When Jesus spoke about “Responding to Evil”, He laid down two principles:
- Do not resist an evil person (Mt. 5:39a)
- Respond to evil by doing good (Mt. 5:39b-42)
This is certainly a challenging task Jesus put before His disciples…
- It is tempting to respond to evil with evil
- Especially when the mistreatment comes from an enemy!
But in the text for this lesson…
- We find Jesus teaching concerning the treatment of our enemies
- We are told why we ought to act in the manner described in Matthew 5:38-42
THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION
- The Law did NOT say “hate your enemy”…(“Ye have heard that it was said”)
- It did teach to “love your neighbor as yourself”… Leviticus 19:18
- But it also taught kindness was to be shown to your enemy…
- Exodus 23:4-5
- Proverbs 25:21-22
The traditional interpretation had misappliedthe law
- Though it did enjoin the command to “love your neighbor”…
- The Pharisees inferred from this command that one had the right to “hate his enemy”…Matthew 5:43
- “This phrase is not in Leviticus 19:18, but is a rabbinical inference which Jesus repudiates bluntly. The Talmud says nothing of love to enemies.” (Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. I, Robertson)
- “The rabbis corrupted Leviticus 19:18, which sums up the Law of Israel, by adding ‘and hate your enemy.’ By thus tampering with Scripture, they intended to define their neighbors to include only Jews and to exclude Samaritans and Gentiles.” (Believers’ Study Bible)
Having noted the difference between what the Law actually taught and the wrong interpretation given by the scribes and Pharisees, let’s now consider what Jesus taught on…
HOW TO TREAT OUR ENEMIES
Jesus requires that we:
- “Love” our enemies
- Not hate them
- Rather, show “active good will” towards them
- “Bless” those who curse us (KJV)
- They may speak evil of us
- But in response we are to speak kindly of them
- “Do good” to those who hate us(KJV)
- They may either ignore us or do evil things to us
- Yet we are to treat them kindly in either case
- “Pray” for those who spitefully use us and persecute us
- Notice, we are to pray FOR them, not just about them
- I.e., pray for their well-being, salvation, etc.
This is an expansion of the principals in verses 39-42
- Don’t seek vengeance!
- Don’t resist an evil person!
- Instead, react by manifesting aggressive love!
Why should we respond to our enemies in this way? Jesus goes on to provide…
REASONS TO REACT IN THIS WAY
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 5:45a)
- That is, to demonstrate ourselves to be truly His children!
- What is our Father like?
- He gives material blessings to both the evil and the good, both the righteous and the unrighteous… Matthew 5:45b
- He is kind to the unthankful and evil… Luke 6:35-36
- He offered His Son while we were yet sinners and enemies!… Romans 5:8, 10
- He loved us before we loved Him… 1 John 4:10
As taught elsewhere, we are to imitate our Heavenly Father…
- 1 John 4:11
- Ephesians 4:31-5:2
We are to act as Jesus taught…
To be different than the “Publicans” or Tax Collectors…
- In Jesus’ day, the Publicans were despised by the Jews, because they made themselves rich by collecting taxes from their fellow-men for the Roman governmenT
- And yet, these tax-collectors would…
- Love those who loved them
- Greet cordially those who greeted them
- We are no different if our love is limited to our “brethren” or “friends”!… Matthew 5:46-47
- We are to act as Jesus taught…
To be “Perfect” as our Father in heaven is perfect
- The word “perfect” means “brought to completion, full-grown, lacking nothing”
- In this context, it has reference to the matter of showing love and mercy; note the parallel passage:
- Luke 6:36
- Matthew 5:48
- When we display love and mercy to our enemies…
- We are “complete,” “full-grown” in demonstrating love
- Just like our Father when He shows kindness to evil and unthankful men!
If we really want to be…
- “children of your Father which is in heaven“
- “perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect“
It is imperative that we be influenced…
- More by the teachings and example of the Son of God
- Than by the attitudes and example of the “tax-collectors”!
- Are you “Acting Like Our Father” who is in heaven? Or do you emulate the most carnal people around us?
May the “sayings” of our Lord provoke us to consider the proper way to respond to our enemies and to any who might abuse us!