TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Genesis 13:5–15:21
Matthew 5:27-48
Psalm 6:1-10
Proverbs 1:29-33

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Matthew 5:44 (CSB) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

Christians are typically familiar with the command found in our Verse for Today. We know that our God has told us to love those who hate us. We know that we are supposed to pray for those who hurt us.

But what does that look like?

And why are we supposed to do such a seemingly impossible thing?

To answer these questions, let’s take a stroll through the neighborhood that this verse is in. Let’s look at the other verses around Matthew 5:44.

Matthew 5:43 (CSB) “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

As Jesus was talking to His disciples, He was addressing their erroneous beliefs. In Matthew 5, Jesus said (quite a few times): “You have heard … but I say to you.” The message of God had been distorted in its presentation and in its understanding. Jesus was clarifying what God had actually said and meant.

So, He began this topic by saying that they had heard they were to love their neighbors and hate their enemies. The command to love their neighbors was found in the Old Testament law (Leviticus 19:18) but the command to hate their enemies was something the Jewish religious leaders had made up. It was nowhere to be found in Scripture.

Essentially, the God-followers of Jesus’ day thought they were to love those who were nice to them and hate those who were mean to them.

Matthew 5:44 (CSB) “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”

Jesus clarified by giving two commands: “love your enemies” and “pray for those who hurt you.”

While the word, “love,” in this verse may conjure up thoughts of heart-felt affection, that’s not what the word (agape) means. While it can certainly include feelings of compassion toward someone, it really means that we choose to care enough about them that we will sacrifice for them if they have a need that we are able to meet.

Praying for those who persecute us means that we lift them up to the Lord in prayer. Given the previous command to love them, we can safely assume that the prayers we offer up will be for good … for God to bless them.

In other words, Jesus is calling His followers to refuse to hold onto anger or thoughts of vengeance. Instead, He calls us to return good for evil … from our heart.

Matthew 5:45 (CSB) “so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

We’ve all heard things like this: “Wow! The resemblance between you and your dad is striking! You are so much like your dad!” The person speaking may have been referring to similar facial features or to similar habits. The point is that the child has traits that are shared with their father.

That is what Jesus is saying in Matthew 5:45. If we are willing to meet the needs, even to the point of sacrifice, for those who hate us and mistreat us, then we are bearing a striking resemblance to our Heavenly Father. After all, God sends the refreshing rain and the life-giving sunshine on those who follow His commands and those who don’t. He gives good things to His followers as well as to those who hate Him.

Since our God is kind to all, even those who are opposed to Him, we should do the same. In doing so, the family resemblance with our Heavenly Father will become obvious for others to see.

Matthew 5:46-47 (CSB) “For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?”

The clear inference in Matthew 5:46-47 is that Jesus-followers should act differently than unbelievers. If God’s Holy Spirit resides inside of us, there should be obvious signs in our behavior that set us apart from those who oppose God.

The action that will clearly set us apart is … if we love and pray for those who hate us and hurt us. If we don’t, we’re no better than those who claim no allegiance to Jesus. We’re acting just like people who are on their way to Hell.

Matthew 5:48 (CSB) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

The word “perfect” in Matthew 5:48 is the Greek word that means “to reach the goal” or “to come to the point of completion.”

Essentially, Jesus says: “I know that what I have just told you is difficult. In fact, some would say it’s impossible this side of Heaven. But, I’m not calling you to anything that I won’t equip you to do. So aim at the standard, the goal I have set for you. Love those who hate you and pray for those who hurt you. In doing so, you will powerfully show the striking family traits of your Heavenly Father.”

Friend, Jesus didn’t just save you to get you to Heaven. He saved you so that you can become a part of His family and show, in your actions, the family resemblance to the Trinity.

So, with God’s help, strive to love and pray for those who hate you and hurt you. After all, it will only be for a very short time. Soon enough, you’ll be in Heaven enjoying the family you are a part of.