(Jesus Teaches About transforming Love)
Background Reading: Matthew5:38-48
Devotional Reading: Romans12:9-21
Keep in Mind:
“You have heard that it was said, 'You
shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44But 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.” (Matthew 5:43-44).
IDENTIFY what it means to love one's enemies;
CONSIDER how loving our enemies can be a witness of Christ's love to them; and
PRAY that God would work through us to show His love to our enemies.
When Jesus walked this earth, He accomplished many wonderful feats. The Scriptures are filled with people He helped, taught, and encouraged. However, everyone did not appreciate Jesus. The scribes and the Pharisees, the religious leaders of His day, DID NOT pour out their gratitude upon Jesus. They despised Jesus and eventually killed Him.
Why didn't the religious people embrace Jesus? 1) He was not one of them. Jesus was a learned man without formal education. He had not attended the Pharisees' schools, nor did he train under the Jewish rabbis, yet Jesus spoke with authority and scriptural accuracy. 2) Jesus exposed the sin and hypocrisy in the personal lives of the religious leaders and also pointed out errors in their teaching. 3) Before Jesus came, the congregation of Jewish people looked at the Pharisees' and the Sadducees with great respect and adoration. When Jesus began to minister, He won the heart of the people. The religious leaders did not want to give up their position as the stars on center stage of the nation's religious life.
Even though Jesus was harassed by the leaders of His day, the ridicule did not keep Jesus from preaching. Chapter 5 counters several of the teachings of the Pharisees and clarifies what God really wants from those who identify themselves with His name.
A Lesson on Retaliation (Matthew 5:38-42)
38"You have heard that it was said, 'An
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
39But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
40If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.
41And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.
42Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.
Jesus begins this lesson on retaliation by recalling what the disciples may have been taught based on society’s official or unofficial ethical codes. Jesus teaches on this important subject because He is aware of the Pharisees’ false teachings and misinterpretations. The laws in the Old Testament about retaliation did not permit people to retaliate and seek vengeance against anyone unless a relative was murdered (Leviticus 24:18-21). The purpose of the retaliation laws in the Old Testament were to promote civil justice, not individual revenge. Jesus teaches the disciples a method of de-escalating conflict through several examples (verses 39-42). Turning our cheek and giving more than asked, whether materially or through our efforts, are ways by which we can lessen the desire to retaliate. “Resisting evil” is a key phrase to focus on, because one can easily misinterpret what Jesus is requiring of us. In this context, resist does not mean meet violence with violence. Instead, it means to stand against any wicked deeds that are intended to cause harm or mischief. We stand against evil through love. Jesus aims to alleviate any confusion on the idea of retaliation to prepare His disciples and followers for a higher calling. He calls the disciples and us to a higher standard of love.
1. How can seeing our “enemies” as humans help us to demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ to them”
2. Why do you think Christians struggle with retaliation when the Lord promises us “vengeance is mine” (Romans 12:19)?
A Lesson on Loving Your Enemies (Matthew 5:43-48)
43"You have heard that it was said, 'You
shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44But 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,
45that 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.
46For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
48Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Verse 43 also begins with Jesus recalling another lesson known throughout society regarding hating our enemies. While the first clause (“love thy neighbor”) aligns with biblical teachings, the second clause (“hate thine enemy”) is now how God intends for us to treat our enemies. The Scripture does not instruct us to hate our enemies anywhere in the biblical text. Beyond simply not hating them, Jesus now instructs His audience not only are they to love their enemies, but also pray for them. Performing these two actions is one way to show the world we are children of God. Loving an enemy appears hard or impossible to most people, because we compare “loving our enemy: to loving a loved one or friend. When we view love as solely an emotion, we miss its meaning as an action verb. Love is filled with a deep generosity we often overlook. Even God generously treats believers who seek righteousness as kindly as people who do evil by allowing the sun to shine on all of us equally (verse 45). If God can be generous with something as magnificent as sunshine and rainfall, then the least we can do as God’s children is treat our enemies with generosity as well. Love in action, especially toward our enemies, demonstrates our choice to rise above society’s norms. Jesus points out by asking numerous rhetorical questions that it is easy to love and treat well people who love us back. Again, Jesus calls us to a higher standard of “perfection” or mature and complete relationship with Him. In sum, we love because Jesus loves!
1. What does God’s equal generosity toward the righteous and evildoers make you think about loving your enemies?
2. How does grace operate when it comes to dealing with those who have used or wronged us?
3. How can we apply this difficult teaching of Jesus to love our enemies and pray for those who persecuted us?
Lesson in Our Society
In summarizing His teaching, Jesus exhorts His disciples to be perfect, meaning "whole, complete," or "mature." As His disciples today, we are to live our lives according to the will of God, using Christ as our role model. Don't think these goals are impossible to reach. We are able to accomplish these feats by the grace of God. Our human love for friends and enemies is flawed. When we confess our faults and sins to God, we receive pardon. We will not reach perfection in this life. But we can grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Jesus' declarations are not for those who are perfect, nor are they unattainable for us as Christians. The greatest saints are found among common believers who by grace have become pure in heart.
On June 17, 2015, one of the most heartbreaking events in our most recent history took place. Dylann Roof walked into a Bible study at Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and opened fire on innocent parishioners, sadly killing nine victims. Globally, many people mourned and perceived Roof as an enemy. We found it hard to love this man because of his violent action. Many believers showed Roof conditional love due to his disregard for Black life and disrespect for sacred ground. However, family members of the victims chose to accept Jesus’ call to live and love at a higher standard. They embodied and exemplified what Jesus meant when stating, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). In the courtroom, they showed Roof love by asking God to have mercy on his soul and expressing forgiveness.
While still holding Roof accountable for his deplorable actions, the family members chose to love their enemy. By choosing love and forgiveness, they freed their hearts to experience liberty from hurt and pain. Realistically, liberation and healing is a process, but it starts with loving our enemies.
Daily Bible Readings
Monday: Restrain Your Anger– Leviticus 24:16-22
Thursday: The Lord Honors Patience – Lamentations 3:25-33
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