LOVING OUR ENEMIES
– DISTINGUISHES DISCIPLES FROM THE WORLD
– REVEALS OUR CONNECTION TO OUR MERCIFUL FATHER AND
– IMPROVES OUR RELATIONSHIP FOR THE SAKE OF EVANGELISM
The command to love our neighbor as our self is radical enough once we understand who our neighbor is. But Jesus challenges His disciples to an even more radical level of love in our text for today when he commands love towards our enemies. Our natural self is selfishly bent towards retaliation and payback. But if we are to prove ourselves to be genuine sons of a most loving and merciful heavenly Father we must display His character in our actions towards others. Remember, the goal is to win our enemies to Christ. We must have evangelism at the forefront of our relationship with our enemies.
I. (:27-31) COMMAND TO LOVE EVEN OUR ENEMIES
“But I say to you who hear,”
Jesus is about to speak startling words of truth that are radically different from the traditional rabbinical teachings of His time.
A. (:27-28) Practice Love and Goodness to Your Enemies
“love your enemies,
do good to those who hate you,
bless those who curse you,
pray for those who mistreat you.”
Good definition of enemies provided here = those who hate you, curse you and mistreat you.
Who were the enemies of Jesus and the disciples? Certainly the religious leaders who had grown in their opposition to the ministry of Jesus. But each individual would have personal enemies as well.
Dr. Ralph Wilson: Jesus uses some heavy words to describe the Christian-haters:
– Greek echthros means “the (personal) enemy” from echtho, “to hate.” Ethros means “hateful,” and as a noun, “adversary, enemy, foe.”
– Greek miseo means “hate, persecute in hatred, detest, abhor.” These are people with an active desire for our hurt. Miseo is particularly used as “to persecute.” There is a malicious attitude. These are people you can’t turn your back on.
– Greek kataraomai means “to curse.” Curses are utterances that are designed to bring harm by supernatural operation.
– Greek epereazo means “threaten, mistreat, abuse.”
Loving them will involve doing practical acts of goodness towards them, actively blessing them and purposefully praying for their welfare.
Geldenhuys: The Jews limited the divine commandment to love one’s neighbor (Lev. xix. 18) by regarding only fellow-Jews as their neighbors (and then only those who were looked upon by them as worthy fellow-countrymen). Jesus, however, rejects this false limitation completely and commands that even one’s enemies should be treated with affection and good-will.
Ray Pritchard: Refuse to speak evil of them. That’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Bless those who curse you.” It means you refuse to think evil thoughts and you refuse to speak evil words against those who have wronged you. Proverbs has a great deal to say about the power of words. “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit” (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). Every time we open our mouth, life or death comes out.
B. (:29) Practice Unnatural Restraint and Undeserved Kindness
1. (:29a) Unnatural Restraint
“Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also;”
2. (:29b) Undeserved Kindness
“and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either.”
Jesus uses hyperbole to make His point.
C. (:30) Practice Unlimited Generosity
“Give to everyone who asks of you,
and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back.”
D. (:31) Practice the Golden Rule to Everyone
“And just as you want people to treat you, treat them in the same way.”
This will be developed in more detail in vs 37-38 below
Ray Ritchie: Notice that our Lord did not lay out principles of passive resistance, but rather principles of aggressive love. The apostle Paul summarized the spiritual principles of aggressive love in Romans 12:17-21: “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. . . . If possible so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’ (Deut. 32:35). But if your enemy is hungry, [aggressive love] feed him, and if he is thirsty, [aggressive love] give him a drink (Prov. 25: 21f). Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil [aggressive love] with good.”
II. (:32-34) CONTRAST BETWEEN RADICAL CHRIST-LIKE LOVE AND LOVE PRACTICED BY THE WORLD – 3 EXAMPLES TO PROVE HIS POINT
A. (:32) Regarding Loving
“And if you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?
For even sinners love those who love them.”
B. (:33) Regarding Doing Good
“And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?
For even sinners do the same.”
C. (:34) Regarding Lending Expecting Nothing in Return
“And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, in order to receive back the same amount.”
Lenski: The three illustrations used bring out most clearly the unselfishness of the love that Jesus demands.
Leon Morris: It is easy for the Christian to congratulate himself on some virtue he fancies he detects in himself. But before he can claim that he is obeying Christ’s command, he should ask whether he is doing anything more than sinners do in similar circumstances.
III. (:35-36) CONNECTION TO THE FATHER EXPLAINS WHY WE ARE TO LOVE IN THIS MANNER AND TO THIS EXTENT
A. (:35a) Repetition of the Command
“But love your enemies,
and do good,
and lend, expecting nothing in return;”
Jeremy Myers: Illustration: David Cho, pastor of the world’s largest church in Seoul, Korea – with some 750,000 members – has an interesting rule for his congregation. He tells them that they are not allowed to witness to someone until they have performed three good deeds for them. They are actually forbidden to mention the name of Jesus until they have first helped that person fix an appliance, or brought them a meal when they were sick, or helped them construct their house. Pastor Cho believes that only after three such acts will the heart be open to the gospel.
B. (:35b) Reward Promised
“and your reward will be great,”
C. (:35c) Reason for Obedience is Your Connection to the Father – by Nature and by Action
1. Connection by Nature
“and you will be sons of the Most High;”
Ray Pritchard: God specializes in being kind to the unkind and showing mercy to mean people. He specializes in showering grace upon sinners and he loves to turn enemies into friends. When we love our enemies, we’re showing forth the character of God to the world and proving that we are part of God’s family. There ought to be a family resemblance that even the unsaved can spot.
Lenski: Love, etc., to our fellow men does not make us sons of the Highest but proves us such sons, namely by revealing that we are truly like him in character and in action.
2. Connection by Action
“for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”
D. (:36) Repetition of the Command Now Linked to Family Character
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Liefeld: singles out that area of life in which, given the preceding examples, one is very likely to come short. The Pharisees tithed spices but neglected “justice, mercy and faithfulness” (Matt 23:23). The believer’s righteousness must exceed theirs (Matt 5:20).
IV. (:37-38) COMMAND TO PURSUE GRACIOUS PARDON OVER JUDGMENTAL CONDEMNATION – WITH CORRESPONDING BENEFITS THAT IMPROVE OUR RELATIONSHIP FOR THE SAKE OF EVANGELISM
This is one of the most misunderstood and misapplied commands in all of Scripture. We must tread carefully here and be precise in our distinctions and definitions and applications. We will get the interpretation wrong if we fail to take into account the above context of the overall passage.
J. Ligon Duncan: Context: falls within the larger context of this section where Jesus is talking about how we can love those who don’t love us or how we can love those who have failed us in some significant way or how we can love those who have not loved us well. . .
Does that mean that we will ignore the cause of justice? No. Does that mean that we will sweep all wickedness and evil doing under the carpet and pretend like it isn’t there? No. Does it mean that we will forever forsake availing ourselves of the judicial instruments of government? No. It doesn’t mean any of that. But it does mean in our dealing relationally with those who have done us wrong, who have not loved us, or who have not loved us well, there will always be, even when we are following the dictates of justice and meeting out the requirements of right and wrong, there will be a savor of compassion, mercy and grace in our dealings
A. (:37-38a) Clear Command With Corresponding Benefits –
Pursue Gracious Pardon Over Judgmental Condemnation
1. Command Stated Negatively — With Corresponding Benefits
a. Do Not Judge – Critical Disposition
“And do not judge and you will not be judged;”
What type of Judging is prohibited here? Certainly not all judging because we are commanded to exercise discernment – to judge the words and actions of others
What type of judging and condemning had just been demonstrated by the scribes and Pharisees in the previous section regarding the two Sabbath controversies?
Steven Cole: To judge others is to look down on them with a condemning spirit, presuming that we know their heart motives. It stems from a self-righteous spirit on our part. To judge someone stems from a desire to get even or to make the person pay for what he did. We don’t want God to pardon him; we want God to zap him! We would be gratified to hear that the guy got into major trials: “It serves him right after what he did to me!” If we heard that he repented and God saved him, we would think, “That’s not fair!” All of this reflects a spirit of judgment on our part, not a spirit of mercy.
b. Do Not Condemn – Punishing Disposition
“and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned;”
When you are not judged and not condemned by your enemies you will have greater opportunity to reach the with the gospel
2. Command Stated Positively — With Corresponding Benefits
a. Pardon – Merciful Disposition
“pardon, and you will be pardoned.”
1 Cor. 13 teaches that love gives others the benefit of the doubt rather than holding them to severe standards
b. Give – Gracious Disposition
“Give, and it will be given to you;
good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,
they will pour into your lap.”
Here the statement of corresponding benefits is expanded to show the abundant blessings that will flow to those who show mercy and grace
Steven Cole: Does our Lord mean that people will treat us that way? Or, does He mean that God will treat us that way? I take it to mean both. On the human plane, the statements are proverbial in the sense that they are generally true, not absolutely true in every case. It is generally true that if you are a merciful person, not condemning others for their faults, others will be gracious toward you. If you are quick to forgive, others will be prone to forgive you. If you are generous, others will be generous toward you. On the other hand, if you condemn people, if you refuse to forgive, if you are stingy, it will come back to you.
When you are pardoned and shown grace by your enemies you will have improved your relationship and gained a better foothold for evangelism.
B. (:38b) Fundamental Principle – You Will Get What You Give
“For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.”
Steven Cole: The description “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap” comes from the grain markets of that day. A good merchant would pour grain into his measure. Then he would press it down and shake it so that it would settle. Then he would pour in more grain until it ran over. He would take that overflowing measure and pour it into the lap of your robe, which could be pulled up to serve as a big pocket. That’s how God poured out His generous mercy on us! That’s how we should respond to needy people. To show mercy to others means not to judge them, to pardon them, and to be generous toward them. Children of the merciful heavenly Father should be marked by such mercy, even toward those who have wronged us.
Cf. the Golden Rule – How do you want others to treat you? Let that govern your disposition
Boomerang effect – back at you
What goes around comes around
J. Ligon Duncan: it is God’s normal principle of providence over His children, that as they measure out in these circumstances, so He will measure back to them.
Steven Cole: Illustration – General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, “I never forgive and I never forget.” Wesley replied, “Then, sir, I hope you never sin.” If we are sinners who need mercy, we must show God’s mercy to those who have wronged us. Jesus goes on to show us that rather than judging others, our focus should be on judging ourselves.
Geldenhuys: Only God knows and understands every person in all his circumstances and conditions, and only He has in the final instance the right to judge as to the guilt or innocence of any person, and to condemn where His salvation has been rejected. No human being has the power or the right to this. By His words the Lord does not prohibit the administration of justice in law-courts or the distinction between good and evil, but he does forbid the attitude of those people who want to appoint themselves in God’s place as judges over their fellow-men and to judge and condemn right and left. According to the light we possess we must distinguish between good and evil and in His power first combat the evil in ourselves and then in others. But we are never to encroach upon God’s right to judge and to condemn. We must avoid all censoriousness and revengefulness, and forgive those who have sinned against us.
MacArthur: Jesus said, “If you love people like this, they’ll love you back like that.” You can actually be loved by sinners. Christians need a good dose of this, don’t they? We live in a time when Christians are making enemies out of the mission field. Wouldn’t you like sinners to do that? You love them. Love your persecutors. Love sinners and they will love you back the way you love them. That’s how sinners love. They love those who love them. They do good to those who do good to them. They lend to those who lend to them. That’s the way they work. The problem is, that’s all they can do. But you can love your enemies and benefit.
And what is the goal? The goal, then, would be to have sinners not judge you, not condemn you, forgive you for the offense against them, and be generous with you. If that’s the case, that would indicate that they have accepted you, and you now have an opportunity to proclaim to them – what? – the gospel.
So take advantage of sinners’ limitations. They can’t love their enemies, but you can. They do love those who love them, they do give to those who give to them, and they do good to those who do good to them. You do that when they are enemies, and you will lay down a testimony that you are not like them, but you are like God, who loves His enemies compassionately, kindly, mercifully, invitingly, and that becomes the basis of your witness. This is what marks a true disciple.