“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.” —Leviticus 19:18
Scripture Reading: 1 John 3:10-24; Genesis 45:4-15
The command of Christ in Matthew 5:44 is a paradox for the ages: love your enemies. By definition, an enemy is someone we should have license to hate. After all, they’re our enemy. Just as He usually did, Jesus presented an entirely new paradigm for His disciples. Love those that hate you, and pray for them, and do good to them. This command seems impossible, but when seen in light of salvation, it should be our natural response.
Before we were saved, we were sinners. As sinners, we were the enemy of God. But, even as His enemies, He sent His only Son to die on the cross for us. Like no other event in all of history, God showed us what true love for enemies is all about
We’re called to love our enemies not because God wants us to look good in the eyes of the world, but because by loving them, they can see the need for a relationship with Jesus Christ. By our witness, we can draw those who are at odds with God and us to salvation.
What is interesting to notice about this passage is that it never once addresses our feelings. It doesn’t say, “Feel love for your enemies,” or “Have a wonderful, warm, fuzzy feeling when you pray for your enemies.” God never calls us to change our feelings—we’re called to change our motivations, intentions, and actions. Everything in this passage is a practical action which can be taken apart from our feelings. God is less concerned about our feelings than He is about our obedience. In fact, when you don’t feel like blessing an enemy, it’s the best time to bless them. Why? We then learn true sacrificial love for our enemies.
What’s particularly frightening about this passage is that our love for enemies partly defines our standing before God. If we don’t show love toward our enemies, then we’re not the children of God. Our call is to go beyond human capability and love people with divine love.
- If we don’t actively show love to our enemies, are we the children of God? Does it make us a respecter of persons? Matthew 5:44-45; 1 John 3:10, 15, 17; James 2:1-10; Leviticus 19:15.
- Why is true sacrificial love evidenced by the way we treat our enemies, and not our neighbors? Romans 12:19-21; 5:8; Ephesians 2:4-6.
Note: When we hate our enemies, are we not unjustly condemning them, and at the same time condemning ourselves? Romans 2:1-6; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13.
- How can we bless those that curse us in a practical manner? Romans 12:17-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:5; Genesis 45:14-15; 2 Kings 6:20-22.
- Why does prayer for our enemies have as much of an impact on us as upon our enemies?
- Matthew 5:48 calls us to Christian perfection, or maturity. What are some characteristics of Christian maturity? Matthew 19:21; Colossians 3:14; James 2:22; 3:2; 1 John 2:5; Hebrews 5:13-6:3; John 13:1-10.
- Are our enemies always unbelievers, or could they also be members of Christ’s body? 2 Timothy 4:13-17; 3 John 1:5-11. Discuss the importance of blessing “enemies” in the body of Christ as a means of reconciliation.
- Jesus said that even the publicans love their neighbors. How is the command of Matthew 5:44-47 another way of expressing the truths in Matthew 5:20?
This week, determine to bless someone you’ve normally considered an enemy, and pray that God would change your heart so that you can love them with Christ’s love. Then, if possible, begin dialogue which will help reconcile the relationship, bringing yourself into complete obedience with God’s Word.