Sermon Notes: Matthew 5:43-48

Love your enemies

Where we live, we are less likely to have enemies across faith lines and more likely to have enemies across theological distinction lines or lines of sin and accountability. 

You might get less push back over converting to another faith than being confronted with sin or held accountable for holiness. 

That is not an overstatement.

For whichever reason, we are going to gain enemies in life. What Paul told Timothy is true: 

2 Timothy 3:12 (CSB) 12 In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

READ IT: Matthew 5:43-48

When asked if he cares for the Sermon on the Mount, C.S. Lewis responded like this:

“As to ‘caring for’ the Sermon on the Mount, if ‘caring for’ here means ‘liking’ or enjoying, I suppose no one ‘cares for’ it. Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledgehammer? I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of a man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure. C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, Walter Hooper, ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1970), pp. 181, 182. Cited in: R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 139.

These words by C.S. Lewis really captured the likely first response to Jesus’ instructions. It can be a shock to the system. 

And as I’ve said before, the somber response to Jesus’ preaching should really be mediated soon with the joy that Jesus is teaching us how to live as citizens of his kingdom. 

The Sermon on the Mount can be received as a loved child being shown the way of life by a loving father OR as an unrepentant offender caught in sin by the Judge of the universe and spewing a boatload of exceptions. 

I suppose who we are in Christ determines how we receive it. 

Make sure you have come to Jesus by faith so that you can hear Jesus as a good father leading his sons and daughters on the narrow path of life. 

The course correction the Kingdom of God makes for those who are trying to navigate the narrow road to life can be quite a jolt. At the same time, that jolt is a good grace to keep us sober-minded and alert. 

What do we learn from Jesus in this jolting word about loving our enemies?

  1. We must never add to God’s word. 5:43
    1. Jesus repeated the teaching that had been spread to the people, and it was partially true.
    2. Part of what Jesus quotes is Leviticus 19:18. This Scripture commands us to love our neighbor. That is good.
      1. Then Jesus tells us the rest of what had been taught: “…and hate your enemy.”
      2. This second part can be found nowhere in the Bible. 
    3. Somewhere along the way, God’s word had been “expanded” in order to serve some end other than Jesus’ intended end.
      1. They had put words in God’s mouth that he did not say or intend and used them for their ends as though God had said it.
        1. If you say a lie enough you begin to believe it’s the truth. 
        2. This is what they have done.  
    4. This is a deadly activity.
      1. Revelation 22:18-19 (CSB) 18 I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book. 19 And if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share of the tree of life and the holy city, which are written about in this book.
    5. Why the religious leaders add to What God said?
      1. “Primarily because they were convinced that the context of Leviticus 19:18 confines the definition of neighbor to a fellow Israelite (Jesus will confront this idea in the parable of the Good Samaritan), and thus they would not tolerate any extension of the term to anyone else…they felt that God’s direction of (regarding) their historic relations with other peoples, such as his command to exterminate the Canaanites and the imprecatory Psalms, supported (even called for!) this hatred of others.” – R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 140.
        1. What they did is called “eisegesis”, which means reading into a text meaning that is not in the author’s intent.
          1. Usually, eisegesis comes from internal biases, and in this case, they willfully turned their backs on God’s plan for all nations by refusing to invite the outsiders to come to faith in the Lord.
          2. Their bias had led them to add to God’s word
    6. Let us NEVER fall into such a trap. 
  2. Love everyone, particularly enemies, because that is how God loves. 5:44-47
    1. The first question we have to ask is: What is love?
      1. Hesed/Agape…love is not an emotional response to beauty, merit, or kindness, but a moral attitude dedicated to another’s good, whether or not that other is lovable, worthy, or responsive (see Dt 7:7–9). – R.E.O. White, “Love,” in Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1357.
      2. Loving like God does not mean agreement with or avoidance of facts. 
      3. Loving like God means doing what results in human flourishing according to God’s word.
        1. Love like this does not always result in pleasantness or other’s reception of love. 
        2. It does mean we have done the will of God. 
    2. We are not to hate our enemies, but we are to love them.
      1. God is our example to follow. 
      2. Even folks who are evil know how to show favor toward people based on their commonality or agreement or some other emotional response to each other, but not God.
        1. God gives existential sustenance for the flourishing of people to the evil and the good…to those who deny or hate him and those who love him.
          1. God blesses humanity with sustaining grace whether good or evil. 
        2. With God as our example, those who worship Jesus and submit to his kingdom, are to love just like God loves.
          1. We are to bless even when cursed. 
        3. What will come of that kind of love?
          1. In loving the way God loves, we prove that we are his children.
            1. This is important because not everyone is a child of God.
              1. Every human is a creature created by God, and childhood is a result of faith in Jesus. 
              2. The children of God have come to Jesus by faith, been transformed, and begun to act like God in the world as salt and light. 
              3. We prove we are the children of God when we love the way God loves. 
  3. Strive for perfection as a complete, healthy, and whole human being. 5:48
    1. It would be easy to read Jesus’ call to be perfect and miss the point because we are overwhelmed with such a high and holy goal.
      1. NOTE: This action Jesus calls us to is an action based on a promise that he will fulfill.
        1. As redeemed children of God, if we will simply obey his word, Jesus will see that we get the fruit of perfection that please him in his due time. 
    2. Jesus caps this first part of the Sermon on the Mount off with a call to strive toward perfection in his kingdom.
      1. Perfect is the word “telos”, and it is probably better translated as mature or whole, and it is particularly related by context to loving like God loves. 
        1. Jesus is telling us that we are to be moving toward being restored and whole humans that reflect the perfection of created order without sin in how we love and live for God. 
      2. The verb of verse 48 is “be” and “perfect” is the adjective.
        1. The verb is future tense/middle voice.
          1. This action of being perfect is future-oriented.
            1. We are to become perfect. 
            2. We are not that today, and by God’s grace, we are going to strive to be like God in perfection in the slow and steady – narrow and deep pursuit of his kingdom.
              1. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and he will take care of the rest. 
              2. Humanity restored to our Edenic splendor in the image of God with no stain of sin is a glorious end and one we must set our sights on as God shows us in his word.
                1. NOTE: Jesus is not in any way telling us we will achieve perfection in this life. 
                2. He is telling us that true north, the goal of our living is that aim of perfection.
                  1. When you set the heading, you will end up where you are headed. 
                  2. So, Jesus wants us to set the heading for being like him. 
          2. The voice is middle. This means it’s between active and passive.
            1. We walk with God, and God is really the one doing the hard lifting. 
            2. Being perfect as God is perfect is really just an active walking with God while he does the labor.
              1. Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
        2. What does striving to be perfect look like?
          1. It begins with repentance and faith.
            1. Repentance and faith begin the full restoration of what it means to be truly human.
          2. It looks like walking with Jesus and learning to love like him.
            1. We walk with Jesus in covenant fellowship and be radically dedicated to each other’s good by God’s standard of holiness and each other’s particular needs. 
            2. We do this with healthy rhythms, we do it in relationships, and we repeat the cycle. 


  1. Don’t be an enemy.
    1. Be humble.
    2. Be teachable. 
    3. Be repentant.
    4. Be accountable. 
    5. Be committed. 
    6. Strive to have Jesus increase and your agenda decrease each day. 
  2. Don’t let gaining enemies cause you to abandon the faith.
    1. If you stay faithful, you will gain enemies. 
    2. There are some who have been discipled to be your enemy regardless of anything you have or have not done. 
    3. 2 Timothy 3:10-14 (CSB) 10 But you have followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, and endurance, 11 along with the persecutions and sufferings that came to me in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. What persecutions I endured—and yet the Lord rescued me from them all. 12 In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 13 Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed. You know those who taught you,
  3. Loving your enemy does NOT mean foolishly exposing yourself to what the Bible calls fools and foolishness (see Proverbs) and perpetually receiving all kinds of abuse with a smile. 
  4. When you have the opportunity to engage with others who believe you an enemy, do this:
    1. Exodus 23:4-5 (CSB) 4 “If you come across your enemy’s stray ox or donkey, you must return it to him. 5 “If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it.
    2. Proverbs 25:21 quoted by Paul in Romans 12:20 (CSB) 21 If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, 22 for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.
      1. Romans 12:17-20 (CSB) 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.
        1. Simply stated, bless the people who hate you.
          1. This does not mean you are to allow yourself to be abused in any way. 
          2. It may often mean protecting yourself and not seeking vengeance. 
        2. In blessing those who have hurt us and count us as enemies, we don’t ignore justice, we leave room for God to take justice in his time.
          1. Doing this will have to be discerned out in prayer, fasting and fellowship. 
  5. Believe that following the way of Jesus is full of eternal reward.
    1. It is no sin to live for the future grace of God’s reward. 

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