Friday, October 19, 2007

A Heart That Freely Loves

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 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, that you may be sons of your Father 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)
In the previous section Jesus talked about the payback of justice; in this section He talks about the payback of love. But just as in the previous section He called for a heart that goes beyond trading of injury with penalty, in this section He calls for a heart that goes beyond love as a tit for tat proposition.

The commandment to love your neighbor (Leviticus 19:18) says nothing about hating your enemy; that was incorrectly inferred from the text by rabbinical tradition. Jesus blasts that out of the water by teaching us to love even our enemies, to bless even those who curse us, to do good even to those who hate us, and pray even for those who spitefully use us. This is the way of our Father in heaven, and therefore the way of the kingdom of heaven on earth.

Fallen human nature always desires to reciprocate; to hate those who hate us, curse those who curse us, persecute those who persecute us. And it is relatively easy to love those who love us, bless those who bless us and do good to those who do good to us. But Jesus teaches us to put away the scorecard — our job is not to go around evening things up. He calls us instead to do something radically different, out of balance, and even unfair — to love those who are our enemies.

This is the way of our Father in heaven, who graciously allows the blessings of sunshine and rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. For God is love, and it is the nature of love to given and to serve. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). It is the way of perfection, that is, of coming in maturity and completeness, fulfilling the purpose of the Father in bringing us into His family.

The way of the kingdom of heaven on earth is a heart that freely loves.



The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth

The Kingdom of Heaven on Earth
Keys to the Kingdom of God
in the Gospel of Matthew

by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.