Sermon: Love Your Enemies
Scripture: Matthew 5:43-47
In this week’s lessons, we learn how to love our enemies with the divine love that only God gives us in Christ.
Theme: Divine Love
For most people the verses that we are now to study are the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. And there is a sense in which this is both true and proper. They deal with Christian love, and as such they contain a highly “concentrated expression of the Christian ethic,” as William Barclay notes in his commentary. Moreover, these verses deal with it profoundly.
Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, 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 who despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the sons of your Father, who 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 who love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if ye greet your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the heathen so?” (Matt. 5:43-47).
These verses carry the core of Christian ethics and anchor it in the character of God, for the verses teach that the Christian is to love others, not as a man loves his friends, but as God loves.
I believe that we must put the heart of the teaching in this way, because we miss the point of the verses unless we see that the standard is a love of which only God is capable.
This is evident in several ways. For one thing, verse 45 says that we are to do this in order to be sons of our Father who is in heaven, and this means that we are to do it in order that we might be godlike in our conduct. Because God’s love is without discrimination—because it extends to the just and to the unjust alike—our love is also to be without discrimination. Because it results in action, our love is to express itself in action. We are to love those who are, by all human standards, our enemies.
The fact that this is a divine standard and not a human one is also clear in the word for love that occurs in this passage. The Greek language has four distinct words for love, and whenever one of them occurs (as opposed to another), the choice is almost always significant. The first word for love is one that does not even occur in the Bible. It is the word eros, and it refers to sexual love. From it we get our word “erotic.” The Bible is aware of this kind of love, of course, but in biblical times the sexual love of the Greeks had become so perverted and debased that the word eros, that suggested it, was rejected. It was interesting that the same thing happened about three hundred years later when Jerome came to make the Latin translation of the Bible, because he chose the Latin word caritas while rejecting the equally common word amor. Thus, in 1 Corinthians 13 the older, Authorized Version of the Bible speaks of faith, hope and charity. It does not use the word amorous at all.
Explain what is said to be the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.
What do we learn about the divine standard of love from Matthew 5:45?
Application: Read carefully our Scripture passage for this week. What are some things you will begin to do, or stop doing, toward those who have mistreated you?
Key Point: These verses carry the core of Christian ethics and anchor it in the character of God, for the verses teach that the Christian is to love others, not as a man loves his friends, but as God loves.