quoted and properly applied Leviticus 19:15-18.
Leviticus 19:15 Ye shall not do unjustly in judgment. Thou shalt not favor the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty, but thou shalt judge thy neighbor justly. 16 Thou shalt not walk about with tales among thy people. Thou shalt not stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord. 17 Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart, but thou shalt plainly rebuke thy neighbor, and suffer him not to sin. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor be mindful of wrong against ye children of thy people, but shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.
The Lord's sermon shows that this law is on a personal and not a national level, which we are not discussing.
First, love for one another is defined in Scripture as obeying the word of God toward an individual, whether a friend, enemy, family member, or whoever.
Leviticus 19:15, love is illustrated by exercising just judgment toward others, in accord with Scripture, and not according to sentimental feelings, whether that feeling is good or bad. Love is always defined in relationship to the word of God. In 1 Corinthians 5, love was exhibited by removing the sinner from the local assembly. Leviticus 19:17 is the basis for Paul's instruction in Galatians 6:
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. 2 Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
Burdens here means heaviness or trouble. I believe 1 Corinthians 13 also applies in saying that patience must prevail in dealing with others.
Exodus 23:1 Thou shalt not receive a false tale, neither shalt thou put thine hand with the wicked, to be a false witness. 2 Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil, neither agree in a controversy to decline after many and overthrow the truth. 3 Thou shalt not esteem a poor man in his cause. 4 If thou meet thine enemies ox, or his ass going astray, thou shalt bring him to him again. 5 If thou see thine enemies ass lying under his burden, wilt thou cease to help him? thou shalt help him up again with it. 6 Thou shalt not overthrow the right of thy poor in his suit. 7 Thou shalt keep thee far from a false matter, and shalt not slay the innocent and the righteous: for I will not justify a wicked man. 8 Thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. 9 Thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Second, hatred is defined as violating the word of God toward an individual. No matter our feelings of love or anger toward another, our feelings cannot determine our actions. It is never right to violate God's word toward another, whether a neighbor, or someone on the other side of the world. The law of love and hatred applies to the individual, the church, the family and to the state. That is, even governments must obey God's word: Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Psalms 33:12, 144:15.
Hatred leads to violating the word of God toward an individual, if not in our actions, then in our thoughts.
Leviticus 19:16 Thou shalt not walk about with tales among thy people. Thou shalt not stand against the blood of thy neighbor: I am the Lord.
Hatred is illustrated by tale-bearing among those we know and might even profess to love:
1 Thessalonians 4:11 And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you;
2 Thessalonians 3:11 For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies.
1 Timothy 5:13 And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle, but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not.
Hatred is dealt with in the law:
Deuteronomy 22:1 Thou shalt not see thy brother's ox or his sheep go astray, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt in any case bring them again unto thy brother. 2 And if thy brother be not nigh unto thee, or if thou know him not, then thou shalt bring it unto thine own house, and it shall be with thee until thy brother seek after it, and thou shalt restore it to him again. 3 In like manner shalt thou do with his ass; and so shalt thou do with his raiment; and with all lost thing of thy brother's, which he hath lost, and thou hast found, shalt thou do likewise: thou mayest not hide thyself. 4 Thou shalt not see thy brother's ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide thyself from them: thou shalt surely help him to lift them up again.
The Pharisees totally agreed with this law, but their problem was their definition of brother:
Exodus 23:4 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. 6 Thou shalt not wrest the judgment of thy poor in his cause.
The lawyer who came to Jesus in Luke 10:25 ff., made it all turn upon, "I am to love my neighbour, but who is my neighbour? The Lord's answer there expanded upon what he teaches here in the case of the law, even those we might consider enemies are our neighbours. In the Lord's parable of the Good Samaritan, we understand that the common teaching of the day was a very restricted love neighbors, friends, relatives, those of the same nation, or those who had the same hopes and beliefs.
The Jewish teachers held that an enemy was not a neighbour, and that the command to love the neighbor withheld love from the enemy. That it hath been said. The Jewish teachers, with their customary efforts to explain away the rigorous requirements of the law, here insisted upon a strict and limited sense of the term neighbour.' So as they publicly taught the law, they would make the addition, "Thou shalt love thy neighbourand hate thine enemy." But the Lord made it clear that the neighbor to whom they owed love was not based upon personal feelings of love or hate.
Christ did not come to change anything that was already established under Moses in the Pentateuchs. Rather, he is refuting the errors of the religious leaders and teachers. In other words, the Law never said to "hate thine enemy", though it certainly commanded to love thy neighbour as thyself, Leviticus 19:18.
Israel was a farming community, where everyone knew every one. The closeness of their small farms was fertile grounds for producing hostile spirits, anger, jealousy and bitterness.
The Jews could look on members of the same tribe as neighbours and maybe even see Jews everywhere as neighbours. But they hated the Samaritans who were half Jews and lived between Judea and Galilee, yet Jesus used the Samaritan to teach who is the neighbor.
We pointed out that there are six "ye have heards" vs. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43. It is significant that the Lord takes the last two of His six points in this part of His sermon to deal with personal hurts, attacks and injuries. This shows us that the hardest and most important area that we must conquer is keeping our personal relationships right with the Lord in regard to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbours and community. Christianity starts with and is most revealed in our relationships with those we continually come in contact with.
The false teachers said that we are to love our friends and hate our enemies. The Lord's answer is v. 44. He gives 4 points in dealing with our neighbour:
First, He gives a general statement which is the central essence of the next three: love your enemies; then He gives 3 examples as to how to love our enemies:
1. blessing for a curse,
2. good for the evil and
3. prayer for persecutors.
The central essence of His following three points is Love your enemies: enemy can be defined as one who curses us, hates us and despitefully uses and persecutes us. However, these despiteful actions give us no reason to ignore what God requires of us toward him. No matter how terrible he may be, we have no right to covet what he has, steal from him, murder him, &c.
The next three points illustrate God's definition of love for our neighbour. Personal feelings are to be brought under control, but even if they are not, we cannot allow personal feelings to control how we act toward others. We must always keep a godly attitude, no matter how ungodly they act toward us.
1. blessing for a curse. Love counters cursing with blessing. Bless is the opposite of curse or slander, and means to speak well of or speak nicely to a person. Bless also includes if there is no good to speak of, keep quiet.
It is important to note that the word bless does not speak of asking God's blessings upon the ungodly; in fact, quite the apposite: we are not to ask God to bless those who are living outside of obedience to His word. How can we ask God to bless ungodliness, when, in fact, God's curse is against their wicked activity? Rather than asking God's blessing upon the ungodly, we should be asking for God's cures against their ungodliness because God's judgment against sin that can lead to repentance.
Curse... this implies harsh language one might use against us. The person speaks harshly toward us personally or harshly about us to others. How are we to respond to those with nothing but evil to say about or to us? We are not to answer railing with railing, nor evil with evil, nor are we to try to get even with them by speaking bad about them. Cursing is to be met with blessing.
Our standard is v. 48, our Father in heaven.
1 Pe 2:23 Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed [himself] to him that judgeth righteously: 3:9 Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.
No matter how badly they speak to us or about us, we must not allow our emotions to get out of hand; we must not allow our tongue to get out of control; we must not try to retaliate with our words nor actions. We are to speak nothing but good about those slandering us, and if we have nothing good to say about them, keep quiet.
2. good for the evil. Love counters hatred with good works. Hate implies malice. The Lord's command to do good in the face of hatred, implies that we must act in a kind way to everyone, regardless of how they treat us as individuals. No matter how much we might want to retaliate toward the one who is acting unkindly or hateful toward us, we must still love him; we must still do for him what is required of us by the Lord.
Ex 23:4, 5, If thou meet thine enemy's ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again. 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.
We are never relieved of our godly responsibility toward any one because of our personal relationship with that person.
3. prayer for persecutors. Love counters persecution and spitfullness with prayer. Spiteful implies to insult; to treat abusively, use despitefully; to revile. Persecute refers to harass, trouble, molest. Persecuted refers to being maltreated on account of something. And of course, persecuted or spitefully used means that we have done nothing to bring on the harsh treatment.
With this third point, we see that there are times that Christian love avoids certain people. If they treats us abusively and uses us in a insulting way because of our faith, Christ tells us to avoid them and pray for them. By avoid, we are not implying that if we meet them on the street, we should cross over to the other side. Even the ones who persecute and treat us spitefully, must be treated in a Christian attitude.
2 Jn 10, If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into [your] house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.
All of the books which the Apostle wrote emphasize Love: love toward God, love toward man. But John, who wrote the most about love, said that those who are the enemies of the gospel, those who are actively promoting a gospel contrary to the gospel of grace are to be avoided. They are not to be permitted into our homes to promote their false doctrine because they are open enemies of God.
1 Jo 4:20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
Vv. 45-48 gives 3 reason we must love our neighbour even in the most trying of situations.
1) Our actions will identify us as children of God. But notice what kind of actions identify us as children of God: actions which go against human nature. That is, not showing respect as we obey the law equally to all men. God sends rain on the just and unjust.
We will be seen as the children of God when we act like his children against all circumstances demanding otherwise, it is when we respond calmly and lovingly to those who are hateful and mean to us, it is when we return good for the evil done to us, it is when we refuse to rail against those who rail against us, it is when we act like Christians in the most trying of circumstances, then the world knows we are the children of God.
2) Our heavenly Father will reward us according to our love toward our enemies, those who curse us and those who despitefully use us and persecute us.
The publicans (may be some relationship to the modern day REPUBLICANS) were the tax collectors for Rome. The publicans financed themselves by overcharging the people in taxes. They were responsible to submit a certain amount of tax money to Rome, and whatever they could collect over and above what they had to send to Rome was their personal money. Therefore, the tax load placed on the people by the publicans was whatever the traffic would bear. Needless to say, the publicans were known for their corruption, and they were the most hated group of men in the land. Matthew and Levi were publicans.
(The man who flew his small plane into the IRS building in Texas.)
Our Lord says that if we only love, or treat kindly, those who treat us kindly, we are no better than the corrupt tax collector who treats his friends with kindness and charity. We have no more Christianity than the most hated of the pagans if we do not love those who treat us spitefully and hate us.
Yes, the child of God has rewards promised, but those rewards are for keeping our Christian testimony in very unChristian circumstances.
3) (third reason that we must love our neighbour as ourselves) it is commanded by Christ. The love described here is required of His people if they are going to be like the heavenly Father.
This verse is one reason the book of Matthew, particularly the sermon on the mount, is so hated by the natural man. This verse contains a direct command by our Lord to us: Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. Christ, with this command, strips His people of all excuse for not loving their neighbour as themselves.
Our conclusion of this point is that Godly love for our neighbour is commanded. The love God requires is a different kind of love than the world knows: even they know how to love those who love them.
The love called for here by Christ requires a supernatural ability supplied by the indwelling Spirit of God; it is a love that stands far above anything the world knows about. The kind of love called for here is the kind of love required of the child of God in obedience to the command of Christ to be therefore perfect, even as the Father in heaven is perfect.
As I was involved political matters as a pastor, I worked on the same conservative side with some of the more powerful men in the county. One ungodly man was named Corey, and was known as one of richest men in the county. Many times he said that he could meet someone in a courtroom, fight and fuss with them, but when the fight is over, they part as friends. Why cannot Christians do that instead of developing grudges and hard feelings?
1. These six Ye have heards deal with how we are to treat one another.
2. This last section defines Christian love, and the definition has nothing to do with emotions. The Lord defines Christian love in terms of our actions.
3. Christian love is not love that returns "love for love;" rather, Christian love is love that returns "love for hate." Christian love acts out Christianity regardless of circumstances or what we think of an individual. Christian love does not answer evil with evil; it does not answer lawlessness with lawlessness; rather, it answers all things with the attitude of Christ.
4. Christian love acts on faith: faith that the heavenly Father is indeed keeping score and that He, in His good time, will avenge the actions of evil man.
5. The end of our faith is that others will see Christ in us and that Christ will be glorified.
1 Pe 1:9 Receiving the end of your faith, [even] the salvation of [your] souls.
I wonder if maybe the reason we have such a powerless Christianity today is because we are not loving our neighbour as ourselves so that Christ can shine through us.
Lu 6:32 For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.