Lent Devotional: Matthew 5:43-48
by Jonathan Haefs
Matthew 5:43-48 (click here)
“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, 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 5:43-45)
“But I say to you…”
Jesus is not correcting Scripture…he is correcting misinterpretations of it. Nowhere does the Bible instruct us to hate our enemies, but apparently certain teachers had twisted the text to suit their fancy. Perhaps seeing God pour out his judgment in various narratives, they thought they could share in his righteous wrath.
Whatever the case, Jesus stands in authority over every other teacher of Scripture before him or after him and authoritatively proclaims… “But I say to you!” The Word made flesh is the final authority for interpreting the Word written…and when it comes to our enemies, his word is this… LOVE.
We are to love our enemies! What does that look like? Well…Jesus helps us get started… it looks like praying for them. That is when we prove ourselves to truly be children of God. That is when we give evidence that we belong to Jesus, because like him… we pray, “Father forgive them…they don’t know what they are doing.”
Our heavenly father makes the sun-shine and the rain fall on all people. He expresses love for all people. Yes…in his righteous wrath he can pour out divine justice, but such an ability belongs to God alone. We are not to assume his position as Holy judge.
And…even though he has righteous wrath toward sinners, he also displays merciful love toward sinners. The sun shining and rain failing are just a few daily examples of such love poured out graciously upon all.
We are to be like our Father in this…we are to pour out love like the rain and shine forth love like the sun…even upon those whom we think deserve drought and darkness. If we belong to the Father as sons and daughters and have tasted of his love toward us, even in our sin…then we must likewise express love toward others even in their sin.
God commands us to love our enemies because he did it first…for he loved us (Romans 5:8).
*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.