43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[a] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Great to have you back around, but you have to take your Bibles. We’re going to turn to Matthew chapter five. We’re going to be looking at Matthew five, verse 40 43 to 48 this morning. I’m pestering. If you don’t know who I am and probably means, I don’t know who you are or glad to have you here.
And we’re looking forward to spending a few minutes, a little more abbreviated time in the scriptures this morning, Matthew 5 43 to 48. I’d like to read them before we jump into the text this morning, I feel like I’ve got a ringing. Is there a little bit of a ringing? Do I sound like I’m ready? Okay.
I’d rather be D-rings if I can. Okay. Matthew chapter five, verse 43, you have heard that it was said, you show love, love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your father, who is in heaven for he makes his son 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 do you have do not even the tax collectors do the same.
And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others do not even the Gentiles do the same. You therefore must be perfect as your father. Your heavenly father is perfect. Let’s pray,
Lord. It’s an incredible thing that you call us to love in the model of it is you hold up yourself and to be children of yours means that there is a capacity to tap into you, to live and to respond even to those that are hard for us in ways that are just not default to who we are. So Lord teach us this morning.
We’re living right now in a day in which culturally lines are so loudly drawn. And we want to know what it means in our personal individual, walk with you, what it looks like practically to just love people that are different love people that think differently, love people that live differently. So Lord, we look to your word to be our guide in love in Jesus name.
Amen. We’ve mentioned many times as we’ve talked about this series, Matthew five through seven, the upside down life, that Jesus is actually using the same playbook that the people of his day are using. He’s using and referring to the old Testament law of which there were 613 commands. But on top of those 613 commands, people of the previous decades had put together what is called the oral tradition later on in, in decades later after Jesus, they would actually take all those oral traditions and would write them all down in a writing called the Mishnah.
And basically it takes every one of those 613 commands and gives a long thorough commentary on it. For instance, the command keep the Sabbath holy and do no work on the Sabbath. They had multiple statements that were made of what it meant to work on the Sabbath, what constituted word, but you could lift up what kind of cooking you could do that was appropriate kind of cooking or what kind of cooking and with what types of utensils would move you.
Work people that are out there are familiar with this oral tradition. And in the midst of this volume missed material, which were actually designed in many ways with, with a good intent, they were trying to help people. They call them fences, this distant to be able to live, you know, people would say, well, well, what does that mean?
Don’t work on the Sabbath. I mean, I mean, does that mean I can water my animals? I mean, what does that mean? That I can, you know, I can bring in my, my, my hay when it’s gonna rain tomorrow, what does it mean? So in order to help people, they built these fences and we understand how they got there. We get it, we do it ourselves.
But what happened is these became as binding in many people’s minds as the scriptures, Jesus is now coming and he is presenting his interpretation of God’s standards of righteousness. And it sounds shockingly different. Upside down, not only to us, but to them in this presentation, Jesus is asked in his teaching the same question that perhaps a teacher of law would be asked.
What’s the purpose of the law of God. And one time Jesus was addressed in Matthew chapter 22, and they were actually trying to catch him and the Pharisees and scribes and the sad disease had their turn. And now the scribes of the law came and they had their turn and there’s a big crowd of people. Most of them hostile to Jesus.
And this guy comes and he says, teacher, what is the most important commandment? And Jesus responded with this statement there actually two. Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. And secondly, love your neighbor as yourself. And then he makes this astonishing statement. He says this all the law and all the prophets, hang on these two commandments.
In other words, he says, take all the 613, take all the appropriate part of the oral tradition and it all fits under one umbrella statement set in two ways. Love God and love your neighbor. The common statement is the word love. Now, if you were to go to those that had put together this oral tradition and particularly those that are teaching it in Jesus’ day, and you said what’s the purpose of the law?
They would have said something like this to show God’s people, how to keep themselves. Separated from evil influences to be worthy of God. And we would say, well, that isn’t all bad. I mean, that’s, there’s a part of that is holy. But the problem was, it was utterly me centered. How do I become worthy to God?
How do I keep myself pure? How do I keep myself from being, from being defiled and separated from influences? And then they said, Jesus, what’s the whole purpose of this, of the law. And he says, love, love God, love people. Love your neighbors yourself, and love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
That is the foundational difference that is playing itself out in this upside down teaching of Jesus in Matthew chapter five through seven. Now hang with me here because this is really important to me. This is not only the people of Jesus’ day that missed this. This is us. I’ve talked to many adults who have been raised in the evangelical church, including ours, who would say they have left Christianity because they felt Christianity was like the oral tradition.
And they would say something like this. I’ve had this various statements made.
I tried to be good. I tried to get it right. It just didn’t work for me. And for them, they feel the church is a place where their lifestyle. Now they just feel condemnation. They feel the church is not safe. They feel Jesus is not safe. Now the problem is they had a perception in my opinion, Christ and Christianity, that was more like the, those that had imbibed, the oral tradition.
It’s all about me getting it right than what grace living is, right. That it’s about loving God. It’s about loving others. Now we can blame ourselves as parents. We didn’t do it. We can blame the church and we didn’t do a better cheat. I mean the church at large, but I’m not excluding us, but alternately, we can say, well, ultimately it’s the spirit of God that enables any of us to really understand it’s about grace.
So we understand the natural heart of any of our lives is going to tend to, to get it wrong. But the reality is this passage is not just for the Jews of Jesus’ day. This is for the believers of 2021, because we can imbibe this and we can live this and we can foster this ourselves. Jesus says it’s about.
It’s about learning to love vertically and horizontally. And he says everything I’m talking about flows from that. So in Matthew chapter five through seven, Jesus is giving a picture of what doing life with God is about, about loving him and loving people and Leviticus chapter 19 verse 12, verse verse 18 is actually the verse behind this passage.
And here’s what it says. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. Jesus is referring to that verse when he quotes here in the beginning in verse 43. And he says, you’ve heard that it was said, you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. Well, The last part was not in the verse. We’ll we’ll mention that in a moment, but what Jesus is actually expressing in his little sermonette here in verse 43 to 48 is the object of love.
Everybody agreed. Leviticus. 19 says that we should love our neighbor. They agreed the oral tradition. People agree, the Pharisees agree. Oh yeah, yeah. Everybody, you have to look. The issue was who are we supposed to love? How, I mean, how, why does this neighbor thing extend? And that’s where Jesus is going to rock world.
And maybe to some degree ours, because they felt that some people were deserving of love and others were not neighbor. Yes. Enemy. No, I’ve put in my sermon outline. If you got one, the word ethos, and I want to just tell you what that means. The word ethos actually refers to practices and values that distinguish a person or.
And it’s a way of thinking. It’s way of valuing and the ethos in regards to people that are my enemies or feel like my enemies is actually what he’s talking about here. How do we look at them? How do we perceive them and respond to them? If your ethos is to be pure untainted separated, it will be answered one way.
If your ethos is that your life exists to love, the ethos will be answered another way. And in verses 43 to 45. And I’ll tell you right now, I’m going to, I’m going to just sorta first by verse through this passage, there’s not going to be lots of illustrations and stuff. It’s, to me it’s pretty straightforward.
The good news of that also is it will help us get out on time. But verses 43 to 45, he speaks in general terms. It’s just the theology of what love my neighbor. Then in verse 46 to 48, he’s going to get a little more specific about treating your enemies. He’s speaking on both the macro level national, because this was a very national time for the people of Israel.
He’s also spoken, speaking on a micro level. How do I respond when my brother-in-law is treating me like an enemy? All right. Let’s look. The ethos of responding to your enemy verses 43 to 45 and the extreme cultural ethos about your enemy is here. You have heard that it was said, love your enemy. Love your neighbor.
Hate your enemy. Well, that’s nowhere in the Bible that, but it was a contemporary accepted practice. Not by everybody, certainly in Israel. There are certainly people in Israel at the time that loved you. That loved God that walked with God and really were trying to live out this concept of love that would have said I don’t, I don’t know about this.
Hate your enemy. But culturally in, in the, the thinking the, the, the ethos of thinking in Israel, there was a large acceptance of this reality that, yes, I have to love my neighbor, but that’s in contrast to loving my enemy and it all hinged on this question, who is my neighbor, because Jesus says here in Luke Leviticus 19, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Now, the word neighbor is actually from the word near it’s somebody near me. When Mr. Rogers sings, it’s a beautiful day. There we get that. He’s talking about it’s near where he is. Mr. Rogers is not singing about. It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood. It’s a beautiful day in Afghanistan. It’s a beautiful day in Madagascar.
No, he’s talking about, it’s a beautiful day right there, where he is, where Mr. McFeeley is. And officer Clemmons is, and, and Daniel striped tiger is right. It’s a beautiful day there to be with those folks. And he even says, well, won’t you be my neighbor? Come on, come on into the orbit, come near. And for many people in Israel, those that were near with Israelites, the Jews, those that were far the outsiders, the Gentiles, most of all the Romans and quite frankly, it’s okay to hate them.
Who is the enemy? Then they were the Gentiles. The Romans, the Jews were famous in the Roman empire. We see this in, in an extent Roman writings for being the Jews were known as being a hostile, arrogant people to, to, to govern. And the proud Romans as an occupying military force certainly exacerbated the situation.
There were certainly a national sense that’s involved in this, but Jesus teaching here in Matthew five through seven is not only relevant for people living under an occupying force that they hate. It’s talking about how do I respond to people that feel like they’re against me, that they set themselves against me?
The question here is who is an enemy? Well, again, one more definition. The word enemy is actually talking about. In opposition. Here’s a couple of verses, same words used acts 13, 10, you son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, you’re against righteousness. You’re opposed to it. You’re hostile to it in James four, he says, therefore he wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
If you’re imbibing, the world’s thinking and the world’s practices, you’re actually saying I’m an opposition. I’m hostile to God’s pattern of life. And he says, when you’re an enemy, when somebody feels like an enemy, they feel hostile to you. They feel the post to you. Now, sometimes we assume people are enemies just because they stand in our way.
They’re opposed to us. They seem to be hostile to us. They may not think they’re doing that. But the question is, from our standpoint, when I feel somebody is against. Be it nationally as a people like the Romans or, or, or, or our large body of people who think differently or personally when it’s, when it’s a relative or a coworker or a boss or neighbor, how do I spawned to a person that feels hostile to me that feels an opposition to me.
And they said, hate them. I mean, view them as the enemy because they’re acting that way. They’re thinking that way they’re behaving that way. They’re persecuting us. Then we read what Jesus says in his ethos and the ethos of Jesus about your enemy has given him verse 44 and 45. And here’s what it says, but I tell you love your enemy.
Pray for those who persecute you love, of course, is seeking people’s best, meaning God’s formative pers purpose for their lives. Jesus. We want to say, here’s the problem with that? Loving my enemies, praying for purpose people persecuting me. It muddies the line. I mean, I understand people near to me doing life with me, but when you talk about those that are, are out there, shot taking shots who are undermining me?
How do I make them? My neighbor? Well, Jesus is here talking about the question of who your neighbor is. He is not saying there are two groups, there’s enemies and there’s neighbors. He is rather saying the enemies are part of your neighbors.
One time Jesus is addressed with this very question. Here’s what the lawyer said, stood up to him saying teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And he said to him, what’s written in the law. How do you read it? And he says, the two commands of Jesus. And he answered, you shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart and soul and mind and with all your strength.
And then he said, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I mean, this guy absolutely nailed it. And Jesus said to him, you have answered correctly, do this. And you will live. But the lawyer desiring to justify himself said to Jesus and who is my neighbor? You know, same deal. Right? Wait a minute. I just said this, but who are you talking about?
I know I’m talking about who do you mean when you say my neighbor and Jesus said, will they tell, let me tell you a story. And you know, the story, here’s the story. He says, the sky was going down road. And he got mugged. Left for dead. They took everything. He had. It says he took his stuff, they took his clothes.
They left him, stripped their bleeding, bloody left for dead. And he says, and a priest came along and walked on the other side of the road. This was a Jew, by the way. And then he says, and then a Levi came along who are like the second level priests. They weren’t really priest, but they did a lot of the priestly support work.
And he went on the other side of her. I mean, these were the best of Israel. And then he says in a Samaritan came along and he stopped and cared for the sky, took him to an end. He, he paid out of his own pocket, completely took care of this guy’s needs. And then he says to the, the, the lawyer, he says, who do you think was the neighbor to this man?
He said, the guy that took care of him, that was a shocking thing that Jesus did to this guy, because. The Samaritans were the enemy. The Samaritans were the people that were considered the total sell out to the Israelites. The Samaritans existed here was how Israel, when there was Galilee in the north, all Jews, the south is Judea, all Jews.
And then there was the Jordan river. And so you’ve got like a, like a sea here. Okay. And that’s how they traveled. When they came down for the, for the festivals, they came down on the east side, east side of the Jordan river because they didn’t want to walk through an area in the middle called Samaria.
The reason is the Samaritans lived in Samira. The Samaritans were people in centuries past that had been imported by foreign powers, notably Assyria and Babylon, and had been brought in and had been pushed in. That’s what they did. When they defeated a group, they took a bunch of them and they export them out to weaken the, the, the, the, the nations that they had conquered.
And they stuck them there. And these guys had imbibed some of the beliefs of Israel after all, there was surrounded by the Israelites and they brought in some of their own stuff. It was a mixed faith. And to the Jews, these guys were a disgrace. That’s why in John chapter four, when Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman, the disciples are like, wow, doing the scene.
Not only is this a woman, she’s a enemy woman. And Jesus said, the guy says, who’s my neighbor. And he says, well, the Samaritan guy shows. Not only is it wasn’t a Samaritan guy who was bruised and bloody and a magnanimous Jew came along and cared for me. He says, no, the Samaritan, your enemy showed you how to treat your neighbor.
So what Jesus says is there’s no categories of neighbor and enemy. He says, there’s one category neighbors. And it includes your enemies. I say, love your neighbor. And then he says this, pray for those who persecute you now, what do we pray? Well, we pray for their best. We pray for God’s formative work to be done in their life.
But I think most of us know that field, there have been people in our lives that really have a post-test that have done things that are hurtful to us, whether known or not known, particularly for those that are known, it’s hard to pray for them. It’s hard to even think about them. Right? The problem with praying is you have to think about the person you visualize, what you want to do most.
They’re just, they don’t exist to me, but to you, he’s just waiting for me to do life. But Jesus says, visualize them, bring them, pray for them. It’s hard to think about them. It brings a sense of danger or fear even to remember them, frankly, you don’t want them to prosper. And again, when I mean prosper, I mean, in sense of God’s formative work, being done with them, quite honestly, what you want for your enemy.
And I’m just trying to be real here, what you want for them. What I wanted for the people. Is to see, I want them to see they were wrong about me. I want them to see they were wrong about the situation I want them to see. I don’t want them to prosper because it will affirm them. It will give them confidence in the way they’re thinking and their behavior, their power, their influence.
So what are we praying for the persecutor? The ex-husband it’s behaving in a monstrous way for the former or current boss that has really wronged you for the relatives that have stood against you and made this, this family conflict and a host of other examples, all of which are represented in, in, in lives here this morning.
What do we pray? We pray asking for God’s best God’s formative work in their lives. And what that doesn’t mean is the Lord is not asking us necessarily. To pray for them to be back in our lives. Wisdom may be that that would not be helpful for you or for them. I think we can. I think we can pray and maybe we don’t word it this way, but it’s kind of how we’re feeling.
And the Lord knows our heart. We pray the rabbi’s prayer. You remember I’ve said this before and Fiddler on the roof, they came to the rabbi and they said, and the czar was putting his pogroms down on the, on the Jews persecution. And they say, rabbi, how do we pray for the czar? And he said, God bless and keep the czar far away from us.
We get that right. I mean, when somebody is really here, I don’t think the Lord says pray that this person will now be back in your life. They can do it all over again. What are you saying is such a heart that they’re not your enemy that you can at least say, God, do your formative work in their lives, which, you know, Not vindictively, but you know, will be the same as it is for you when God does his formative work in you, he does show you things about yourself.
He does show you things about your thinking that can, that’s part of praying for a heart persecutors for, for people that have wronged us. But he says, you don’t look at them as the enemy. You don’t also say, well God, as soon as I put them on my Perlis, you’re going to bring them back into my life. In this giant, the Lord knows what he’s dealing with in us.
He knows what we can handle, but he is saying, we recognize even those that have heard us are our neighbors, who we are to love. As we love ourselves. He goes on to say in verse 45, why we’re to do this? Why we’re to make these folks part of the neighbor. And it’s a great statement so that you may be sons of your father who’s in heaven for, he makes his son rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the, just and on the unjust.
I think we might think that, well, I need to start praying for so-and-so because with my magnanimous Christ centered, loving spirit, it will bring them to Jesus. If that’s how you pray, you’re going to probably get more ticked at them when they don’t change. That’s not what he says. That’s not the motivation.
The motivation is this. You include them as your neighbor.
You love them because that’s what God is saying. And that’s what God does in people’s hearts. And that’s how we know that God is making himself real in us. He enables us to, to embrace people that are, we would easily say enemy out of my life. We can embrace and say again, not that they’re going to now do life and we’re going to be best friends or whatever, but that I’m not going to look at that person.
Isn’t, I’m going to embrace them as a neighbor too.
the specific application of this is found in verse 46 to 48. I’m going to step it up. He says in verse 46, you can’t just love those who love you for, if you love those who love you, what reward do you have do not even the tax collectors do the same. The standard of love you’re showing is no better than tax collectors, Manheim that much to tick people off in the Roman empire.
I’ve read this a number of places. I I’m positive and confident. This is a truism. They had a thing called tax farming. Here’s what they would do. Romans would take over a people group, a nation they’ve conquered. They would bring them, they would bless them by bringing them into the Roman empire. And what they would do is they would put an individual who’s over the taxation for that group.
And they would give them an amount of money that they were responsible to raise. And then they would appoint individuals often from the people group, perhaps at a lower level from the people group, but they would, and they would say, look, this is what you have to bring in. And then you get people to help you do it.
And they are given the response. And all that you are charged with was this. You get to bring in this amount of money, there was no rate of what people had to pay. There was no standard rate. There was no, okay. On your income, you got to pay 12%. Well, now you’re in a 22% bracket. They just, the tax collectors had astonishing power and they went, and so of course it was, it was just rife with bribe and corruption because you would, you would have your favorites.
You would, you would, you would build these people and you would be nice to these people because they could, they could protect your back. And here’s how you made your money. As long as you reached your quota, everything above the quota was yours. You can imagine this system and you can imagine how people that were Jews were viewed by the rest of the people.
That’s why we sensed that in there. The tax collectors and sinners are put together often in the gospels
in this system, Jesus said, well, tax collectors love people that love them. You may remember the story of, of Matthew who was a tax collector, one of Jesus’ disciples. And when he came to Jesus, do you remember daddy threw a party? He threw a dinner and he invited guests who came to his party tax collectors.
They were the only people that liked him. So he brought them to his party and they heard Jesus. What Jesus is saying is if your standard is to only love the people that are near, that are doing life with you, that are thinking like you, how is that godly? How is that supernatural? How is that Christ in you?
The hope of glory manifesting itself? The other thing he says is this inverse,
which I’ll just say this. Christians must love people who don’t like them. There’s no other way around that. I mean, if there’s anyone truth in this passage is this that if people are loud and screaming at you at Facebook, you don’t scream back. You don’t respond back. You don’t insult when insulted you don’t when you’re persecuting wrong.
When you respond supernaturally like God did when he was a man praying for people that were, were hanging them on the cross says, Lord, forgive them. He says, tax collectors can love people. Love them. What about people that think you’re a dog treat you like a dog? He says, call him your neighbors and love him like yourself.
And then he says this, you can’t just embrace those who are like you verse 47. And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others do not even the Gentiles do the same. The literal rendering of verse 47 is this, if you greet only your own people, I love that, that expression. If you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others?
I mean, I mean, everybody does that Marion years ago, we were both history majors. So we read a lot of history stuff and she was talking about, she had been reading a number of books about native Americans and she said, I am finding something fascinating. She said in every native American tribe that I have found their name in their dialect means the people we went to the natural museum, natural history museum.
No natural museum, New York city. That’s a museum of history. We went there. It was right by central park. I promise. And anyway, we went there and, and we w we went through, we were going through the exhibit and there was a little inscription there. We were reading. And here’s what it said. This, I don’t remember what the, this, this title that the Egyptians use to describe themselves meant the people.
I was like, it’s everywhere. We all want to view ourselves as we are the people. Now, this gets dicey for Christian’s light, because when God says you are my people, she said, oh, we’re fellow people, but Jesus is saying. Don’t only greet your people.
Great. Those that are different. So the one last definition, what does the word greet mean? It doesn’t mean there’s oh, there he is. No, the word greet here literally means to embrace, to welcome, to spend time listening to it even talks about when you’re leaving, it says, do this, do this farewell that’s involved in, in the term greeting.
He says there is an embracing of people that are not, your people speaks to us in the political arena, right? Speaks to us in the cultural arena, Christians, people with other lifestyles and practices. In their fight for an America that may not be your vision for it at all.
It speaks to the person at work that you just look at and think, man, I hope my kids don’t become that guy. I hope that that, that this way of thinking just gets obliterated in, in, in, in our culture because of what it’s doing to my,
maybe that that’s the very person that God is saying to you. I want you to look at that person as your neighbor. I want you to embrace them as your neighbor. I want you to know them. I want you to pray for them. I want you to realize that that they’re a person who has been marked in their own story of life.
Just like you. Different incidents, different results, but there are a person that has a story. I want you to know their story. I want you to hear their story. I want you to enter into their story after all, they’re your neighbor. In my perspective, Jesus is saying they’re part of the near ones that I’ve placed in your world.
And then Jesus makes this amazing statement. Here’s how he finishes verse 48. You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. And we all close our Bibles and say, good, I’m completely free because that’s impossible. Well, here’s what he’s saying. The word perfect is just, it means to bring to completion.
It means to wholeheartedly love.
God wholeheartedly loves you. And quite frankly, and I’m starting with me looking out at you. There’s a lot, that’s hard to love for all of us. I don’t mean you didn’t come quite as a one of the two I’m speaking to me. And there’s a lot that’s hard to love,
but God does he’s for you. He’s crazy about you. And he says, I want you to love people that are different, who are not your people who are not loving you, because that’s how I love. You only love me. God says, because I loved you.
So be the initiators to those relatives, to those kids, to those parents, to those coworkers, to those students. Who it’s easy to say, they’re them and there’s us. And God says, they’re all there. They’re all neighbors. God loves him. And God wants to love him through you, Lord.
it’s only as we grow in the stunned reality and stunned awareness of what it means that the cosmos creating God deigns to love us, that we can even begin to think of loving people this way. We can only love to the degree we’re loved and that love comes from you. So Lord, as believers as your kids, Help us to embrace people in our lives that we’re sort of looking at as enemies.
And you’re asking us to begin to learn how to look at them. As neighbors worthy of love. Lord, we trust you to do it. We don’t have it in ourselves, but we have it in. You teach us how to embrace it. I pray in Jesus name. Amen. Now, go in peace to love and serve and enjoy that Lord.