Bible with Cross ShadowSeveral times in this section of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has used “You have heard…” to extend and enrich their understanding of the Father’s heart in the Law. As we will now discover, not only was their understanding limited and shallow, in at least one case, it was just wrong.

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. Matthew 5:43-45

In this case, Jesus is addressing a pharisaical extension of the Law that was not intended by God. While they were told to love their neighbor (Leviticus 19:18), there was no command to hate their enemies.

Israel had many nations as enemies, and God did identify a few to suffer for their opposition to His people. However, these were exceptions. In fact, it was God’s intention to bless the nations through His people (a promise to Abraham). The religious rulers of Jesus’ day had turned a few specific instances into a general rule. As a side note: We would be wise to recognize our own tendencies in this area.

It must have been a quite a challenge to the people of Jesus’ day to learn that the desire of God’s heart is for His children to love, bless, do good, and pray for their enemies. Remember, Israel was under domineering occupation at the time. Wouldn’t this invite their enemies to walk all over them? How could He expect such radical behavior?

This conflict – between the desire of God’s heart and the power of our reason – has not change in the last 2000+ years. Read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs or the more current reports of persecution provided by The Voice of the Martyrs, and you will see what I mean. You will also discover the power of martyrdom; that God uses the persecution and suffering of His people as a powerful witness of His love for all mankind.

Persecution has been the common denominator for explosive church growth all over the globe, from its beginnings in Jerusalem, to the Underground Church in 21st Century China. What Satan has intended for evil, God has turned to the good of His kingdom. Will the same be said of us?

Without question, this saying is one of the most critical for the American church. The storm that is coming will include persecution. In fact, persecution has come; and is coming in greater severity. Will our houses stand under its force?

Our houses will not stand, if we wait for the storm to hit before choosing to obey this saying of our Master. It will be too late; and great will be their fall. Now is the time to begin loving, blessing, doing good and praying for our enemies.

As if recognizing the incredible challenge He has laid before us, Jesus gives further encouragement and understanding. He points out that our becoming sons and daughters of our Father in heaven is promised – and conditional – on our obedience. Consider carefully the gravity of this. He leaves no option for His followers. We must be radically different that the world around us; radically different than the life we would naturally choose.

Notice that Jesus did not say that we are to passively love our enemies. Our love is to include action. We are to do them good. Amazing!! I cannot begin to imagine even how to begin. It is certainly beyond me.

Praise God! As hard as this seems, it is not impossible; for we have the Life that can. In fact, we have the Life of the One Who has done this very thing. Though we were enemies, He died for us; having humbled Himself to do the Father’s will. He continues to do the same through those surrendered to His Father’s will and work (Philippians 2:13).

God bless you with grace to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

Humbly yours and forever His,