43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45That ye may be the children of your Father which 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." (Matthew 5: 43-45)
This command is one of the most demanding, if not the most demanding, in the Sermon on the Mount.
Love my enemies? Really?
Frankly, that is exactly what our reaction should be.
None of us has the power or the skill, or even the willingness to love our enemies. We have a hard time loving our friends and neighbors, and oftentimes we would just as well pass people by without saying "Hello!" if we could.
When we recognize this passage as Jesus' full and appropriate amplification of God's law, we understand another aspect of Jesus' ministry to His Jewish brethren: to bring man to the end of Himself, that they would rely on Jesus as Savior and provider for everything.
Consider another verse in the above passage.
"That you may be the children of your Father in heaven."
Have you ever heard of anyone doing anything in order to be a child of someone else? Such a concept is just outrageous. There is nothing that we can do to become children of God. We receive this grace to be adopted into a family, or the love of one man and one woman comes together to bring a new life into the world.
We do not make ourselves children of anyone, that is for certain.
We receive a spirit of adoption:
"For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father." (Romans 8: 15)
This Spirit is shed abroad in us because of Jesus' death. We do not, cannot earn this Spirit of God.
In fact, the love of God grants us this wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit:
"1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; 4And patience, experience; and experience, hope: 5And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Romans 5:1-5)
God's love saves us, sanctifies us, and redefines us, too:
"17Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (1 JOhn 4: 17)
That Spirit of Sonship brings us into Christ Jesus, and therefore God sees everyone of us in Christ, that we are among the brethren of Jesus, the firstborn from the dead (Colossians 1: 18), and thus through Him we are also sons of God (1 John 3: 1-3)
Then John writes in his first epistle:
18There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." (1 JOhn 4: 18)
We have a perfected love based on our identity, in that we know and believe that Jesus is our mercy seat, our High Priest forever, and that therefore we need never fear judgment or punishment for our sins.
When we understand this love, then look what happens:
19We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4: 19)
"Him" is not in the original verse. We love anyone, including our enemies, because God first loved us so consummately through His own Son:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3: 16)
"A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another." (John 13: 34)
It's a new commandment, in that we love because Jesus has loved us so much, instead of out of fear of punishment based on the Old Covenant.
"31Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 32And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you." (Ephesians 4: 31-32)
"Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another." (1 John 4:11)
Under grace, we love because Jesus first loved and indeed loves us!