‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and
pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children 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.
46 If you love those who love you,
what reward will you get?
Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
47 And if you greet only your own people,
what are you doing more than others?
Do not even pagans do that?
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
In talking to His followers, Jesus asks us to "be perfect..." as God is. Often I've read or heard that line "be perfect... as your heavenly Father is..." and I start noting how far from perfect I am. I start going off in thought, registering my sinfulness and telling myself I need to get my act together in "this" and "that" area of my life, yet, no change comes.
However, I was reading Matthew 5 this morning and this section jumped off the page at me - or, as you could say, with the power of the Holy Spirit it became the "living word" in my heart, which enables me to get a better handle on it: I received revelation.
On looking back over the verse, and stepping beyond the usual "I've blown it 'here'" thoughts that often come to get our eyes off God and back on ourselves (off being a victor in Christ and back on to being a victim of circumstance), I noted that all Jesus is asking us to do is to love as God loves. That's it. That's all He was asking. He wasn't asking us to get our act together, confess this sin or that sin, but to love. So, on noting this, I stopped reading this verse through my own hang-ups and I looked a little closer...
Jesus states here that God causes the sun to rise on the good and the bad, and the rain to fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. This, to me, says He does not show favouritism.
We all know God hates sin but loves the sinner. We all know God loved us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us, and to take the punishment for our sins, while we were still sinners. None of us who truly know God and His love would declare He started loving us after we got our act together - because that denies the truth of Jesus, the Living Word, it denies God's heart, who He is, and it denies the simple fact that, no matter how long we've known God, none of us, on this side of heaven, are perfect yet. If God waited for us to be perfect before He bothered to love us, Jesus would never have come to save us from the punishment of sin and death. But Jesus did come, and I believe His #1 message was, and still is, all about LOVE.
~ THREE top commandments:
#1 Love God with all your heart. (Matthew 22:36-38)
#2 Love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 22:39)
# 3 "A new commandment I [Jesus] give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." (John 13:34)
~ God loves us. (Jn 3:16)
~ God is love. (1Jn 4:8)
~ God loved us while we were still sinners. (Romans 5:8)
~ and... as stated by Jesus above, "...love your enemy..."
This above passage doesn't just drive home the fact that God does not show favouritism, nor does it simply drive the point a little deeper that I am to love my enemy not just those who please me on the day, but it also reminds me that God's love for us depends on His heart, not on our actions or lack thereof.
Yes, we do works as followers of Christ, but these too are to be a result of the love God first showed to us. We love because He first loved us. (1Jn 4:19) We don't do works out of duty, but out of our loving response to a Father who loves us - who loves us even while we're sinners.
Above all, this passage says to me, GOD LOVES ALL OF US! And we should, too.
To be perfect like our Father, as mentioned in this passage, is to love everyone - be them friend or enemy. Think about it: GOD LOVES YOUR ENEMY! He loves them! Despite their sins against you, despite their sins against Him, God loves your enemy. Jesus died for your enemy. And God loves your enemy's enemy - which, more than likely, is you. Despite your sins against others, despite your sins against God, He loves you. Jesus also died for you... If God plays favourites, it is to favour everyone - no matter what feelings they provoke in us.
In other words, God's love for us is not based on our behaviour, but on His own heart. GOD is LOVE.
But it's hard work loving one's enemy, isn't it. God knows I've hated several times during the course of my life, and not all in the distant past! And I can't see how we can without God's heart; without God's Spirit.
The closer we are to God, the more we know Him, the more we are touched by His love and open to it, and the more we are transformed by that love into beings with a greater ability to love. Without God's Spirit, I can't imagine any of us loving our enemy.
It's now up to us to get closer to God; to get to know Him better. And that through Jesus Christ, the living 'heart' of God. It's now up to us to allow ourselves to be loved by God so we can then take of that love and pass it forward - even to our enemies. A growing process I know, but not an impossible one - for with God, all things are possible. The key there, I reckon, being "with" God; in union with God; in step with God; as one with God. Not on your own.
God loved us while we were still sinners; while we were still His enemy. No man or woman or child is less worthy of His love than we are, simply because they tick us off, or have abused or betrayed us in some way... for we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) None of us are without blame. To expect God to hate someone because they wounded us means we must then expect God to hate us for wounding others... and He simply does not want to. He wants to love you, and forgive you, and help you, and heal you, and free you, and be in a relationship with you, and talk with you... If you don't believe me, ask Jesus, He'll tell you all about it. :)