Chapter 6:27-36 (ESV) - “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Question to consider: Why is loving our enemies so important to Jesus?
Note: To help understand this passage, I would encourage you to look at the 4 devotions in 1 Peter from chapters 2:13-3:14 (https://www.labellelife.com/1-peter.php).
When Jesus opened His sermon, He divided His listeners into those who would be blessed and those who were facing a curse if they stayed on their current course. When He got into the meat of His sermon, He appealed to those “who hear.” Obviously everyone in attendance could hear the words coming out of His mouth, but Jesus was talking about those who would take His message to heart and act upon them. If you’ve read our study in Genesis, you’d know that the Bible divides the world into two groups of people: the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. In John 8, Jesus had a conversation with the religious leaders in which He referred to these groups as the children of Abraham and the children of the devil. In John 8:47, Jesus says, “Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.” So in today’s passage, we can assume that those “who hear” are of God (the seed of the woman) which means the rest are not of God (the seed of the serpent).
It would have been easier for those “who hear” to be among the ones Jesus pronounced blessings at the beginning of His sermon, for they already depended on God for their daily bread. Those who had received the woes of Jesus still may have had ears to hear, but it was much more difficult for them to receive a message like this because they were confident in their own financial means and righteousness, and they had no enemies for Jesus had said, “Woe to you, when all people speak well of you…” If you’ve never experienced unjust suffering and abuse, it’s much easier to hate your enemies. Today, I encourage you to heed Jesus’ message. Do you love those who have a different political view than you do? Do you love those who seek to seek to “cancel” you or who you think deserve to be “cancelled”?
Though Jesus said, “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God,” (Matthew 19:24), He also said, “all things are possible with God.” For God’s word is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword” (Hebrews 4:12), and Jesus’ words to those he had pronounced woe would cut some to the heart and cause them to turn from their own righteousness and cling to Christ.
Jesus’ call to his hearers to love their enemies is similar to Peter’s call to his readers in 1 Peter to live honorably among the Gentiles. It is apparent in Peter’s letter that these words of Jesus had an impact on him, for in the midst of encouraging his flock to bear up under unjust suffering he wrote, “For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.” (1 Peter 2:20).
When we love our enemies as Jesus’ was calling the hearers of His sermon to do, we point them to Jesus. Our unjust suffering is worth it if it results in our enemies coming to faith in Christ. For all of us were once enemies of God, and yet Christ loved us to the point of dying on the cross for our sins. We are never more like Christ than when we love our enemies and endure their unjust suffering.
Dear heavenly father, Jesus’ words in this sermon are difficult, and we confess that without Your Holy Spirit, we have no ability to love the way Jesus has called us to do. Please give us ears to hear Your word and help us to preach the good news of Your marvelous grace, even when it means people will hate us for it. Amen.