[Jesus said,] “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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48 ESV).
Not exactly what you may have expected to hear just a few days before Valentine’s Day, but since Jesus always challenged his followers with the unexpected, I felt this scripture to be apropos. I’ve invited ministerial student, Michelle Newton, to speak to us on Jesus’ teaching of loving our enemies. Michelle is studying for her master’s degree in Ministerial Leadership with a concentration on children at Indiana Wesleyan University.
CZ: Michelle, help us to follow Jesus’ train of thought in this passage.
MN: Jesus is showing us that we should not let our faith be hindered by the actions of others. Our Lord is teaching us another command – to love those who hurt us. One way we love our enemies is by praying for those who persecute us. When we pray for someone, we show compassion.
CZ: That can be really difficult.
MN: Remember, God loves everyone but hates their sins, and we need to live by this example. Being “sons of your Father” shows that we are like Christ Himself. God wants each of us to love our enemies and to help them, just as Jesus did. Our love for our enemies should exceed the love the Gentiles showed to their own people. Our love for Jesus should be seen in our love for others, particularly our enemies.
CZ: Michelle, how can we be perfect? Can we ever truly reach perfection?
MN: We are not guaranteed perfection here on earth, but when we join Jesus in heaven we will be made perfect! We need to strive for perfection by not hurting others, forgiving others that hurt us, and by keeping ourselves accountable to God.
CZ: Thank you for you help, Michelle. You have been a blessing. Have a Blessed Valentine’s Day!