Even the Tax Collectors Do the Same
Love Your Neighbor?
Following the Sermon on the mount Jesus began teaching His disciples concepts that were foreign to their cultural upbringing as Jews. He used a teaching with which He knew they would identify, “You SHALL Love Your Neighbors (Lev 19:18), and hate your enemies (Duet 23:6)” Matthew 5:43. The disciples nodded and agreed with vocal signs of approval but Jesus proceeded to turn their theology upside down. I can only imagine the letdown as He continued to instruct the fisherman, tax collectors and physicians, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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” Matthew 5:44-45. They gasped with wide eyes and hands held out as they grumbled, “what the heck?” in Aramaic or Greek. Now the disciples sat completely taken back as Jesus continued, “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. Wait! What? “But our enemies hate us!”, they grumbled but Jesus persisted, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” Matthew 5:48.
The concept of loving our enemies is simply in juxtaposition with human nature. None of us want to love those who hate us. None of us want to want to pray for those who persecute us. But Jesus was clear “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”
This teaching forces us to think about those whose political ideology is so evil we can’t imagine how God could bless them but Jesus was clear, “For He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” As Christians we must accept what Jesus teaches as truth though our human nature wants so badly for that not to be the case. Furthermore, the truth of Jesus’ words is inescapable and we are to “Love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us” as He taught His disciples. The thought was foreign to the disciples culturally and it is foreign to our human nature.
As we watch the news and see the hate and vitriol directed at Christianity we must push aside our desire to be angry, get down on our knees, ask God to give us His Love for those who hate us and pray for those who persecute us for our faith.
Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
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