I am looking for your OBSERVATIONS and APPLICATIONS on this passage, to help me prepare for this Sunday’s message (Dec 23, 2007). What stands out to you? What questions does it raise? How do you hear the Lord challenging you? Thanks for your hep!!! — Pastor Norm
43″You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
1. God did command His people to love their neighbours (Leviticus 19:18), but nowhere does He command them to hate their enemies. It was certainly expressed by OT believers (see Psalm 139:19-22), but this does not mean that it was God’s will.
2. Jesus tells us not to aim for the kind of love that other people show, but to aim for the kind of love that God shows. People naturally love those who are easy to love, but God loves the unlovable, God loves us (Romans 5:8)!
3. Can you imagine the difference this kind of love would have on our world? What if this was the driving motive of the Jews and Palestinians? Of Muslims and Christians? Of whites and blacks? Granted, it would not eliminate evil (it is resident in our hearts), but it would certainly have a more positive effect that bombs and slander and revenge and hatred. These things are not eliminating evil either (ask George Bush whether he eliminated terrorism with his war?). Neither can eliminate evil, but sacrificial, generous, compassionate love will certainly produce better results that violence.
4. Speaking of whites and blacks (see above, 3.), I think of Martin Luther King who seriously attempted to apply this truth to the battle for racial equality. His love did not eliminate evil (he was murdered), but it did eventually win a great victory. Hear what he had to say… “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars… Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
5. Jesus is speaking to His disciples, training them for what it means to follow Him. In other words, this is not optional, this is THE WAY! This is how Christ-followers will act, that is, if they want to be children (sons) of the Father. This kind of love will make it obvious that we are Christ’s disciples. Hmm, I wonder if that means that those who do not show this kind of love show that they are not Christ’s disciples?
1. So what does this mean practically? If I am going to be a Christ-follower, then my goal needs to be to love like this, to be gracious and compassionate with everyone, including those who I do not like.
2. To be honest, I have no enemies, so this passage does not speak to me as it might have for the audience Jesus addressed (they had the Romans, the Jewish leaders, the slave-owners, the tax collectors). For me the application is more helpful to read it as “love strangers” or “love those you may not like”. Are there people I go out of my way to avoid, not because I hate them or view them as enemies but because I just don’t like them, they’re not the kind of people I am comfortable with.
3. Who is the Lord bringing to my mind that I could bless with an act of generosity, kindness, undeserved favour? This needs to be specific. If I am going to live like Jesus, then I need to love like Jesus. Who…? How…? What if the Lord is calling me to practice Christmas differently this year, not not give gifts to those who love me or who are my brothers?