You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48
The false world that the majority of people live in encourages them to hate their enemies. In fact, their entire existence relies upon the exclusion of the other. It is almost as if they have no identity outside of their exclusion of anyone not part of their tribe, party, family, or race.
This manifests itself in blaming the other for all the problems in the world.
“The radical left…”
“The right wingers…”
Placing the blame on others absolves us of the need to take responsibility for our own actions, to ask how we have contributed to the problems in the world. Often, this type of negative action keeps us focused on the symptoms of the problem and not the cause of the problem.
In this passage, Jesus is calling His followers to a radical new existence, to transcend the typical barriers of neighbor and enemy. He doesn’t call us to abandon the label neighbor. Our friends, family, and social groups are important, but He does call us to love them while at the same time showing love of equal measure towards our enemies.
Jesus goes on to say that those who do this will be considered children of God.
The command to love God with all your heart is like the command to love your neighbor as yourself because to love and care for God’s children is to love Him (Matthew 25:31ff).
To prove this about God, Jesus says that He sends rain on the just and the unjust.
Growing up, I associated rain with canceled baseball games and being stuck indoors. This passage, to me, meant that bad things happened to good people. But this passage actually teaches the opposite.
God causes the sun to rise on the just and the unjust. He sends rain on the good and evil. In the ancient world, many associated the reception of rain with being in God’s favor. This can especially be seen in the Old Testament. Jesus shatters all preconceived ideas of God by saying that God causes it to rain on the good and the bad. In other words, he showers blessings upon those that reject Him.
Anyone can love those that love them, but only children of God can love those that hate them.
One of the most difficult passages in the Bible for me to accept – not understand – is 1 Corinthians 13:5: “love…keeps no record of wrongs.” Since God is love, is that true of God? Does God keep score? Does He have a list that checks twice to find out if you’re naughty and nice? And if He doesn’t, should we throw away our lists since we are to be like Him? Is this abandonment of record keeping how He desires to let the sunshine and rain come to all as Jesus said?
When we accept this Way, suddenly the need to place the blame on others goes away. In fact, the records we keep against ourselves also disappear. Instead of finding someone to pin the problem on, we join forces regardless of our background to solve the issues in the world, understanding how we have all contributed to them in some way, big or small.
Throw away the record books and find ways to cause the sun to shine and the rain to fall on those in your life, neighbor or enemy.