“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” (Matt. 5:46-47)? Jesus continues His explanation of the command. Verse 46 is parallel in meaning to v. 47. To love only those who love you in v. 46 is similar to greet only your brothers in v. 47. The question, “what reward do you have,” is synonymous in meaning to, “what more are you doing than others.” The word, “greet” (aspazomai), means, symbolically, “be fond of, be friendly.” (Friberg) The “tax collectors” are similar to “Gentiles.” The Jews in Jesus’ time hated the tax collectors. They were considered traitors, serving the Roman government. They were also corrupt officials, pocketing taxes. The “Gentiles” (ethnikos) in Matthew’s gospel refer to “non-Jewish peoples, foreign . . . heathen, pagan.” (Friberg)
Jesus says, “if you love those who love you.” That is conditional love. You love because you receive their love. You love on condition that they love you. Therefore, you receive no reward.
Jesus said, you should love those persecuting you. That is unconditional love. You love without conditions. You love them though they don’t love you.
If you love those who love you, you show no difference between you, a kingdom-believer, and tax-collectors. If you are friendly only to your brothers, you show no difference between you, a follower of Christ, and followers of other gods. In other words, if you show love only to your own group or community, it’s no different than the love the tax collectors, sinners, and pagans of this world show to their own group. You are no different from the criminals of BBRC, who show love to fellow criminals and to their family, relatives, and friends.
But you are a follower of Christ, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. You are to love your enemies. You are to live by a higher standard, the kingdom standard. To do so is to live the greater kind of righteousness, the righteousness of Christ, the righteousness of the kingdom.