In Matthew 5: 43-44, we have this teaching to love our enemies, in contrast to the teaching of the Pharisees and scribes, to love their neighbors, but to hate their enemies.
“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, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.
It is well known that the Jews in biblical times separated themselves from all others and regarded them as dogs. They drew their teaching from the Old Testament, where we find that God commanded His people to exterminate all the pagans in Cannon: the Amorites, the Moabites, the Midianites, and the Amalekites. And they also drew their teaching from the imprecatory Psalms, where the psalmist called curses on certain of God’s enemies.
But our answer is that their extermination was not a matter of personal hate, but of judgment and for the glory of God. God loves all people—all of His creation—but at the same time He must deal with us according to our sin. So, there is love, and there is also judgment. God loves all. He causes His sun to rise on the evil as well as the good; and so, He blesses all, even those who hate Him. But at the same time, unless man repents, they will eventually be judged by a righteous and holy God.
The Command to Love
In Matthew 5:38-42, we are instructed to resist not evil. For example, if someone slaps us on the cheek, we are not to resist him. But then, our next step is to bless the one who hit us with kindness and love. What can we say or do to bless him? What would Jesus do? Scripture says that we are to be perfect just as our Father in heaven is perfect. This is the way of a Christian, the way of love.
How to Love
I think the most basic principle of love is that it is not dependent on what others say or do to us, but is governed by our view of the needs of others. That is, we must look to see how we can help them.
This attitude requires that we be detached from ourselves. That is, we must look away from our own feelings, away from any pain and hurt and pride; we must learn to put all that aside and focus on others—to love them, to love them with a disregard for ourselves and what it may cost us. Even if they do not except our love, and if they scream at us, and even hit us; we are to understand them and persist with our mission of love to them.
Here is a three-point requirement for anyone who is interested in loving others:
1. We must understand why people will reject our love to them—because they are governed by the god of this world.
2. We must do all we can to rescue them.
3. When you love them, do it not to befriend them, but to help them and to display the love of God to them. Let them see the love of God in you.
Now, be ready to do battle. Even when you love, the world will naturally hate you. But be persistent in your reply.
- Reply to bitter words with kind words.
- Reply to spiteful actions with good deeds.
- Reply to persecution with your prayers for them.
And remember, your goal is not to befriend them or get them to like you, but to allow them to see the love of God, so that they might glorify Him.
SOURCE: Studies in the Sermon of the Mount, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones