Here are the red letters I will concentrate on for today’s posting. Since I haven’t learned how to make actual red letters in WordPress yet they are actually in black. But, what the heck.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Mt 5:43-48
These red letters were spoken about the same time as the Beatitudes which I will definitely get into on future posts. This event was also recorded in Luke 6 where some of the things were stated differently but I will concentrate on Matthew’s version here. In the same conversation Jesus also gave corresponding redefinitions for: murder, divorce, oaths, and vengeance. Jesus starts out quoting some Old Testament that he is about to turn on its ear. He seems to do that a lot; he says “this is the way it used to be but now that I am here this is the way it is to be from now on”. Since his death and resurrection gave us the salvation which was impossible to obtain by trying to obey the Jewish laws we should be paying attention to this stuff.
Love your enemies is indeed a radical concept in today’s world or even in Jesus’ world for that matter. The heart of Jesus’ teaching always seems to be love. You could say that this is a rephrase of the Golden Rule but I think Jesus actually takes it to a complete other level. He not only expects us to treat other well but to even love our enemies. How do you do that when you are pointing a gun at them in war time? I don’t know? This is one of those verses that our Amish, Mennonite, and Quaker brothers use to defend their non-violence stand. I do respect them for that position.
Jesus goes on to reiterate that loving those who love you is just not good enough. Even the tax collectors did that! Of course the tax collectors in Jesus’ day were in no way the same as the IRS is today so please don’t infer that he was putting down our IRS brothers in Christ. It’s easy to love someone who loves you but a completely different matter to love someone who hates you and even might want to inflict physical harm. Just ask some of the missionaries about this and I’m sure you could get some dramatic stories. We in the United States seem to be about equally divided in two different camps on just about all issues. I think Jesus is telling us here to quit the sniping and bitterness going on between factions.
But, Jesus was not even satisfied with putting the definition of love on loving your enemies. He ends up these verses by saying we should strive to be perfect as God is perfect!!! If we are truly re-born in Christ then we need to take these words to heart even if they are impossible to fully meet. That is what Jesus constantly does; he is constantly pushing us to act outside our comfort zones.