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Hate Week Essay #5: Jesus said to hate our family? Can this be true?

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).

This seem harsh. This seems contradictory to the God of Love that we know Jesus to be. So what can it mean?

By the way, that its the first question we should ask when we see something we don’t understand in the Bible, or when we see something that seems to contradict. There are no contradictions in the Bible. If we can’t reconcile two verses, i.e. ‘God is love’ and ‘hate your mother’ or ‘Honor your mother and father’ but ‘hate your mother’ then there is something I must do to understand it, because I’m wrong.

I like Gill’s Commentary. Many commentaries are available for free at biblehub.com. There are concordances, lexicons, devotionals, and more.

Gill’s says of the Luke verse:

and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple: not that proper hatred of any, or all of these, is enjoined by Christ; for this would be contrary to the laws of God, to the first principles of nature, to all humanity, to the light of nature, to reason and divine revelation:

but that these are not to be preferred to Christ, or loved more than he, as it is explained in Matthew 10:37

Ohhhh! Getting clearer now.

A parallel verse was mentioned so let’s take a look at it. Scripture interprets scripture. Commentaries are helpful, but scripture is best. That’s where parallel verses come in.

He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Christ should be primary in life and love. Paul carries this sense of highest love for one, that by comparison it’s hate for the other in Romans 9:13-

As it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

The verse to which Paul was referring is from Malachi 1:2-3. GotQuestions is helpful here,

So, considering the context, God loving Jacob and hating Esau has nothing to do with the human emotions of love and hate. It has everything to do with God choosing one man and his descendants and rejecting another man and his descendants. God chose Abraham out of all the men in the world. The Bible very well could say, “Abraham I loved, and every other man I hated.”

Yes, context is king when studying scripture. The Malachi/Romans verse isn’t referring to one man, but nations from one man.
There’s one more parallel verse to the Luke verse I’d posed at the start. John 12:25-

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

S Lewis Johnson of Believers Chapel Dallas had preached on this verse. He’s a preacher I like.He explained

What does he mean by that? Why, you know he means that it is possible for us to be so desirous of life as we want to live it that we actually are unfruitful in our lives. We may desire the kind of existence that we desire, we want the world’s wealth, we want the world’s power, we want the world’s pleasure, we want the world’s glory, we want to live our lives as we wish to live them and that’s right, you may live for a time but you abide alone. … In other words, if you want to keep your life you can keep it, but you’ll lose it. And if you’re willing to lose your life, if you are willing to have your set of priorities such that Jesus Christ is first in your life, then you’ll gain it. And furthermore, you will gain it unto life eternal and fruitfulness.

Hate is complicated, isn’t it? There’s things God hates, things we should hate because God does, the world’s hate, our hatred of even our parents or our own life in comparison to the life we should live in Christ…

The Bible is an endless wealth and treasure of precepts and doctrines, all pointing to the One alone who is worthy: Jesus Christ. Emmanuel, God with us. Our love for Him should be the primary orientation of our lives.

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Hate Week Essay #4: Hate Equals Darkness

Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. (1 John 2:9)

What does this mean? Can we hate our brother if we’re saved? I thought our lives were supposed to be characterized by love?

Yes, that is true, but the sin nature is still inside us, crouching at the door and waiting to leap. Since our lives are supposed to be characterized by love, our lives should reflect the highest and best love: love for Jesus and love for our brethren. Sadly, it doesn’t always happen that way.

Else, as Paul put rhetorically but actually to the Corinthians,

For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find you not as I wish, and that you may find me not as you wish—that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (1 Corinthians 12:20)

Else, why would Jesus and Paul admonish those who take the Lord’s Supper to reconcile with brethren or examine one’s self before doing so, in order that taking the Supper would not be done in an unworthy manner? (1 Corinthians 11: 27; Matthew 5:23-24).

Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary puts it simply

his brother—his neighbor, and especially those of the Christian brotherhood. The very title “brother” is a reason why love should be exercised.

The command to love one another is an old one, says John in 1 John 2, but with a new twist. John uses the analogy of light and dark throughout his epistle. The command to love is nothing new, but it is a specific and foremost spiritual test to determine who is in the faith and who is not. John MacArthur here in his sermon Live Life By a New Love:

If you hate your brother, if you hate others, if you hate those in the Kingdom, if you hate anyone essentially, if you don’t see people the way God sees them then He’s not in control of your heart. Love proves everything when connected to sound doctrine.

But in 1 Corinthians 15, if you don’t have love it’s all noise, it’s all noise. So the practicality of it is, if you’re a true Christian it’s going to show up in your love, not perfect love, love is not going to be the perfection of your life but it will be the direction of it. You’re going to have a heart of love for those around you, not a heart of hatred. You’re going to want to serve those around you, not demand from them. You’re going to want to help those around you, not harm them. You’re going to want to come to the aid of those around you, to lift them up not to step on them. And particularly is that true among believers. If you don’t have a love to be with God’s people, it’s a clear evidence that you’re in the darkness no matter what you claim.

The Light is warm and bright, it’s where love is.
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Hate Week Essay #1: What the LORD Hates

Since it was Valentine’s Day last week, I decided to write an essay each day on the topic of Love, as it appears in the Bible. I also write about other things as they came up, so not to worry if essays on love aren’t your thing. There were other essays published too, on other topics for your perusal and hopefully edification.

Since last week was Love, why not this week, the topic of Hate?

Hate? Yes, Hate does appear in the Bible in different facets and aspects, just as Love did.

I always publish a photo along with the essay, because people are visual. But how to represent hate pictorially? I definitely did not want graphic photos of people doing hateful things. I also did not want a dark and gloomy picture every day. In the end I decided on spikes and prickly things, things that can hurt you if you stepped on them or encountered them. I made scripture pictures of gum balls (seeds from Sweet Gum tree, as below), cacti, pine cones, pine needles, etc. Spiky, prickly things. Like hate is.

This first essay during Hate Week is examining things God hates. If God hates something, isn’t it important for us to look into that so we know what He hates?

God does hate things. This is hard to understand because one of his attributes (perfections) is love. But He does hate things, sin for example, (Psalm 5:4.) Sin is the opposite of who He is, which is a Being without blemish of any kind. Sin affronts Him, angers Him.

God hates divorce. Malachi 2:16 says it just that plainly. Since marriage takes two and makes them one flesh, and since it is a picture of His Son and the Bride, tearing one flesh apart and separating the picture of the Groom from the Bride is something God hates.

Proverbs 6:16-19 has other things God hates,

There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

The way the Proverb begins is a method in ancient days of speaking to gain attention, an idiom. It doesn’t mean the writer is unsure of how many things God hates.

Then the numeric saying goes on to describe a man of Belial. We remember the New Testament verse from 2 Corinthians 6:15,

What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?

Strong’s Concordance reminds us that the word Belial means “lord of the forest,” Beliar, a name of Satan. So the Proverb describes a man of satan, a satanic character.

The numeric saying in 6:16–19 serves as an easy-to-remember rule of thumb for evaluating character. In the modern day 6:25 applies to pornography as well as to acts of adultery. Holman concise Bible commentary (p. 237).

Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible provides more information about this man of Belial and his sins which God doth hate:

1. How a man of Belial is here described. He is a wicked man, that makes a trade of doing evil, especially with his tongue, for he walks and works his designs with a froward mouth (v. 12), by lying and perverseness, and a direct opposition to God and man. He says and does every thing,

(1.) Very artfully and with design. He has the subtlety of the serpent, and carries on his projects with a great deal of craft and management (v. 13), with his eyes, with his feet, with his fingers. He expresses his malice when he dares not speak out (so some), or, rather, thus he carries on his plot; those about him, whom he makes use of as the tools of his wickedness, understand the ill meaning of a wink of his eye, a stamp of his feet, the least motion of his fingers. He gives orders for evil-doing, and yet would not be thought to do so, but has ways of concealing what he does, so that he may not be suspected.

He is a close man, and upon the reserve; those only shall be let into the secret that would do any thing he would have them to do. He is a cunning man, and upon the trick; he has a language by himself, which an honest man is not acquainted with, nor desires to be.

(2.) Very spitefully and with ill design. It is not so much ambition or covetousness that is in his heart, as downright frowardness, malice, and ill nature. He aims not so much to enrich and advance himself as to do an ill turn to those about him. He is continually devising one mischief or other, purely for mischief-sake—a man of Belial indeed, of the devil, resembling him not only in subtlety, but in malice.

Why wouldn’t God hate that? Of course. Yet before our salvation we were all men of Belial, speaking and thinking and acting in ways that God hated. We did those things every day and thought them normal. We justified them. We cherished them. We even reveled in those very sins that God hates. Yet He saved us. God hated what we did but because He is mercy and grace and love and wanted a Bride for His Son, He saved us, electing to save our souls from eternity past before we even performed our graceless deeds of Belial.

God is indeed love.

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EPrata photo. A Sweet Gum tree seed, known in the south as a gum ball. They hurt.

The command for joy in the unlikely book of Ecclesiastes

In the book I’m reading called Living Life Backward: How Ecclesiastes Teaches us to Live in Light of the End, by David Gibson, Gibson reprinted an essay by Presbyterian minister James Russell Miller (1840-1902) called Beautiful Old Age. The writing is lyrical in the way that educated men of two centuries ago could write.

As Gibson closes out his book, we learn that Ecclesiastes teaches us that our entire being should be emanating joy. “Not to live gladly, joyfully, and not to drink deeply from the wells of abundant goodness that God has lavished on us is sin, and it is sin because it is a denial of who he is.”

Further, Gibson shares,

Douglas Jones reflects on Deuteronomy 27-30, which highlights the need for covenant faithfulness, but then he points out how in this passage we stumble across the need to be faithful in joy and gladness (Deut 28:47), and we are dumbstruck. “Since when was that the pivot of reality? Certainly this has to be a divine typo.”

I understand what he means. Living in joy and enjoying the blessings God has given us is not a suggestion, it is a command. We read those urgings repeatedly in Ecclesiastes. Gibson said that no parent likes to see their child’s new toy remain in the box, pristine and untouched. Parents would rather see the action figure banged and dented through many pleasurable hours of enjoyment and adventures. Real relationship involves seeing another person take pleasure in gifts given, in this case, the delights of God’s creation, and food and drinks and relationships and rest. (He does explain that this is not license to sin nor to live licentiously).

Here is the essay. I pray you enjoy it as much as I did.

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Beautiful Old Age

This may scarcely seem a fitting theme to introduce in a book meant chiefly for the young, and yet a moment’s reflection will show its appropriateness and practicalness.

Old age is the harvest of all the years that have gone before. It is the barn into which all the sheaves are gathered. It is the sea into which all the rills and rivers of life flow from their springs in the hills and valleys of youth and manhood. We are each, in all our earlier years, building the house in which we shall have to live when we grow old. And we may make it a prison or a palace. We may make it very beautiful, adorning it with taste and filling it with objects which shall minister to our pleasure, comfort, and power. We may cover the walls with lovely pictures. We may spread luxurious couches of ease on which to rest. We may lay up in store great supplies of provision upon which to feed in the days of hunger and feebleness. We may gather and pile away large bundles of wood to keep the fires blazing brightly in the long winter days and nights of old age.

Or we may make our house very gloomy. We may hang the chamber-walls with horrid pictures, covering them with ghastly spectres which shall look down upon us and haunt us, filling our souls with terror when we sit in the gathering darkness of life’s nightfall. We may make beds of thorns to rest upon. We may lay up nothing to feed upon in the hunger and craving of declining years. We may have no fuel ready for the winter fires.

We may plant roses to bloom about our doors and fragrant gardens to pour their perfumes about us, or we may sow weeds and briers to flaunt themselves in our faces as we sit in our doorways in the gloaming.

All old age is not beautiful. All old people are not happy. Some are very wretched, with hollow, sepulchral lives. Many an ancient palace was built over a dark dungeon. There were the marble walls that shone with dazzling splendor in the sunlight. There were the wide gilded chambers with their magnificent frescoes and their splendid adornments, the gaiety, the music, and the revelry. But deep down beneath all this luxurious splendor and dazzling display was the dungeon filled with its unhappy victims, and up through the iron gratings came the sad groans and moanings of despair, echoing and reverberating through the gilded halls and ceiled chambers; and in this I see a picture of many an old age. It may have abundant comforts and much that tells of prosperity in an outward sense—wealth, honors, friends, the pomp and circumstance of greatness—but it is only a palace built over a gloomy dungeon of memory, up from whose deep and dark recesses come evermore voices of remorse and despair to sadden or embitter every hour and to cast shadows over every lovely picture and every bright scene.

It is possible so to live as to make old age very sad, and then it is possible so to live as to make it very beautiful. In going my rounds in the crowded city I came one day to a door where my ears were greeted with a great chorus of bird-songs. There were birds everywhere—in parlour, in dining-room, in bedchamber, in hall—and the whole house was filled with their joyful music. So may old age be. So it is for those who have lived aright. It is full of music. Every memory is a little snatch of song. The sweet bird-notes of heavenly peace sing everywhere, and the last days of life are its happiest days—

“Rich in experience that angels might covet,
Rich in a faith that has grown with the years.”

The important practical question is, How can we so live that our old age, when it comes, shall be beautiful and happy? It will not do to adjourn this question until the evening shadows are upon us. It will be too late then to consider it. Consciously or unconsciously, we are every day helping to settle the question whether our old age shall be sweet and peaceful or bitter and wretched. It is worth our while, then, to think a little how to make sure of a happy old age.
We must live a useful life. Nothing good ever comes out of idleness or out of selfishness. The standing water stagnates and breeds decay and death. It is the running stream that keeps pure and sweet. The fruit of an idle life is never joy and peace. Years lived selfishly never become garden-spots in the field of memory. Happiness comes out of self-denial for the good of others. Sweet always are the memories of good deeds done and sacrifices made. Their incense, like heavenly perfume, comes floating up from the fields of toil and fills old age with holy fragrance. When one has lived to bless others, one has many grateful, loving friends whose affection proves a wondrous source of joy when the days of feebleness come. Bread cast upon the waters is found again after many days.

I see some people who do not seem to want to make friends. They are unsocial, unsympathetic, cold, distant, disobliging, selfish. Others, again, make no effort to retain their friends. They cast them away for the slightest cause. But they are robbing their later years of joys they cannot afford to lose. If we would walk in the warmth of friendship’s beams in the late evening-time, we must seek to make to ourselves loyal and faithful friends in the busy hours that come before. This we can do by a ministry of kindness and self-forgetfulness. This was part at least of what our Lord meant in that counsel which falls so strangely on our ears until we understand it: “Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”

Again, we must live a pure and holy life. Every one carries in himself the sources of his own happiness or wretchedness. Circumstances have really very little to do with our inner experiences. It matters little in the determination of one’s degree of enjoyment whether he live in a cottage or a palace. It is self, after all, that in largest measure gives the color to our skies and the tone to the music we hear. A happy heart sees rainbows and brilliance everywhere, even in darkest clouds, and hears sweet strains of song even amid the loudest wailings of the storm; and a sad heart, unhappy and discontented, sees spots in the sun, specks in the rarest fruits, and something with which to find fault in the most perfect of God’s works, and hears discords and jarring notes in the heavenliest music. So it comes about that this whole question must be settled from within. The fountains rise in the heart itself. The old man, like the snail, carries his house on his back. He may change neighbors or homes or scenes or companions, but he cannot get away from himself and his own past. Sinful years put thorns in the pillow on which the head of old age rests. Lives of passion and evil store away bitter fountains from which the old man has to drink.

Sin may seem pleasant to us now, but we must not forget how it will appear when we get past it and turn to look back upon it; especially must we keep in mind how it will seem from a dying pillow. Nothing brings such pure peace and quiet joy at the close as a well-lived past. We are every day laying up the food on which we must feed in the closing years. We are hanging up pictures about the walls of our hearts that we shall have to look at when we sit in the shadows.

How important that we live pure and holy lives! Even forgiven sins will mar the peace of old age, for the ugly scars will remain.

Summing all up in one word, only Christ can make any life, young or old, truly beautiful or truly happy. Only He can cure the heart’s restless fever and give quietness and calmness. Only He can purify that sinful fountain within us, our corrupt nature, and make us holy. To have a peaceful and blessed ending to life, we must live it with Christ. Such a life grows brighter even to its close. Its last days are the sunniest and the sweetest. The more earth’s joys fail, the nearer and the more satisfying do the comforts become. The nests over which the wing of God droops, which in the bright summer days of prosperous strength lay hidden among the leaves, stand out uncovered in the days of decay and feebleness when winter has stripped the branches bare. And for such a life death has no terrors. The tokens of its approach are but “the land-birds lighting on the shrouds, telling the weary mariner that he is nearing the haven.” The end is but the touching of the weather-beaten keel on the shore of glory.

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Love week essay #7: Conclusion

All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Yesterday we explored the difficult concept of loving our enemies.

In #6 we looked at how Love fulfills the Law

The number one topic of songs, they tell me, is love. The world, which does not know love, sings about it. In 1984, Foreigner sang I Want To Know What Love Is. As Wikipedia describes,

The song hit number one in both the United Kingdom and the United States and is the group’s biggest hit to date. It remains one of the band’s best-known songs and most enduring radio hits… and is listed as one of Rolling Stone Magazine’s greatest songs of all time.

When Mick Jones of Foreigner wrote the song, he later described it as one of those things where, at 3:00 in the morning, it all suddenly came to him. He said it ‘was like a higher force’ just gave it to him in toto ‘as a gift’. Later, he attempted to enhance the song in a spiritual way, contacting The New Jersey Mass Choir to perform another version, which also earned numerous awards and lots of radio play.

If ever there was a man of Ecclesiastes howling into the darkness of his soul for clarity on love and meaning of life, this song is it. I sang it myself as an unsaved young women who had the same yearning amid the strong sense of vanity and emptiness. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT LOVE IS I’d sing at the top of my lungs, and I really meant it.

In His grace, He eventually showed me. Love is Christ. God is love. There is no other love that is real, permanent, eternal, and sure as the love of God to His person of the Trinity and to us, whom He has invited into His circle through Christ. The world does not know love. They want to know what love is.

Love is explained and shown in the Bible. Read it. It is shown in answered prayer. Pray it. It’s demonstrated among brethren, receive it. It fulfills the commands when you choose it.

Psalm 103 is a song of love toward our God. He is great and worthy of all our love and attention and obedience and praise.

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Love week essay #6: Love fulfills the law

All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Yesterday we explored the difficult concept of loving our enemies.

Today we look at how love fulfills the Law. First, the scriptures.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Romans 13:8)

As we have looked at previously, love is a distinguishing characteristic of the Christian. It marks him or her out from the world. Yet we go even further, that the kind of love Jesus expects of us to display is a law-fulfilling love. The two commandments are to love Him, and love people.

But how can God command us to feel something, one might ask. We can’t command feelings, can we? Again, as we have looked at previously, love isn’t a feeling that comes on its own like the wind and blows away when it wants, leaving us either filled and romantic, or dry and loveless. We have the will to choose to love. We gain that will by adhering to the precepts of the Father, who said to love all, even one’s enemies. The will to love comes from the fountain of grace that indwells us, AKA the Holy Spirit.

Now, commandment one is to love the God with all our strength, soul, and mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

Love doesn’t harm a neighbor. Love protects a neighbor. Love doesn’t slander him, or murder him with ill thoughts, or take his wife. Love doesn’t harm a neighbor by harboring covetousness over his new car/riding lawnmower/pool. Love wants the best for people, always.

It is upon us to rely on the Spirit, ask the Spirit, pray for the Spirit to cultivate in us Godly desires that squeeze out even the desire for violence against our neighbor, violence even in the form of sinful thoughts, never mind sinful actions. The goal is to love one’s neighbor enough so that any desire for harm against him is not even present in our heart.

When we do that, when we love our neighbor as purely as possible, it cycles us back to the first Law, loving God with all our strength,mind, heart, and soul, because we are obeying Him.

Love fulfills the Law.

Now I need to get to work. It seems I have a lot of heart work to do… 🙂 Do you?

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Resources

In this devotional, Alistair Begg wants us to Make Him Glad with our Love

Hugh Binning’s book Christian Love is recommended at Banner of Truth Trust, Monergism, Reformation Trust, and other sources. Here is the book blurb-

In this Treatise of Christian Love, the Scottish Covenanting minister Hugh Binning movingly presents the need for Christians to show by their love for one another that they belong to Christ. Basing his remarks on John 13:35, By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another, he argues, ‘This badge that Christ left to his disciples: if we cast this away on every disagreement, we disown our Master, and disclaim his token and badge.’
Binning describes the excellence of Christian love, demonstrating its nature from 1 Corinthians 13. He gives strong reasons why Christians should love one another, and shows that love is rooted in Christian humility and meekness, after the pattern of Christ himself.

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Love Week Essay #5: Loving our Enemies?

All this week we’ve explored the blessings of love.

We looked at God’s love through the lens of Psalm 136.

We looked at the meaning of love through the lens of the Apostle John’s epistle.

We looked at how there are different words to express love (which is not a feeling.)

Yesterday we looked deeper into how love is not a feeling, but a choice of the will.

Today we’ll look deeper into that, loving not only those who are easy to love, or loving who we are supposed to love, but loving those who actively hate us. Enemies.

I’ll take a moment here to let you all know something. I enjoy writing, but that’s not the only reason I write blogs every day. I process the Word by writing. When I post a blog essay, I’m not telling you all how to be Christian, though there is some exhortation with each essay. Mainly, I am preaching to myself. I don’t find it easy to love the way the Bible tells us, even to friends and brethren. I certainly don’t find it easy to love enemies. I fail in many ways, every day. So please don’t ever think that I have it all together!

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. (Luke 6:35).

And again in Matthew:

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. (Matthew 5:43-48)

Barnes’ Notes explains:

We are bound to love our enemies. This is a law of Christianity, original and unique. No system of religion but Christianity has required it, and no act of Christian piety is more difficult. None shows more the power of the grace of God; none is more ornamental to the character; none more like God; and none furnishes better evidence of piety. He that can meet a man kindly who is seeking his hurt; who can speak well of one that is perpetually slandering and cursing him; that can pray for a man that abuses, injures, and wounds him: and that can seek heaven for him that wishes his damnation, is in the way to life. This is religion, beautiful as its native skies; pure like its Source; kind like its Author; fresh like the dews of the morning; clear and diffusive like the beams of the rising sun; and holy like the feelings and words that come from the bosom of the Son of God. He that can do this need not doubt that he is a Christian. He has caught the very spirit of the Saviour, and he must inherit eternal life.

It’s easy to love those who love us. It’s simple to treat others lovingly who treat us well. Jesus said even the Gentiles (who do not know love) do the same.

A Christian’s love must be different than what is expected. It has to be different from the kind of love the world is used to. It must be perfect.

But how can our love be perfect? We’re imperfect sinners!

John MacArthur here in his sermon Love Your Enemies part 3:

The point is this: you are to be like God.  You say, “Well, that standard is too high.”  You’re right, and that’s exactly what He wanted the Pharisees to know. You can’t make it. … What Jesus is saying in the Sermon on the Mount is the same thing, “Be perfect.”  They’re supposed to say, “But I can’t be perfect.” And that’s when He says, “Right; and if you fall short of perfection, you need a Savior.” And that’s where Jesus comes in, and brings to you what Peter calls the divine nature, and makes you like God, a partaker of His nature. Then God, in a miracle of salvation, does for you what you could never do for yourself – be like God. When you came to Jesus Christ, positionally, you were made like God. You were given His eternal life, His righteousness, you became like Him in that sense. And now you need to bring your behavior into harmony with your position.

Oh no! I still can’t!

John MacArthur continues:

Listen: a Christian is not someone who keeps the Sermon on the Mount. A Christian is somebody who knows he can’t, do you see – and comes to Jesus Christ for forgiveness for the sin of falling short, and receives from Christ the forgiveness, and then the power to begin to live these principles. That’s the point of the message.

If that makes you cry, good. It did me. His standards are holy and high, and we can’t make it. It makes me cry out Abba! Father! Help me! Help me to love like you would have me do! And He will.

enemies

A note about the photo: It was taken by a friend of mine who works with the American Legion, an American veteran, who was in NYC for a conference on the day of 9-11. He took this photo the day after. He gave this picture to me and spent some time telling me how the day was for him and his colleagues. It was an emotional day for all of us, though it’s hard to believe it has been 17 years since then. I watched in shock as the towers fell (and knew many were dying at that moment), the pit in the ground in PA where the plane dove in, the Pentagon ruptured and a Navy man who lived in our town was killed inside. Whether it’s an individual enemy at work, or a national enemy out to destroy America, and every enemy in between, it is very hard to love your enemies. Yet Jesus did, while He was being nailed to the cross, He pleaded for mercy upon those who nailed Him and wanted Him dead. The truth is, before salvation we were all enemies of God and we all have that depravity in us that wants God dead. Praise Him that before we knew Him, He first loved us.