Matthew 5:43-48 “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you; That you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven: for he makes his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love them who love you, what reward have you? do not even the tax collectors the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others? do not even the tax collectors so? Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

If you’re already perfect “even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” then you have no need to read any further. But if your like the rest of us who haven’t yet reached perfection, for those of us who still struggle with loving unlovable people, we'll continue reading, because Jesus has some life-changing, MIND-BLOWING instructions for us on how to love those who we would rather not give the time of day to.

In verse 43, Jesus quoted a common teaching among the Scribes and the Pharisees when He said “You have heard that it has been said, You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” There are actually two things wrong with that statement.

Jesus was quoting their interpretation of Lev.19:18, but there was a problem with that interpretation because they misquoted the verse. Leviticus 19:18 actually says: “You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”

So, we can clearly see that they misquoted this verse by ADDING something to it. What did they add? They added the words “and hate your enemy”.

You see, the Scribes and Pharisees taught that it was okay to hate your enemies; it was justified. They taught that some hatred was okay because they hated Gentiles; they hated Samaritans, they hated Romans, they hated Greeks and since they refused to admit that their hatred was sinful, they simply said “love your neighbor, AND hate your enemy.” They added that in order to justify their own hatred of some people.

Nowhere in scripture are we EVER told to hate our enemy in fact, in many places we’re told just the opposite.

Exodus 23:4-5 says “If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again. If you see the donkey of him who hates you lying under its burden, and would refrain to help him, you shall surely help with him.”

Proverbs 25:21 says “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink:”

Again, nowhere in scripture are we told to hate our enemy. Not only did the Pharisees add something to Lev. 19:18 but they also left something out. What did they leave out? They left out just two little words…they omitted the words “as yourself”. Lev. 19:18 says to “love your neighbor as yourself”, but they just said to “love your neighbor”. Well, what’s the big deal? Isn't that close enough?

No, it’s not close enough! Because after all, we CAN love our neighbor if we choose to do so, that’s not too hard to do, but when it comes to loving our neighbor AS MUCH as we love OURSELVES, well, most of us fall vastly short of doing that!

Most of us focus the majority of our attention on loving ourselves more than others. For example, we want to increase our OWN personal comfort, we want to improve our OWN personal situations and most of us spend the majority of our time pursuing our OWN enjoyment and our OWN pleasure. The majority of the time, most of us are thinking about ourselves and our own lives, not about others. Some of us don’t even know our neighbor’s name let alone love them as much as we love ourselves!

We know it’s human nature to love people who love us back and treat us well, but Jesus said we’re to love those who curse us, hate us and persecute us! I have to ask myself, “Do I stop being kind and gracious to certain people because I know that they don’t like me? Or because they mistreat me?”

BRATs, I want you to know that there are certain truths and teachings in the Bible that when I read them, if I’m being honest with myself, I’d have to say that I’m not even close to lining my life up to perfectly.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I believe them, I believe what Jesus said is true, I believe the Bible, but the problem is that I’m not always OBEDIENT to the Bible, nor do I always want to be obedient to it, if the horrible truth be made known.

In verse 44 Jesus has given us the “what” we are supposed to do; we’re supposed to love our enemies. He says in verses 46-47 loving our enemies separate us from the unbelieving world. He says if we love only those who love us back, we’re acting no different than unbelievers act.

Jesus told us WHAT to do (love), He told WHO we’re to do it to (our enemies) and in He told us WHY we should do it (so we will be like God), but aren’t you thankful He didn’t end right there? Aren’t you thankful He didn’t just give us the “what”, “who” and “why” but He also tells us “how” to love annoying people, insulting people, mean people, difficult people, people who hate us and mistreat us?

I’m so thankful He gives me specific instructions on HOW I can do this because there’s NO WAY I would know how to do that on my own. Jesus gives us three simple, yet very hard, ways we can love our enemies like God loves them; He says:

• Bless them that curse you
• Do good to them that hate you
• Pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you

Bless, do good and pray. This is how we can love the unlovable; by doing these three things. He said to bless them, do good to them and make sure that you pray for them…how are you doing in this area?

I’ll finish with a final look at verse 48: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.” If you were looking for a short, simple and concise summary of the entire message of the Bible then this would be it: “Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

I don’t know about you, but verse 48 leaves me with the recognition of my utter and complete dependence upon a Savior because I know that even when I’m at my very best, I’m not perfect like God is perfect and that’s Jesus’ point.

I want to confess to you that loving people like God loves people is my greatest struggle and my greatest failure. I can’t do it, often I don’t even want to do it, and therefore I know that the only way I can do it is through Christ Who lives within me and strengthens me to bless, do good and pray for those I’d rather hate.

May we all know the love of Christ, which passes knowledge and may we all be filled with all the fullness of God to enable us to love our unlovable enemies.