Bless and curse not Presented by Steven Schiller
When Jesus spoke about "Responding To Evil", He laid down two principles:
Do not resist an evil person - Mt 5:39a
Respond to evil by doing good - Mt 5:39b-42
This is certainly a challenging task Jesus put before His disciples...
It is tempting to respond to evil in kind
Especially when the mistreatment comes from an enemy!
But in the text for this lesson (Mt 5:43,44,45,46,47-48)...
We find Jesus teaching concerning the treatment of our enemies
We are told why we ought to act in the manner described in Mt 5:38,39,40,41-42
[Keeping in mind the context of the sermon on the mount, let's first compare...]
THE LAW OF MOSES AND THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION
THE LAW DID NOT SAY "HATE YOUR ENEMY"...
It did teach to "love your neighbor as yourself" - Lev 19:18
But it also taught kindness was to be shown to your enemy - Exo 23:4-5; Pr 25:21-22
THE TRADITIONAL INTERPRETATION HAD MISAPPLIED THE LAW...
Though it did enjoin the command to "love your neighbor"...
It inferred from this command one had the right to "hate your enemy" - Mt 5:43
"This phrase is not in Leviticus 19:18, but is a rabbinical inference which Jesus repudiates bluntly. The Talmud says nothing of love to enemies." (Word Pictures In The New Testament, Vol. I, Robertson)
"The rabbis corrupted Lev. 19:18, which sums up the Law of Israel, by adding `and hate your enemy.' By thus tampering with Scripture, they intended to define their neighbors to include only Jews and to exclude Samaritans and Gentiles." (Believers' Study Bible)
[Having noted the difference between what the Law actually taught and the wrong interpretation given by the scribes and Pharisees, let's now consider what Jesus taught on...]
HOW TO TREAT OUR ENEMIES
JESUS REQUIRES THAT WE...
"Love" our enemies
Not hate them
Rather, show "active good will" towards them
"Bless" those who curse us
They may speak evil of us
But in response we are to speak kindly of them
"Do good" to those who hate us
They may either ignore us or do evil things to us
Yet we are to treat them kindly in either case
"Pray" for those who spitefully use us and persecute us
Notice, we are to pray FOR them, not just about them
I.e., pray for their well-being, salvation, etc.
THIS IS AN EXPANSION OF THE PRINCIPLES IN VERSES 39-42...
Don't seek vengeance!
Don't resist an evil person!
Instead, react by manifesting aggressive love!
[Why should we respond to our enemies in this way? Jesus goes on to provide...]
REASONS TO REACT IN THIS WAY
"THAT YOU MAY BE SONS OF YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN"...
That is, to demonstrate ourselves to be truly His children! - Mt 5:45a
What is our Father like?
He gives material blessings to both the evil and the good, both the righteous and the unrighteous - Mt 5:45b
He is kind to the unthankful and evil - Lk 6:35-36
He offered His Son while we were yet sinners and enemies! - Ro 5:8,10
He loved us before we loved Him - 1Jn 4:10
As taught elsewhere, we are to imitate our Heavenly Father - 1Jn 4:11; Ep 4:31,32,33,34,35,36,
TO BE DIFFERENT THAN "TAX-COLLECTORS"...
In Jesus' day, they were despised by the Jews, because they made themselves rich by collecting taxes from their fellow-men for the Roman government
And yet, these tax-collectors would...
Love those who loved them
Greet cordially those who greeted them
We are no different if our love is limited to our "brethren" or "friends"! - Mt 5:46-47
TO BE "PERFECT" AS OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT...
The word "perfect" means "brought to completion, full-grown, lacking nothing"
In this context, it has reference to the matter of showing love and mercy; note the parallel passage:
"Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." - Lk 6:36
"Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect." - Mt 5:48
When we display love and mercy to our enemies...
We are "complete," "full-grown" in demonstrating love
Just like our Father when He shows kindness to evil and unthankful men!
If we really want to be...
"sons of your Father in heaven"
"perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect"
It is imperative that we be influenced...
More by the teachings and example of the Son of God
Than by the attitudes and example of the "tax-collectors"!
Are you "Acting Like Our Father" who is in heaven? Or do you emulate the most carnal people around us? May the "sayings" (cf. Mt 7:28) of our Lord provoke us to consider the proper way to respond to our enemies and to any who might abuse us!