“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,”
Now we come to the final model of the higher standards of Christ’s kingdom (5:43-48).
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
The word “neighbor” conveys the idea of one near. It is a person in proximity to us. The neighbor could be an adversary.
The Mosaic Law contains the first phrase “love your neighbor” (Le 19:18), but the scribes and Pharisees added the second phrase “hate your enemy.” This was a limited form of love.
But I say to you,
Jesus operated on a higher standard than the Law, and rejected the “hate your enemy” mentality. This is love without limits.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Love in Jesus’ kingdom extends to one’s enemies. Loving one’s enemy was not commanded in the Old Testament. “Love” in the Greek is in continuous action. We set up a precedence of love for our enemies.
The Christian loves on the principle of grace and not on the merit of the person loved.
Jesus’ love here is more than romantic love; it is agape love—love that sacrifices for others. Love for an enemy is love for someone who does not deserve our love. People do not have to merit love from us. We love enemies on the principle of grace. This love does not depend on the nature of the enemy. This love depends on us, not them! We do not treat people on the basis of what they are.