Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV)
You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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.
Our Verse of the Day is another lesson on the command of Christ Jesus for us to love another as He has loved us. (Cf. John 13:34) In this passage, I observe that Jesus has raised the bar. The expression of love toward others is not limited only to those we love or those that love us. No, the expectation is higher – that we would love even our enemies and those who hate us. Why? Because God loves the whole world … even those who express hatred toward Him or Jesus, His Son. God our Father is not willing that anyone should perish but that everyone would come to repentance. (Cf. 2 Peter 3:8-9) To be sure, judgment will come to those who do not believe in Christ Jesus. But in His patience and longsuffering, God is benevolent to all … displaying the riches of His grace and kindness in order to lead people to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) So in this passage, Jesus shares a couple of simple examples of this kindness: He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Think about what Jesus is saying here. God is good and gracious to all people regardless of the intent of their hearts or their manner of life. Everyone on the earth experiences the sun rise each day. Everyone receives the rain when it falls. The goodness of God is evident in His creation regardless of whether a person recognizes it or not. So, I believe Jesus implies that we are to be like-minded in our attitudes and conduct toward others. While it may be hard to fathom … much less perform … we are called to be indiscriminately gracious and kind to all. We are not to love others based on whether they deserve it; rather, we are to be merciful to the ungrateful and the evil just like our Father has been in His dealings with us. When we reflect the nature of God, when we imitate His benevolence to others, we show that we are His children. As Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (Cf. John 13:35) I want us to look at this same passage in the Gospel of Luke because it has a little more detail in the narrative:
Luke 6:27-38 (NIV)
“But I say to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your shirt (tunic) either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
In reading this passage in its full context, I think there is a lesson that we could miss with just a casual reading. Yes, we realize that we are to be nice people as Christians. We are to be merciful, kind, forgiving, and generous toward others; but just as I said earlier, Jesus raised the bar! He said to lend, expecting nothing in return. He said to judge not and condemn not because you and I will be held to the same standard of judgment or condemnation we measure to others. Yet, notice that Jesus indicated there would be favor for those who follow His instruction. When we love our enemies, and do good, and lend without expectation for reciprocation, we will receive “great reward” as children of the Most-High God! If we do not judge others, we will not be judged. If we do not condemn others, we will not be condemned. If we give, it will be returned by God in ways that will overflow in abundance to us! And please observe that Jesus does not qualify whether the person we encounter is worthy of such mercy or kindness … on any level. We were not worthy either when He rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the Kingdom of the Son He loves. (Cf. Colossians 1:13)
I think Paul was quite eloquent on this issue when he wrote: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! (Cf. Romans 5:6-10)
Sinners are justified by the blood of Christ! There is no other justification available before our Holy God! So, no amount of focus and hostility toward others with a self-righteous attitude is going to lead them to the reconciliation they want and need. It is by grace we have been saved, through faith – and this is not of ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast. (Cf. Ephesians 2:8-9) None of us is worthy! I repeat … none of us is worthy of the price that was paid for our sin. It was the kindness of God our Savior who gave Himself for all who would come to faith. And those who are ungodly (like we were) need our Savior … not our judgment or condemnation! (Cf. Titus:3-5) In fact, neither of these indictments were the intent of God when He sent our Lord Jesus into world:
John 3:16-17 (ESV)
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
John 5:21-23 (ESV)
For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
John 8:15-16 (ESV)
You judge according to human standards; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me.
John 12:46-47 (ESV)
I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.
My friends, we need to understand the heart of this message. When God took the judgment for our sin and removed the condemnation of our own darkness and unbelief (Cf. John 3:18; Romans 8:1), He did so out of His mercy and love. His pardon of our sin was unmerited and undeserved! So, who are we to pass judgment or condemnation on anyone? My thought is that we need to focus less on the sins of others, and more on leading them to Christ! Jesus called us to be merciful, even as our Father is merciful. So I believe this is the mindset we should have in our relationships with everyone.
So Now You Know…
Have a Blessed Day!
For God our Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. Yes, there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all people; and this has now been witnessed to at the proper time. ~ 1 Timothy 2:3-6