43 “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 makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48 ESV)
Today’s text is the final installment of Jesus’ “You have heard that it was said, but I say to you…” statements. Today’s text pertains to believers in Christ fulfilling the second greatest commandment; loving one’s neighbor as oneself. How appropriate that this is our text for February 14; Valentine’s Day.
Jesus confronted the familiar Pharisaical teaching of loving a neighbor but hating an enemy. The first half of this statement is found in Lev. 19:18. However, the second half is not found in the biblical text but rather was an interpretation and application by the Jewish scribes and Pharisees. It remains a popular perspective to this day.
Believers in Christ find it relatively easy to love someone who loves them. But what about those who hate you, and who in response you hate? How are Christians to treat these people? How are Christians to behave?
Jesus taught that God the Father’s love extends even to His enemies. This is the implicit teaching of John 3:16. When Jesus referred to the world, He was talking about an ant-God and hateful system of thought and behavior. God did not send His Son to the world because it was filled with nice people worthy of salvation. Rather, Jesus came to save those who hated and despised Him (Isaiah 53:1-12).
God’s love for a sinful, fallen world extends to practical blessings that He indiscriminately gives to the converted and unconverted. This is known as God’s common grace.
Jesus also stated that even pagans treat people they like with loving affection. For believers in Christ to do the same is not that significant. However, to love someone you do not like, and who does not like you, is a testimony of God’s loving character.
What did Jesus mean when He stated, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Perfect (τέλειος; teleios) means genuine, complete and mature. It means to be mature in one’s behavior. However, it also means to be sinlessly genuine, complete and mature. This could only accomplished by Jesus Christ.
“Christ sets an unattainable standard. This sums up what the law itself demanded (James 2:10). Though this standard is impossible to meet, God could not lower it without compromising his own perfection. He who is perfect could not set an imperfect standard of righteousness. The marvelous truth of the gospel is that Christ has met this standard on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21),” states Dr. John MacArthur.
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Soli deo Gloria!