Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy
neighbour, and hate thine 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 which despitefully use you,
and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on
the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and
on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what
reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if
ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?
do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even
as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
People that have no respect for God's word are all too happy to use it any way they
can to mislead God's people. And, almost always they will quote a single verse or even
a single phrase with no regard to the context. An example is the phrase "love your
enemies" in Matthew 5:44. That phrase often is quoted to slam God's people when they
speak out against sexually perverse activity.
First, we should note that the Lord is referring to personal enemies and the examples indicate that he is not necessarily speaking of people that break the laws of God and men. He is speaking of people that try to take personal advantage of us. But, when he praises God the Father for his goodness and perfection, he speaks of the evil and the good; the just and the unjust. The examples of God's blessing on all people are the rising of the sun and rainfall. These are part of the environment that we consider to be natural. It is ironic that the people whose actions are contrary to nature would use a phrase from such a passage in an attempt to defend against ostracism.
Next, consider the prayers of the Lord:
I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which
thou hast given me; for they are thine. And all mine are thine,
and thine are mine; and I am glorified in them.
The world, of course, includes all human beings and includes the enemies of God. God loved
the world enough to be born of a woman, live a perfect life while doing good and suffered
spiritual death and physical death to offer salvation to sinners. That is the extent of
his love of people that choose to remain enemies of God.
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It is important to remember that chapter five of Matthew is the beginning of Christ's "Sermon On The Mount." He was under law and speaking to people under law concerning the severity of the law. Consider one of his admonitions:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not
commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a
woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already
in his heart. And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and
cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy
members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast
The whole sermon was intended to demonstrate how impossible it is for us to justify ourselves through law-keeping because of our weak wills. And, the Lord gives a broad hint as to how God can save through faith in spite of our choosing to be weak:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am
not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you,
Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise
pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
Before considering relevant instructions for God's people of this age, we should define the word love as used in Matthew 5:43-48 and in passages from I Corinthians. The verb form is agapao in Greek and means doing things that are good for the object of that love. All of chapter thirteen of I Corinthians deals with the attributes of Christian love, but one verse in particular points out something that might surprise people that think only in terms of emotional love:
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful;
1 Corinthians 13:4(RSV).
The word translated "jealous" is zeloo and has the root meaning "heated", as in
emotion-driven zeal. So, Christian love is not necessarily connected with any emotion.
It is a rational concern for the needs of other people. And, of course, it is giving God
as much reverence as we can muster.
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In chapter five of I Corinthians, Paul denounces the apathy of the church in Corinth toward dealing with a member with an extremely immoral way of life:
It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you,
and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles,
that one should have his father's wife. And ye are puffed up,
and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might
be taken away from among you.
1 Corinthians 5:1,2.
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
1 Corinthians 5:9-11.
In verse 10, Paul writes that God's people would have to leave the world in order to avoid contact with those categories of people that are not to be accepted into church fellowship. And, there is no indication that they should "love" them by helping them to feel more comfortable in their sorry state. Further, in case someone might think that Paul has given an exhaustive list of condemning practices, he expands somewhat in the sixth chapter:
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?
Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers,
nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor
revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were
some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified
in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11(RSV).
The greatest need of someone whose way of life is condemning him to hell is to have that
condemnation taken away. We do no good for him if we help him feel more comfortable in his
predicament that he has gotten into voluntarily. Accepting him socially and passing
laws that make his habitual sins legal carry no weight with God. Those expressions of
"love" only help him to ignore his destination and they don't come close to being examples
of Christian love.