You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies. Matthew 5:43-44
A majority of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7) concerns correcting false teaching that had crept into Jewish religious practice. For example, in Matthew 5, Jesus said, “You have heard. . . . But I say to you” (verses 21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44). One of these six corrections concerned how to respond to enemies—those who persecute you.
In Leviticus 19:18, Moses wrote that the Jews were to love their neighbor. But the Jewish religious leaders in Jesus’ day added “and hate your enemy” (Matthew 5:43). Jesus corrected that false tradition by telling His audience that they should love their neighbor and their enemy. Why? Because God extends His grace—the blessings of nature—to the righteous and the unrighteous alike. And He said that there is no reward in loving only those who love you. Yes, loving one’s enemy is harder than loving those who love you. But we are to imitate God by loving those He loves (Matthew 5:48).
Thank God today that, even when we were His enemies, He sent His Son that we might be reconciled to Him (Romans 5:10).
Worst of all my foes, I fear the enemy within. John Wesley
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