But in the Kingdom, You are to Love People Who Hate You

Jesus said, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). Who are your enemies? In v. 44, your enemies are those who “persecute” you. In v. 45, your enemies are those who are “evil” and “unjust.” In other words, your enemies are people who don’t like you. Your enemies are people who hurt you. They are people who do evil against you; and people who do unjust things against you.

In the Kingdom, you are to love your enemies. This means that kingdom love is unrestricted love, not restricted love. It is inclusive love, not exclusive love.

Kenneth A. Corr writes about his 18-year old brother who died of an accident. “My eighteen year-old brother was killed in a motorcycle accident by a drunken college student. A minister brought the young man to our home shortly after the accident and asked my parents to forgive him. Afterwards, my mother said about the young man, ‘He never even said, ‘I’m sorry.’’ We were not ready to love our enemy.”[1]

It’s never easy to love our enemies. We are not ready to do that. We are more ready to hate them than love them. But the God who commands you to love your enemies is the same God who gives you the power to do so.

What does it mean to love your enemies? R. T. France says that love is not just an emotion, but an attitude that dictates our behavior. To love is to seek the good of the other.[2] “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:44). There are two parallel statements here. To love your enemies is to pray for them. You do not take revenge against your enemies. Rather, you seek their well-being.

A good example is the Lord Jesus. One day, His disciples asked him,

“Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray.” “Our Father, forgive us, as we forgive those who sin against us.” To love your enemies is to forgive them.

They spat on Jesus. They put a crown of thorns on His head. They nailed Him on the cross. They hated him on the cross. But Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them.” To love your enemies is to seek their salvation, not destruction.

What have your enemies done to you? They hated you. What do you do in return? Jesus says, love your enemies. That love is unconditional love. You love your enemies not because they love you. You love them despite the fact that they hate you. That is unconditional love. That is what it means to love your enemies.

[1] Kenneth A. Corr, “Loving Your Enemies: Regardless.” Cited August 10, 2014. Online: http://www.preaching.com/sermons/11565844/page-1/

[2] R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (NICNT; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007), 225.

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