Reading the Word
Matthew 5:43–48 (ESV)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Understanding and Applying the Word
Again, Jesus begins his teaching with the statement “You have heard that it was said.” Jesus intends to show that the religious leaders, who were the teachers of God’s word, had misunderstood the Scriptures. The Pharisees had understood Leviticus 19:18, which states that God’s people should love their neighbor, as referring only to fellow Israelites. The Pharisees did not feel that there was a need to also show love to other people groups.
In our verses for today, Jesus sheds light on the true intention of the command to love our neighbors. He tells us that it applies to all people, both friend and foe. In Luke 10:29 Jesus is asked to clarify how “neighbor” should be understood. In response, he tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which teaches that our neighbors include all people, including those of different ethnicity and faith.
It is easy to love those who are like us. It is much harder to love those we disagree with or who are different than us. Jesus calls us to imitate the Father who shows his love every day for both the righteous and the unrighteous. As Christians, we should be known for our great love for others. May that be our reputation as we live in this world as representatives of our Lord.
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