Matthew 5 – Part 16: Righteous Love To All People

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Mar 5, 2017

9. Consistent with His stated intention of upholding the Law (17-20), Jesus reveals that the customary understanding of six biblical injunctions is inadequate or false and seeks to correct them: [9.1…5.] = Injunctions 1 thru 5 (21-42) DISCUSSED

9.6. Righteous love must be extended to all people (including our enemies).

9.6.1. Injunction #6: (43) “You have heard that it was said” = (As discussed), this phrase represents the beginning of an ancient rabbinic formula used to signal that the customary/current view (regarding a particular law/injunction) was about to be challenged as false or deficient. In this case, the injunction under question is “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” = Both parts of this injunction are found in the Scripture. The first part (“love your neighbor”), is a direct quote from (Lev 19:18). It is (according to Jesus), one of the greatest commandments and the summation of the entire Law (Mat 22:37). The second part (“hate your enemies”), though not as direct or explicit a command, is (nonetheless) both preceptive and popular among the teachings of the OT – especially among the wisdom literature (e.g. Psa 26:5, 31:6, 101:3, 119:113, 139:21-22). Understood within their separate contexts, neither stands in the way of the other nor creates a moral distinction in the way we treat others – whether friend or foe. Not only that, but both are possible with the same individual (i.e. my enemy). I can both love him while at the same hating him. This however was not the current/customary view popular in Jesus’ day.

By ripping each command (love your neighbor/hate your enemy) out of their original contexts and connecting them in close proximity with the word “and” (as we find it here in verse 43), a juxtaposition between the two words (love and hate) emerges. As such. so does the moral obligation I possess to a person depending on who they are (friend or foe). IOW: The moral obligation I have to my friends (or neighbor) is the opposite of (i.e. juxtaposed to) that of my enemy. The former I must be righteous/just with, the latter requires no such treatment. I can (instead) return evil for evil. This erroneous distinction – along with its necessary correction are further elucidated by Jesus in the verses that follow.

9.6.2. Jesus’ response: (44a) “But I say to you” = (As discussed), this phrase was also key to identifying the conversation as part of the ancient rabbinic formula of challenge/correction (“You have heard it said” followed by “But I say to you”). More importantly however, it signaled that the one speaking was doing so from a place of divine authority. Not in the sense – that they themselves were divine (though in this case that would also be true), but rather by proxy. In other words, that the authority on which such corrections were being made was the Word of God itself. As such, they came with the purpose of restoring (not destroying) the Law. This (then) was also the purpose of Jesus – restoring the Law to its original intent or ideal design (consistent w/Mat 5:17-20).

9.6.3. His corrective (and restorative) instruction: (44b) “Love your enemies” = Treat your enemies (i.e. the “unjust” – 45) righteously/justly/fairly and seek that they be righteous/just/fair in their living (i.e. Love your enemies w/a righteous love). As such, we are prohibited from ever being wicked/evil/dishonest/unrighteous/unjust/unfair w/any person or desire that they would remain that way – no matter how unjust/unrighteous they are (incl. our worst enemy; Rom 12:17; 1Pe 3:9; As it re: to never desiring that they wb evil – see Pro 24:17-18).

That this is what Jesus means by this phrase is clear when one considers: The commands of love are fulfilled through doing the Law[1].

(Mat 22:36-37; Rom 13:8-10; 1Jo 5:1-2; Lev 19:18[2]) = Dealing w/others according to God’s law – the standard of all righteousness/justice, is how we accomplish (i.e. fulfill) loving others. Jesus telling us to have righteous love for our enemies upholds the principles of love and hate established in the OT (i.e. it preserves God’s Law).

Possessing a proper definition in relation to love (as morally righteous behavior in relation to others vs. feelings of affection) makes it easy to see how what God taught as the second greatest commandment (“love your neighbor” – Lev 19:18) would be applicable to both the righteous and the wicked (i.e. both the “just” and “unjust” are to be viewed as our “neighbor” – Lev 19:18 w/Luk 10:25-37; e.g. Pro 25:21; Exo 23:4-5) since (once more) we are never allowed to act sinfully/wicked/evil in our behavior to others or desire them to be those things. Equally so, what Jesus teaches takes nothing away from hating these individuals (Notice Jesus still calls them our “enemies”. IOW: even though they are considered “neighbor” they are not considered friend[3]). Desiring their demise (as our enemies) is one way we love them biblically. Consider: desiring that a person who is disobedient to God be punished is not only treating them justly since it is what they deserve (giving people what they deserve is fair ~ right?). It is also love since it only through such destruction/judgments of God that they learn God’s righteousness (see Isa 26:9-11 = the wicked will turn to God as they see His justice meted out against them; 1Pe 2:12 – “visitation” in temporal judgment; e.g. jail-house conversions). This understanding of love (i.e. righteous treatment of all people) is consistent w/Jesus’ call for prayer.

(44c) “and pray for those who persecute (lit. mistreat) you” = The prayer Jesus is referring to (here) is the blessing of forgiveness (Luk 6:27-28 w/37; Mat 6:12-15; Mar 11:25). Included in Jesus’ instruction (here) is an allusion to abusive governing authorities (Mat 5:38-42 w/44 = forgive those govts abusing us; See Luk 6:27-35). In every respect then, such prayer is consistent w/a definition of love that requires righteous/just/fair treatment of all people (incl. our enemies/the unjust) since this is at the heart of all forgiveness (i.e. to forgive means to seek what is best/good for the other person which is always that they be righteous since this promises blessings for this life and the life to come – 1Th 5:15). This understanding of love (i.e. righteous treatment of all people) is confirmed in Jesus’ call for us imitate the character of God.

(48) “You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect= Jesus’ connection back to the character of the Father as the key reason behind the Christian’s need to be faithful in this area, equally confirms that treating others justly/righteously is how Jesus understands such love since what is meant by the word, “perfect” is merciful (See again Luk 6:35-36). Mercy always indicates the existence of justice since it is the necessary pre-requisite. Justice (then) is the character of God and the very essence of what it means to love others[4].

9.6.4. Why demonstrating such righteous love to our enemies is important: B/C it is required to remain a son/daughter of God.

(44-45a) “so that you may be” = Phrase indicating not only reason but also condition (i.e. The realization of verse 45 is dependent upon the fulfillment of verse 44). As such, Jesus makes it clear that our demonstration of righteous love in relation to our enemies is not optional. Rather, it will determine whether or not we remain “sons of your Father (implies this to be pre-existing or already the case for those Jesus is now addressing) who is heaven.”  = To remain true disciples of Christ/children of God(then) requires righteous love for our enemies.[5]

This truth (i.e. our remaining a child of God requires righteous love for our enemies) is further reinforced by: The mention of lost reward if we fail in this area.

(46-47) = Jesus makes it clear that our “reward” will be no better than that of the unbeliever if we love only “those who love us” or simply our family/”brothers“ since this is their disposition (“Do not even the tax collectors…Gentiles…do the same?”). As such, the loss in mind must be eternal not temporal since what temporal loss is there for the unbeliever in refusing to love their enemies? Additionally, in Luke’s account, Jesus mentions reward at the same time He speaks about becoming sons of God demonstrating their corollary nature (Luk 6:32-35).  Jesus’ imperative conclusion.

(48) “You therefore must be…” = Again, the imperative mood is invoked. This time (however) it is coupled with the conclusory term (“therefore”) indicating that what Jesus has just taught is mandatory (i.e. not optional). B/C God Himself operates w/righteous love for His enemies.

(45b) “For He makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” = Agriculture reference. Most people in the first century were sustenance farmers who relied on sunlight and water from the sky in order to grow their crops. In general, God does not discriminate as to who (does and does not) receive these things. IOW: Though God does daily demonstrate great wrath/indignation toward His enemies (Rom 1:19), they nonetheless share the common blessings of God’s creational design. That this is indeed a demonstration of God’s righteous love to them is seen in the fact that such actions are the fulfillment of God’s abundant life guarantee to all mankind (Gen 1:28 w/22 = Sovereign promise not subjective offer).[6]

9.6.5. Closing Take-Aways: Our lives must demonstrate both righteous love and hate if we want to get to heaven (i.e. neither is optional). Righteous love includes making sure that we represent our enemies accurately (i.e. “we cannot slander the devil”) and seek they serve justice. Righteous love does not require liking, being nice to or having affections for our enemies. Righteous hate means spending time w/unbelievers only when it is necessary or for the purpose of evangelism/advancing God’s kingdom (Eph 5:15-18; 2Co 6:14-7:1).

[1] The terms used to communicate the kind of love expected by God is based on principle and commitment. IOW: feelings/affection are completely secondary (e.g. Joh 14:15, 21:15-17). There is a different word used when feelings/affection are primary. Unfortunately, modern views have either diminished this important distinction or completely removed aspects related to principle/commitment in favor of feelings/affection.

[2] All ten commandments of the Decalogue are mentioned before (and as the basis of) Moses’ words regarding loving our neighbor as ourselves (A. No other gods – 19:1, B. Carved images/idolatry – 19:4, C. Blasphemy – 19:12, D. Sabbath – 19:3, E. Honoring parents – 19:3, F. Murder – 19:16, G. Adultery/Sexual Immorality – 18:1-30, H. Stealing – 19:11, I. Lying – 19:11, J. Coveting – 19:18).

[3] Our friends and enemies sb the same as that of God. As it relates to our enemies, this means also treating them w/the same degree of contempt. For example, apostates and false teachers are the arch-enemies of God and therefore must be treated by us as God treats them- w/no affection or effort given in spending time/building a relationship. Such efforts wb a waste of our God-given time (Eph 5:15-18).

[4] It is worth noting that the word translated “perfect” also infers astute commitment to the Law (versus ontological perfection, existing w/o blemish). Due to the frequent and close tie that exists between this word and the Law/adherence to the Law in the NT, one could say that this is how the word is primarily to be understood (e.g. Jam 1:25 w/4, 17; 1Co 13:10 w/2:6, 14:20; Col 1:28 w/4:12; In this light consider also: Mat 19:21; Joh 19:28-30; Rom 12:2; Eph 4:13; Phi 3:15; Heb 5:14; 1Jo 4:18).

[5] According to Jesus, the demonstration of hate for our enemies also determines whether we or not we remain the sons of God/true disciples (Luk 14:26 w/Mat 10:32-39 = hating God’s enemies includes even His enemies who are among our families). So then, both practicing proper love and proper hate are salvific imperatives. In our day (it seems) many more will miss heaven b/c of their refusal to hate rather than their refusal to love.

[6] This in no way diminishes the abundant life promise found in the gospel since what is offered there is superlative in nature. Rather, it is God’s creational promise which provides the basis/support for what is offered in the gospel. IOW: It is thru witnessing the goodness of the Lord (in the goodness provided thru His creation), that our appetites should become hungry for such promises in greater measure (Rom 2:4; 1Pe 2:2-3).