Love Your Enemies
The wrong interpretation leads to wrong motivation. And if we are honest, sometimes we inject our own interpretation into things and we make them like suggestions. So we interpret certain things the wrong way because we do not want to do that or obey that. Or we add to our interpretation or we subtract from our interpretation to benefit our own goals or our own agenda.
You can have any event in the new cycles now, take the event and there are facts of the event explained, you can turn on one news TV station and it will be interpreted one way, and you can turn another news station and it will be interpreted in the opposite way. Same event same truth, and yet you have two different narratives and two different goals and agendas of what they are trying to push.
Here in the bible we come to some people that want to interpret the Word of God in a way that was good for them, for the narrative that they wanted to push. You can also come to church to hear people that read the bible with their own interpretation of what they believe to be true. So today let us open up Matthew 5:43-48, but there is a little history in this before in verses 21 to 28.
The Sermon on the Mount begins in Matthew 5 and this is a long sermon from Jesus Christ that goes all the way to Matthew 7. I want to give you a little reminder, there are a lot of things that the followers of Jesus do. Now we do these things not to be a follower of Jesus but because we are a follower of Jesus. You don’t read the Sermon on the Mount and say if I do these, I become a good Christian.
No, we do these things in Matthew 5 – 7 out of our love for God. This is part of a sermon by Jesus. He is addressing the reality of living the Jesus life in the power of God while also understanding all the worldly things that are going on. God’s interpretation of the Law in verses 21-28 is demonstrated. And it is the interpretation of Jesus that is right that we need to follow.
And what He begins to do in verse 21-28 is to explain, “You have heard it said …, but I’m telling you what it actually means. People may say these are true, but I’m telling you this is the truth. He says that six times and we are studying the sixth one today. Because there are a group of people that are trying to change what He said and interpret it in a different way to push their opinion.
I know we think that the news cycles we are in are new, but what is happening is as old as time. We have to learn how to look at the reality of that. Each one of you has had people interpret you the wrong way and they forced that on you. We just need to pay attention to what Jesus says and do what He says. It is not just these Pharisees and Sadducees that do that. Are you sometimes also misinterpreting things?
The only way to do what Jesus wants us to do is to spend a lot of time studying what Jesus is saying and praying for His clarifications. Yes, you can come to church, yes you can come to bible studies, but you will never find a perfect church because there is no perfect pastor, we are all sinners and we will be wrong at times. And in the eyes of God none of us are perfect.
But we can learn from the Word and try to live that way to the best of our ability. Jesus says, people are going to interpret this like that but listen to what I say about it. And now we are looking at the reality of loving your enemy. When I mention the word enemy, you all can think of someone that is your enemy, someone that is hostile towards you, someone that is opposed to you. So think who your enemy is.
Our world gives us the interpretation that our enemies are the ones that might hurt us. So we must protect ourselves from them, or even that we must harm them, or think bad things about them because they are our enemy. Now wrong interpretation leads to wrong motivation. We live in a world that is divisive and we think that people who do not like us are our enemies.
If I am on the right side of the political isle than the left side is my enemy. If I am on the right side of the Roe vs Wade decision, then the left side are my enemies. If I’m on this side of the biblical stand on marriage, then people on the other side are my enemies. Did you know you can actually disagree with someone and that person is not your enemy? Jesus gives us that model.
The right interpretation that God gives us is to love them. Matthew 5:43-48, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But 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, 45 that 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
This is an outline by itself. There are two things that come out of these six verses. The first one is, there is a distortion of truth. When we interpret things the way we want it interpreted, we distort the truth. We make that narrative fit what we want to hear. This has been going on since the beginning of time. When God says something to Adam and Eve, Satan says, did God really say that?
Satan is making you wonder whether God is really good. When Jesus enters the world as a human being, and He goes into the wilderness, and Satan again is trying to distort the truth. Do you know that Satan knows the Scriptures, although he does not believe it and tries to distort it? And the Pharisees and Sadducees did the same thing, even though they had to learn these 5 books by heart.
But even though they knew what it said, they too tried to distort it. They tried to omit what is obvious to everyone in the beginning. Everyone knew verse 43: Love your neighbor and… But we know that when God is teaching us that He always says, Love your neighbor as yourself. So what do the Pharisees do? They omit ‘yourself’. The Pharisees did not like people that were not like them.
Who is really your neighbor? Anyone and everyone. Gentiles are your neighbors, and if you have to love them as yourself, which meant that they would have to treat them as they would treat themselves, including these nasty Gentiles. Do you know that we are really good at loving ourselves? Just examine all the things you do for yourselves from the time you get up till now.
Self-interest, well-being, personal health, income, comfort, safety, we know how to love ourselves well. But to do that for someone that is not like me? No. Generally when you hear ‘love your neighbor’, you think of a feeling. It is easy to say, yeah sure I love them. And the Pharisees knew that if they said that, they would have to spend their time, their effort and energy on people that were not like them.
So they omitted that part, ‘as yourselves’. They omitted the fullness of God’s Word because it would be too much for them. They distorted the truth. But the second thing that we do after omitting the truth is we amplify the account. We exaggerate things, we add our own interpretation to it. Surely it means this. Look at verse 43, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
Do you know that it never says to hate your enemy in the whole bible? Except when the Pharisees distorted this verse. This is showing the deviant nature of these Pharisees. There are so many people in the Bible that showed love, even for their enemy. David is a man after God’s own heart. He was anointed by God but at that time there was also another king, King Saul who wanted to kill David.
He tried to kill David numerous times and one time David is in a cave hiding out. So Saul enters in and does not see him and David cuts of a part of his cloak. He did not hate his enemy, because otherwise he would have killed him. David felt so bad that he repented. He said I never should have done it, you are God’s anointed. That is not what we see on CNN and Fox News.
God says to hate your sin, to hate your tendency to be influenced by Satan. The persons that wished you harm, the one who is on the opposite isle that we are on, those who we think are our enemies, God says to love them because they are made in the image of God. God will never ask us to hate someone that is made in His image. Think of September 11 and how many people died.
Osama Bin Laden was enemy no 1 in America. And I remembered the night that he was killed and I was rejoicing for the people that have given their life for freedom that we have in America. But at the same time I was thinking that this man is for eternity separated from God and I do not wish that on anybody. And that is the heart of Jesus and the heart of God for all people.
Not everyone says yes to become a follower of Jesus. But that is what we are created for. So what do we have to do? Jesus here gives us an outline of what to do. We sometimes try to follow God’s advice but change it a little bit. Some of you maybe are struggling to go to church because someone in the past hurt you feelings. it may be another church member or it may be a leader.
But I want you to see that they are not your enemy. Ultimately it is not about those people but you engaging with the word of God consistently so you know how to live the Jesus life. Here is what your life should be like according to Jesus, 1ove your enemy. Verse 44, But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who persecute you.”
Did you mean that I need to love those that are hostile to me? Jesus can say that because the very nature of His life is to come to die for the people that are His enemies. Jesus is the only one who can say that. You are going to have enemies. Jesus does not say if somebody is hostile to you, no, you are going to have enemies. This is not about feelings, but this is about action.
Love here is not about a feeling, it is putting this into action. Romans 12:20-21 says, “Therefore, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” So can you love that enemy that you have in your mind, or do you just have bad feelings for that person?
Jesus also says pray for your persecutors. As a Christian you are going to be persecuted. I do not mean that someone did not like your Facebook post, I mean religious persecution. Just study human history, we always see persecution the most around religious activities. Why? Because persecution is really the world’s reaction to the reality of God’s truth. The world does not like God’s Word.
If you are not persecuted right now, you have to ask yourself, do people know your religious beliefs? Do your neighbors know where you stand? Do your co-workers know what you believe in? The Word of God does not say that you may be persecuted, it says pray for your persecutors. May be you will suffer a loss for job promotion, or maybe you would lose friends and family members.
And when you are persecuted, Jesus says do not retaliate, but pray for your persecutors. The greatest way we can come near to God is by reading the Word of God and praying to Him. You must pray for your persecutors, not that something bad will happen to them, pray that they come to the reality of God loving them, even though they are your enemy. Pray that they come to know the truth.
Remember what Jesus said when He was crucified? “Father forgive them for they do not know what they do.” That is how we need to pray for our persecutors. So that they would experience life as never before. That shows that we are born again. Verse 45, “that 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.”
So that your love for God is on display. So that you may be seen as the children of your Father in heaven. We are displaying our love when we love our persecutors. John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” When we put love into action with our enemies, when we do pray for them, it is showing others that we are followers of Jesus.
Jesus wants us to raise our standards, look at these last verses 46 – 48, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The tax collectors often were not honest.
If you do what the world does, what standards are you living by? I know you only love yourself and when you love only those who are like you, if you take vengeance on your enemies, then aren’t you doing what everyone else is doing? Jesus is saying something totally different. It is hard to love someone that is different from what we are. His love is different from the worldly love we are used to.
Heavenly love is shown by Jesus which is what we have to learn. Worldly love and hate are very close together, because worldly love is centered on yourself and if you do not get that selfish love that you desire, then you begin to hate that person. Heavenly love focuses not on your needs, but on the needs of the other person. 1 Corinthians 13:5 says, Love does not seek its own.”
Romans 12:10 says, “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” Think more of the needs of the other person than your own needs. And when you believe Jesus as your Savior, He will give His righteousness (Romans 3:26) and forgive you your sins (Ephesians 1:7). So Jesus shows you His love by doing something that you cannot do yourself.
These Pharisees created many clever interpretations of what Scripture teaches, because they had a selfish worldly love. They had bitterness in their hearts. And they followed the law externally, and not in their heart. Jesus knows our heart and He says, if you are angry, that’s a reason for murder, if you look at another woman with lust that is already adultery in your heart.
Jesus looks at your heart. The Pharisees were justifying their actions by taking a little truth here and there to look good in front of other people. But they had blurred truth so much that they did not recognize Jesus as God. But we are not very far from these Pharisees and Sadducees. Many people want to look good to other people, they do not want to lose face.
But appearing good to other people is not what Jesus gave His life for at the cross. Jesus wants us to strive for holiness. Holiness that brings out love, joy, peace, purity and so much more on the outside of us and on the inside of us. Jesus died on that cross while we were still sinners. While I was still hostile to the way He wanted me to live. While I was opposed to His grace and mercy.
We live in a world where that enemy might be looking at you face every morning. You may be your own worst enemy, you choose the life you want to live, you choose to interpret the bible the way you want to interpret it; you choose to do other things instead of spending a bit of your time in the Word of God, or be with others that do study Scripture, and hold you accountable. Repent. Let us pray.