Journal Entry // May 14, 2023
“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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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. (ESV)Matthew 5:43–45
This is the last of the “You have heard that it was said,” passages in Matthew 5. It is important to note that this particular statement is not found in the Law but rather is a saying or misinterpretation of God’s Law in the Old Testament. This is true for all the previous statements as well. As Jesus is not correcting the Old Testament but rather correcting the misinterpretation and application to life we can better see and understand what is required through Christ. This misinterpretation would flow from the thought that God hates evil and anyone who embodies evil is an enemy of God which means that it would only be natural for someone to hate the enemies of God even though God never commands this in the Law and the prophets.
This is true in my own life to varying degrees. In an effort to show my pious righteousness, I can fall into the trap of believing that a particular sin is more egregious to God than another and in particular more egregious than my own sin. I see the embodiment of sin in certain groups who are actively living a life contrary to God’s Word and in active rebellion and hatred of Him. It then becomes easy to lump all of these people into a nebulous group and lose sight of their individual humanness. I forget that each one of these group members is an actual person. A person that is needy and desperate to fill the void in their heart with anything other than Jesus. A person in need of the gospel of Jesus, just like me.
Jesus calls me to move away from my hatred and move toward love. Just as God sends rain on the just and the unjust, I too should emulate the love of my Father in heaven and show the grace and mercy of God to everyone. Does this mean that I condone their sin and evil? Of course not. I should never ever give affirmation to clear disobedience and wickedness in the life of others. Yet, what Jesus is calling me to do is engage with everyone on the basis of their personhood. I am to move past the groupings and labels and see the individuals involved. I am to bring the rain of God’s grace into the lives of all people regardless of their spiritual status.
How do I do this on a practical level? Humbleness. I too was just like them before Jesus changed my heart and I too am prone to wander away and leave the One I love. I too was an enemy of Christ. I too was steeped in sin. I too still feel that pull of temptation. I too still fall short of obedience. I too still need Jesus. So the key to loving my enemies is understanding that I can easily see myself in them. I need to understand that God rescued me from a life of disobedience and he wants to rescue others. Not just people who live in faraway places that don’t have access to a Bible, but my neighbor, my co-workers, my family, and that boss that is harsh and critical. Jesus wants me to bring the gospel into every portion of my life and into every relationship.
This means that I need to be in a relationship with sinners and not just people who think like me. I need to engage with people who think and act differently. I need to get around those who are in active rebellion against God. I need to be involved in areas of this life that are dry and parched and bring the rain of God’s grace. This is what Jesus means when he tells me to love my enemies. How do I know this? Because I know this is why Jesus came down from heaven in the first place. The Gospels are filled with Jesus interacting and engaging with sinners and enemies. Jesus went out of his way to get in among the people who needed him most because he loved people, but also because he loved the Father and wanted to share this love with everyone for God’s glory. This is my calling as well. To take the gospel of Jesus to every corner of the world. Including the corner just outside my door and the relationships God has already established in my life.