Loving your neighbors and your enemies


Matthew 5:43-44 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you …”

This weekend we attended a family friend’s wedding. What a lovely afternoon and evening it was! It was so good to spend time with friends and neighbors we have not seen for many years. We could feel the love and joy in the atmosphere and all felt right in the world. But this is not always the case. Sometimes people are not nice and love doesn’t seem very easy. How should God’s children respond then?

Citizens of God’s kingdom should have very different responses than the world in all walks of life. Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, took on the religious teaching of the day by pointing out many of these differences. “You have heard,” He said, “But I tell You,” was a phrase He repeated over and over as He taught countercultural responses to normal everyday issues. In today’s verse Jesus gives guidance about how to treat our enemies.

The law as stated in Leviticus 19:18 said, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.” It seems the words that caught the religious leader’s attention were “your neighbor”. If a person is your neighbor then you are to love them as yourself. But, they added, if the person is your enemy then this command didn’t apply.

Jesus turned this ungodly interpretation on its head by making clear that the citizens of God’s kingdom were not to love only their neighbors and those for which they had positive emotions. They were to also love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. This unnatural human response would prove they were children of God. Their actions and attitudes would emulate the Heavenly Father Who causes the sun to rise and the rain to fall on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Jesus went on to explain that no reward awaited those who only loved people who loved them back. Even the ungodly do this! But God knows the hurts we have suffered and sees how we respond. He desires that we set aside a spirit of revenge and take up a spirit of forgiveness. This does not let a perpetrator off the hook, but gives room for God to work in their lives and frees us from bitterness that will only destroy our own soul.

Paul speaks more about this in Romans 12:19-20 saying, “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.’”

Citizens of God’s Kingdom understand the spirit behind the Law and don’t try to manipulate it to say what they want it to say. Jesus explained this to His followers and taught them to love and

pray for all people – even their enemies. They were to be perfect as their heavenly Father was perfect.

If you are like me you enjoy rejoicing and dancing at weddings with friends and family you love. But how do you respond to someone who has done you wrong? This is the real test of love and your actions will prove to which kingdom you belong!



Sandra Sheridan is a midwest wife and mother of five. She shares her letters to her children with our readers. Visit her at www.VersesFromMama.com.

No posts to display