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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? Read the rest of this entry »



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