On Monday we learned that our neighbor is everyone, no matter what. We see that this is a tough commandment to follow, but know that day by day Jesus can give us the strength to improve.
Jesus told us that He is the fulfillment of the law, and took some time to explain the intent of the law.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matt 5:43-48 (ESV)
What contrast is Jesus making by using “but” in verse 44? How will you demonstrate the second greatest commandment if you follow Jesus’ teaching in verse 44? How would it change your life if you did so?
Jesus gives us commandments that are not possible to follow completely – in the natural. That’s why the Holy Spirit is in us – to help us to be more Christlike. We are to act completely different from the world:
“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. 29 To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either. 30 Give to everyone who begs from you, and from one who takes away your goods do not demand them back. 31 And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them. 32 “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 35 But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. 36 Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:27-36 (ESV)
Who does Jesus tell us to love? Our enemies – those who curse us – those who abuse us. Why are we to show love to those people? Because it’s not what happens in the world! We show Christ’s love when we act different from those around us. We are to do this because we are to model our Father’s behavior.
How will these instructions impact the way you treat the guy in the next cubicle who you just can’t stand? How about the homeless lady on the corner? Your elderly neighbor? Your kids when they are driving you crazy?
Does the last passage seem impossible to you? Can you imagine a time in your life when you literally turn the other cheek? Or, like most of us, would your reaction be less loving and more confrontational?
Take some time to talk to God about how these verses made you feel. Uncomfortable? Unable? Challenged? Convicted? Let the Holy Spirit guide you as you work daily to be more Christlike and to follow the second greatest commandment more closely.
How are you doing with the Read Through the Bible Challenge? Are you keeping up with your daily reading? Do you listen to the Scriptures as you travel to and from work? Do you keep notes as you read? Stop by the other blog – readthroughthebiblechallenge.blogspot.com – and work together to read through God’s Word in 2012. Ask questions – raise a discussion – request prayer – either here OR there. I pray that you are keeping up with the reading – and see the blessings of God as you learn more about Him!
See you Friday.