3.9.21 – Daily Dose of Worship. A study on Matthew. Part 37. Shocking love.

“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 prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” – Matthew 5:43-45

So….really take a minute here and digest these verses and the below explanations. This is such a radical and shocking love that Jesus is asking for….it almost seems impossible….but…Jesus.

Instead of only acting in love towards neighbors, Jesus tells His disciples to love their enemies and even to pray for those who persecute them. Though few people live this out, in a meaningful way, the idea is deeply ingrained in western culture. Many modern people have heard this teaching, or variations on it, all our lives. That makes it easy to forget how radical the claim was, especially for those who live with daily threats from dire enemies, as did the first-century Israelites.

On one hand, becoming part of the Roman empire brought benefits. Rome typically did not destroy those they conquered—rather, they allowed relative freedom with a set of conditions. Israel continued to function as Israel in many ways, and they experienced a form of peace under Roman rule. That said, Rome ruled over conquered nations absolutely and severely. Dissent beyond the established limits was savagely punished. Crucifixions were common and brutal. Roman soldiers enjoyed privileges and took liberties with Jewish citizens under their thumb. The Roman tax burden left many people in near poverty. The Jewish people understandably viewed Rome as their enemy.

And yet, a man thought by many to be the Messiah, the Savior who was supposed to free Israel from her enemies, has just commanded His disciples to love and pray for their enemies. Worse, He equated this with the righteous living needed to enter the kingdom of heaven. This is hard enough to grasp today, but at the time the words were first spoken they would have been shocking.

Christ does nothing to take the edge off this command, either. This is not described as emotional love, or affection. This kind of love is meant to be expressed in action. Offering prayers to God for people who are actively hurting you, especially for being associated with Christ, requires looking at the world in a completely different way.

This is an absolutely incredible statement. Shocking is the right word here. For these people that were being completely oppressed by the Roman empire, this kind of love…..was shocking.

13 Comments

  1. Peggy F on March 9, 2021 at 12:14 am

    but………….Jesus ! I have been crucified with Christ, and the life I live is not my own, Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God , who loved me and gave His life for me. Gal 2:20 Only IN HIM can we obey this command. With man it is impossible , but nothing is impossible with God ! Matthew 19>26

    • Patti S on March 9, 2021 at 7:16 am

      Peggy, thank you for the reminder of the Galatians reference.
      Patti

  2. Margaret K on March 9, 2021 at 12:14 am

    This is the kind of Agape Love that Jesus displayed on the Cross, and later Stephen displayed while being stoned.
    Both prayed for those that were killing them, asking the Father to forgive them and not count it against them.

    • Dave Pettigrew on March 10, 2021 at 9:26 pm

      Yes, incredible love in both of these examples…

  3. Patti S on March 9, 2021 at 7:15 am

    I am struck by the word choices today in the devo……shocking, radical,savagely, ‘does not take the edge off’.
    Such a good reminder, too, of the context when Jesus spoke these words.
    Such a good reminder of how I am to live and love today.

    I can speak to where I have loved in this way And I can definitely speak to where I have not.
    It starts in my heart and thoughts when I do not show this kind of love. My actions then follow, matching those thoughts.

    Reminds me of the Devos a few days back.

    Because of Him

  4. polly dunn on March 9, 2021 at 10:51 am

    This shows that God is Love. Jesus was showing who the Father is. That is why I will never believe in an eternal hell where God throws people to burn for eternity. He is not a God who tells us to forgive and love our enemies while He does just the opposite. Jesus forgave His torturers and enemies while He hung on the cross they put Him on. If He was going to send them to hell that would have been a good time to warn them. I believe in total reconcilliation that was taught by most of the early church fathers.

    • Dave Pettigrew on March 10, 2021 at 9:26 pm

      Amen Polly. thanks for chiming in here. God is indeed love. The absolute definition of love.

      Yet, we have to dig a little deeper here to try and understand that love and how it fits into the overall picture. I do believe that our God is a God of love and forgiveness, yet, there are many many scripture references, referenced in a lot of these comments, that speak of the result of turning away from God. One that was cited was John 3:16 – 18. Here are the scriptures:

      “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

      That leads me to believe that whoever turns away from the Son will be condemned. Turned away from by God. Not a place I want to be for sure.

      “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 6:23, also another very telling verse.

      We know that God hates and despises sin, He makes that clear in many many verses of the Bible.

      And to be honest, I believe that God, in His infinite love and mercy, doesn’t want anyone to suffer. This is why Jesus was sent to the world, to offer us freedom, hope and mercy through His death on the cross.

      Prayers up for all of us as we wrestle with this topic.

    • Sherri H on March 10, 2021 at 10:06 pm

      I do have to disagree here God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell yet if they keep denying Him thats where they’ll end up He by no means wants anyone to perish without giving their life to Him thats why irs so important for us to go and be disciples for Him

      • Margaret K on March 11, 2021 at 12:17 am

        I agree Sherri – the Bible is clear – Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He is the ONLY way to the Father. He is the only way to heaven.

        Hell was created for Satan and his demons. It was not created for people, BUT if a person rejects Jesus, that is where they will spend eternity.

        The most quoted Scripture of all time is John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believed in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

        You have to believe in Jesus to have eternal life – otherwise you WILL perish (go to hell).

        The next 2 verses make it even more clear – “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the Name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:17-18

    • Margaret K on March 11, 2021 at 12:35 am

      God is a God of love. He is Love.
      However, He is also a God of Justice.
      He cannot overlook sin – justice demands a price he paid.
      That is why Jesus came. He came to pay the price for us.
      Salvation is a free gift, but we have to receive His free gift.
      If we reject Jesus, we forfeit the gift and have to pay the price.
      The Bible says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” Romans 6:23
      God loves people. He does not want anyone to go to hell, but if a person does not make Jesus their Lord, then they have chosen to reject God’s free gift and they will have to pay the price themselves.
      Justice demands it.

    • Suzanne on March 11, 2021 at 8:23 am

      Luke 23:34 34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”[a] And they cast lots to divide his garments.

      John 14:6
      Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

      Romans 10:
      13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

      John 1:14
      The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

      John 1:17
      For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

      John 10:9
      I am the gate. If anyone enters through Me, he will be saved. He will come in and go out and find pasture.

      John 11:25
      Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me will live, even though he dies.

  5. Sherri H on March 10, 2021 at 10:13 pm

    its easy to love and pray for those we like,love our test is to love and pray for our enemies thank you God for allowing me to pray for any enemy I may have

  6. Suzanne on March 11, 2021 at 8:01 am

    There are too many scriptures to cut and paste here….a good place to see scripture about a subject is to google topical bible…it will lead you to the open Bible where you can put a word, name, theme etc and pull up scriptures that pertain

    these were the first three under ‘hell’
    Revelation 21:8
    But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

    Matthew 10:28
    And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Matthew 25:46
    And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

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