5 August 2016Matthew 5:43-48
"Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." (v. 44)
Psalm: Psalm 129
In this passage Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. This
teaching was hard to hear for the original listeners, and is for us
too. But Christ suggests there might be a great reward in doing
"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?" (v. 46)
This verse explores befriending those who you don't love. To do this is a challenge and so if it is accomplished, there is a sense of reward and reward in heaven. Jesus continues to colour this possibility in by using tax collectors as an example of people already loving their enemies. But the tax collectors befriended those who they didn't like in order to get what they wanted.
Tax collectors were traditionally known as 'publicans'. They were local men employed by Roman tax contractors to collect taxes for them. Because they worked for Rome, and often demanded unreasonable payments from the people, the tax-collectors gained a bad reputation. They were generally hated and considered traitors.
So if the people of Jesus' day could try and befriend, accept and love a tax-collector, who were seen as traitors and scam artists, then surely we can show Christian compassion to those who we do not like?
The passage finishes with the phrase, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (v. 48). The Aramaic translation for 'be perfect' means 'completeness, wholeness or not lacking in what's essential in life'. Jesus sets a high standard for us. This is God's high standard for us all.
- Today, could you pray for people who you don't get along with?
- How easy is it to accept that God loves those who we really can't stand?
- When was the last time you prayed for someone who didn't like