One of the hardest commands of scripture is found in Matthew 5:44. Jesus said, “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.” If you were present on the day that Jesus spoke these words, you would have been acutely aware of the particular word that Jesus used to describe love for one’s enemies. Jesus could have used any one of four words for love. Unlike the English language which has only one word “love,” the Greek language has four different words. We determine the meaning of the word “love” by the context in which it is used. The Greek language is much more precise so that the meaning of the word can never be mistaken.
Without going into the four different words, let me just say that the one Christ chose is a word that means determination to kindness, benevolence, and respect. It is love of choice meaning that it is a conscious decision that one makes that is ungoverned by emotion. It is a decision to treat another person in a way that is best for their welfare. Christ does not expect you to have an attachment to your enemy like you would to your family. He certainly does not expect you to have romantic love for that person. Jesus chose the word He used because a person’s mind that has been changed by the gospel can make the determination to treat all people as they want to be treated.
Every day we come in contact with people that are mean spirited and antagonistic. We meet people that are very much opposed to our faith. The best that we can do for them is to give them what was best for us. No doubt the very best thing that has happened to us is the day we met Jesus Christ. Faith in Christ took away our enmity with God and saved our souls from an everlasting hell. Christ wants us to make the conscious choice to love the lost of this world and to convert them from their hatred of God. When we do this, we turn our personal enemies into brothers and sisters who think as we do and love Christ as we do. The common bond of faith unifies us unto one purpose—to glorify God.
To obey Christ’s command to love our enemies is to turn from our own selfishness. We tend to believe the opposite of love is hate, when in reality the opposite is selfishness. The kind of love Christ speaks in this verse causes us to ignore personal affronts so that we might do what is best for others. This is the character of Christ who when He was reviled, reviled not again (1 Peter 2:23).
The grand object of the gospel accounts is to reveal the character of Christ and to learn of His redemptive purpose. Christ’s sermon is nothing more and nothing less than the revelation of His righteous character. The following verse (Matt. 5:45) says those who do this are children of the Heavenly Father. Are you truly a child of the Father? If you are, you will love all people and give them the gospel of Christ.
Pastor V. Mark Smith