For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46-47)
As we saw last week, the gift of God’s common grace allows all of mankind to be good and loving towards one another. This will extend to loving those who are much like ourselves or people we have a common bond with. As we see today, even those wicked tax collectors stuck together. The world is quite good at looking after its own. Loving people who are like you is relatively easy. You are not particularly showing a radical nature by loving people in your church.
This command of Jesus to love our enemies is a call to be radically different. It’s the kind of attitude that Jesus had on the cross toward His persecutors “Father forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34) It’s the sort of love that the world simply doesn’t understand.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his book called ‘studies in the Sermon on the Mount’ speaks about this call to be radically distinctive, he says:
The Christian is the man who is above, and goes beyond, the natural man at his very best and highest… There are many people in the world who are not Christian but who are very moral and highly ethical, men whose word is their bond, and who are scrupulous and honest, just and upright. You never find them doing a shady thing to anybody; but they are not Christian, and they say so. They do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and may have rejected the whole of the New Testament teaching with scorn. But they are absolutely straightforward, honest and true… Now the Christian, by definition here, is a man who is capable of doing something that the best natural man cannot do. He goes beyond and does more than that; he exceeds. He is separate from all others, and not only from the worst among others, but from the very best and highest among them.
Jesus is once again (as he does in nearly every sentence) dealing with the half hearted and pathetic attempts by the Pharisees to interpret God’s laws properly. They once again fall woefully short. How could they think it was enough to just love someone just like them? Jesus is openly shaming them by comparing them to tax collectors and gentiles. How about us though? Do we have a very similar attitude?
I think we do. We think we are doing well when we get on with our Christian brothers and sisters, we are quite pleased with ourselves. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, of course it isn’t, but it isn’t enough. We mustn’t stop there. As followers of Jesus, we need to take His attitude upon ourselves and love those who really don’t like us and to be honest, we don’t like either. Loving those who are antagonistic towards us, who seek our discomfort or our harm, loving them is supernatural. It can only come from a heart that is submitted to God. If you are reading this and you have never submitted your life to Christ, you need to do that first, because you will never achieve this otherwise and will only be frustrated. This attitude only comes from The Holy Spirit.
We cannot wait for this to happen. We can’t wait for our enemies to be nice to us before we are kind to them, that will never happen. We need to take the initiative. As I said last week, it is not enough to forgive and avoid, we need to pursue our enemies with love. When we do this, we are demonstrating to the world how much God wants to do the same thing with them. We are imaging God’s heart to them. We are joining in with God’s mission of rescuing His enemies and loving them into His kingdom. There is no greater honour than that.