27 “But I say to you who listen: Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29 If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. 30 Give to everyone who asks you, and from one who takes your things, don’t ask for them back. 31 Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. 32 If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
In front of a crowd of thousands, Jesus turned to face His disciples and began saying things that turned their world upside down. Many of us are familiar with the first part of Jesus’ discourse, popularly called ‘The Beatitudes.’
In those verses, Jesus challenges the perception of the crowds by redefining their idea of status. He elevates those who are meek and broken, and downplays those who are well off or self-righteous. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, merely challenging the disciples’ perceptions or ideology. He takes it one step further, directly challenging their behavior and actions.
For all the things the disciples were trying to do right, they still were doing a few things incorrectly - and one of the main things they were failing to do correctly was loving those around them. Jesus knew that in order to understand the love of God truly and fully, the disciples must first understand the value of other people besides themselves, and the necessity of community in the Kingdom of God.
It is easy to love a person who is lovely. But it seems impossible sometimes to love a person who we deem to be unlovely—yet this is exactly what Jesus commands His disciples to do in verse 32! He commands them to love even their worst enemies, and to pray blessings over them. He presumes a generosity from them that goes beyond what is asked or expected. Keeping score is no longer allowed when it comes to loving one another, and giving must no longer be determined by merit or hope of reciprocation (verse 30).
These truths undo everything that feels normal for most of us, unless we are completely filled by the Holy Spirit and are seeing people the way Christ sees them.
Our Christian walk is meant to make us more effective in our walks of life with others - and the inverse is true as well! Having community with those around us, and learning to love people who are different from us should improve our walk with Christ. Where generosity is the norm and love is extended without calculation, God will be glorified.
In his book The Community of the King, Howard Snyder wrote, “Until the kingdom of God can be demonstrated in our relationship of love with one another, we have nothing to say to an unbelieving and broken world.” When I first read that quote, I felt something inside my heart go, “Ouch!” Yet this is exactly what Christ was saying to His disciples, face to face!
I am a person who tends to keep a few close friends beside me, rather than many. And If I’m honest, those I choose to spend most of my time with are people I really love or think are cool. But these verses cause me to re-evaluate the reasons I have chosen the company I keep.
I do think that as Christians it is very important to surround ourselves with wise counsel, and with people who encourage us to draw near to Christ (Proverbs 13:20, Psalm 1:1). But this doesn’t mean I have an excuse to only hang out with people like me, or who are always easy to love! As Proverbs 27:17 says, “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (NAS)
Jesus called His disciples to love in a way that would build up something more important than themselves. He calls us to do the same, so that by our love the world will know us… and ultimately, they will know Whose we are. (John 13:35)
- Think about the friends you have, and the relationships you’re seeking to pursue on a weekly basis. How many of these people are different from you in a way that can sharpen you?
- Jesus challenges us to love the unlovely as He loves us when we are unlovely! What are some things that you consider “unlovely,” or that make it difficult for you to love others?
- Pray for your enemies, or anyone in your life who seems to be an enemy to you. It’s an impossible task without the love of Christ reining in us – but begin asking for His help! He will help you love in ways you thought were impossible.