Small Loving and Ditching Enemies.
Reading Matthew 5:43-48
If you were to ask the question ‘What makes a person most like God?’ you would get a huge variety of answers. They would range round hugely general ones such as ‘Being Holy – whatever that means’, and ‘Loving people’ and even perhaps ‘Being generous’. But Jesus gives a very specific answer – no beating about the bush!
‘I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.’
If you want to be like your Heavenly Father then you must develop this characteristic that He displays – let the child be like the Father and learn to deal properly and gently with those who make like difficult for us – even persecuting us. Forgive them and pray God’s blessing for them! And most of us will acknowledge that is easier said than done.
That is the theme we shall follow in our readings this week.
The Old Testament law, in Leviticus 19:17-18, seemed straightforward. ‘Do not hate a fellow Israelite in your heart. Rebuke your neighbour frankly so you will not share in their guilt. Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge
against anyone among your people but love your neighbour as yourself. I am the Lord.‘ Jewish teachers hedged this around with other ideas. They suggested that taking revenge or bearing a grudge only applied to their relationships with fellow Jews. It didn’t apply to relationships with Gentiles! It was permissible to hate them and take revenge on them. So Jesus extends their understanding of this – the law even applies to your enemies. Moreover, He goes beyond the negative prohibition of ‘Do not …’ to the positive action of ‘Love your enemies’. This would have been a massive leap in their understanding of the law. Much as it might be today in fact!
This is the transition from ‘hating’, through ‘tolerating’ or just putting up with, right into ‘loving and praying for’ those who cause us difficulties.
Simply tolerating someone, to genuinely loving them is a major step of acceptance in a relationship.
Most of us find it hard to name those who are our enemies, we tend to stop by saying that someone ‘is difficult.’ Of course, ‘WE’ are OK, THEY are ‘Difficult’. However we phrase it, this carries the message that the relationship is ‘a wee bit fraught.’ And that should say to us that it is time to make an effort to love them, understand them, and pray for them.