You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. Matthew 5:43-45 NABRE
Jesus teaches His disciples a Sermon on the Mount. He is startling, requesting disciples do what is difficult to hear let alone do, not only at the time it is spoken, but today as well. The text of Leviticus 19:18 calls on the people to “love your neighbor as yourself.” There was no mention of hating enemies but it certainly is a common inference. Jesus points out that loving only those that love you is what tax collectors and pagans do, a few of the less respected roles at the time. Jesus says we must love our enemies. We must pray for those who persecute us. Imagine hearing this as a first century Jew, living under Roman oppression. Those hearing might have lost parents or grandparents in revolts against the Roman forces intended on occupying their homes. Jesus tells them to love that enemy, the Roman who killed their family. Jesus makes no exceptions. Jesus goes on to challenge them to pray for those who persecute them, pray for those oppressors. It is this radical love that will make them children of their heavenly Father. When anyone responds to persecution by loving they become God’s children, taking on characteristics of the Father Himself, who shines and rains on the bad and good, the just and unjust.
Jesus challenges us to love and pray because He knows hate will only bring us toward evil. We cannot seek the kingdom of God with hate and evil in our hearts. For Jesus love is the prescription for all relationships that will make us more like God.
Who do you love? Who is in your prayers?Jesus challenges us to love and pray because He knows hate will only bring us toward evil. We cannot seek the kingdom of God with hate and evil in our hearts. Click To Tweet
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