February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matthew 5:43–48 (NIV)
Reading this passage reminds me of a song called “Let Your Love be Strong” by the band Switchfoot. As I listen to the lyrics, they sound like a poetic version of Jesus’ message. We love to talk about love, but when it’s time to actually practice it, we royally fail at it. It’s already a struggle to love the people we tolerate, but now we’re reminded to love those who persecute us. Love is hard, isn’t it?
In this world of news, I’ve found nothing new
I’ve found nothing pure
Maybe I’m just idealistic to assume that truth
Could be fact and form
That love could be a verb
Maybe I’m just a little misinformed
As we continue to read the Book of Matthew, I can’t help but notice why Jesus and the Pharisees constantly had clashing views. Nowhere in the Law does God promote hating our enemies. From the Old Testament, God commands His people to love their neighbors as themselves. When reading Leviticus 19:15–18, we learn that “neighbor” does in fact refer to fellow Israelites, and it seems like that’s how they interpreted this. But then, they added the second part about hating one’s enemies, which is nowhere in sight! However, as we read further we see God also commands the Jews to love the foreigners as themselves (verses 33–34). So, when did “love your neighbor and hate your enemy” become law? If God wants us to love our neighbors and the foreigners, does that mean He wants us to love . . . everyone?
A select group of Pharisees and teachers during Jesus’ time started teaching this misapplication of Scripture. This is one of the many reasons God came in human form: to set the record straight. Their teaching is so far from God’s true heart, Jesus had to intervene and explain what the Father meant.
For instance, there’s been this connection between sin and the suffering of a natural catastrophe. So, if an earthquake were to hit Las Vegas (or Sin City), some of us might blame it on the perversity in the city. This is what we call Retribution Theology, but Jesus is debunking this philosophy in verse 45.
Finally, verse 48 is the perfectionist’s excuse to continue to strive for perfection! But this is not our ticket to be a perfectionist. It’s simply our reminder that Jesus wouldn’t ask us to do something He wouldn’t do Himself—and Jesus is perfect after all. Love IS hard because it’s sacrificial and it covers a multitude of sins, and very often, love can hurt us. Jesus wants us to love our enemies because we were once His enemies. Yet, God so loved the world (or God so loved them all) (John 3:16).
So friends, let our love be strong!
This is how the song ends:
Let the wars begin, let my strength wear thin
Let my fingers crack, let my world fall apart
Train the monkeys on my back to fight
Let it start tonight
When my world explodes, when my stars touch the ground
Falling down like broken satellites
Let your love be strong, and I don’t care what goes down
Let your love be strong enough to weather through the thunder cloud
Fury and thunder clap like stealing the fire from your skies
All that I am hanging on
All of my world resting on your love
Pause: “Let Your Love be Strong” is part of a trilogy of songs. You can listen and meditate on all three songs here: Let Your Love Be Strong, Your Love Is a Song, and Your Love Is Strong
Practice: How can you practically love your enemy? Read 1 Corinthians 13.
Pray: Jesus, I am weak without You. Thank You for supplying me with Your love and strength. Lord, I want to love like You and hope I can display it to those around me like You did when You walked this earth. Your love is my symphony, my melody, my everything! Forgive me for falling short when I’m not patient or I act on my anger. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God, You are the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalm 73:26). Amen.
Alessandra (Ally) Velsor has been part of the Calvary Chapel staff since 2009. Because her family owned various restaurants growing up, she determined to do something else and got a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication. But… never say never…
She served in The Grill at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale for 14 years as a server, restaurant manager, and catering manager. She’s currently serving as the cafe supervisor in the Plantation campus. She met her husband, Kenny, working at The Grill and married him in 2011. They have two amazing children Joshua and Sunny.