Matthew 5:43-48

“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 children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 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 and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

Destruction is much easier than construction. I’m not a carpenter but give me a sledge hammer and a pry bar and I can destroy a room in a few hours. In seconds, carefully placed explosives can implode a skyscraper that took years to build. A road crew can make a segment of highway disappear overnight.

What happens in the physical world can also happen in the world of relationships. A first step is noticing and amplifying slights. Then comes demonizing, name calling, and dehumanizing. Respectful names are replaced with derogatory names. Character is replaced by caricature. Suddenly, voila, a new enemy has been minted!

Just as it is so much easier to destroy than it is to build, it is so much easier to hate our enemies (largely constructed out of our own imaginations for our own self-serving purposes) than it is to love our neighbor (although being able to pick and choose who we count as ‘neighbor’ does make it a bit easier.)

Jesus knows all of this about us. It is one of the many less savory aspects of the broken human condition of sin. It isn’t new. It isn’t going away quickly. And it falls far short of the life that God intends for us.

Jesus too reaches into the natural world to make his point. The rain falls and the sun shines on everyone. We all get 24 hours a day. We all need to eat. Beyond all the differences of race, class, geography, and genes, there is the underlying connection of our humanity. And then there is the challenge of figuring out how to live in that.

In his treatment of the Lord’s Prayer in the Small Catechism, Martin Luther does a masterful job of keeping all of this in mind. To the petition, “Thy will be done”, Luther writes: “In fact, God’s good and gracious will comes about without our prayer, but we ask in this prayer that it may also come about in and among us.” Therein lies the difference. What marks the followers of Jesus is their awareness of the deeper realities of our lives and the fingerprints of God on all creation. Because we see things differently, we act and respond differently.

The world around us then sees how we act, how we respond. At our best, loving our enemies points beyond ourselves to God. At our worst, we add salt to the wounds of life.

That final line is helpful here. There are two ways of understanding the word Jesus uses for “perfect.” One means without blemish or flaw. There is no such thing as a perfect nail. We’ll all fail on that one. The other means to be used as intended. A nail is a perfect instrument for joining two boards together. We can all work on living, and loving, as God intends us to.

Let us pray: Dear Lord, give us patience and perseverance to reach beyond whatever would divide us from others, that we might truly love others as a reflection of your love for us. Bind us together and remind us of the deep connection we share will all other people. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


One Response to “Matthew 5:43-48”

  1. Carolee Groux Says:

    Other verses I read from Romans on loving your neighbor as much as yourself follow here:

    Romans 13:10 “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

    Romans 15:1 “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.”

    Romans 15:2 “Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.”

    Galatians 5:14 “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

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