|INTERNATIONAL BIBLE STUDIES|
LESSON FOR MAY 12, 1996
Loving the ‘Unlovable’
KEY VERSE: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” —Matthew 5:44
SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:38-48
THIS PORTION OF Jesus’ sermon on the mount helps us understand how we are to relate to our enemies, and to others we consider ‘unlovable’. His proposals are a radical departure from commonly accepted behavior, and since the Lord’s followers have fallen flesh such as is common to man it is not possible for them to be perfect as God is perfect, except in heart intention.
God’s love, the type of perfect love demonstrated here by Jesus, is termed in the Scriptures “agape” love, and is explained in Vine’s Biblical Dictionary as follows: “This is not the love of complacency or affection; that is, it was not drawn out by any excellency in its objects. It was an exercise of the divine will in deliberate choice that which lies in the nature of God himself. It expresses the deep and constant ‘love’ and interest of a perfect Being toward entirely unworthy objects.”
God loves all people, as evidenced by the fact that the sun rises and the rain falls on everyone, regardless of their present relationship with or attitude toward God. (vs. 45) This is the type of love Jesus displayed, and that Paul describes in I Corinthians 13. Jesus said, If we love those who love us. They will return that love, and our reward is simply more love from them. (vs. 46) We must transcend this type of love.
Jesus said to his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (vs. 48) The word here translated ‘perfect’ means ‘complete’ or ‘mature’. In order for us to fulfill all righteousness we are to be perfect in love [agape love].
Jesus taught that we are not to resist an evil person, and not to return evil for evil, but we are to return evil behavior with a gracious, loving act. If someone hits us, we are not to hit back but to offer the other cheek. (vs. 39) Do not say, “I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did.”—Prov. 24:29, New International Version
“If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.” (vs. 40) That is to say, if any man sues us and legally gets possession of our property, we are to feel no grudge against him but are to render up willingly all that the court might decree. We are to be law-abiding.
In ancient times, if one was conscripted and forced to carry baggage for a soldier one mile, they were not to grumble but to go with them for two miles, motivated by love.
As the Heavenly Father is always giving and never asking, so all his children should have this character likeness, and be ready to give something to anyone in need. Paul quotes Jesus, saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35), and Solomon said, “He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done.”—Prow 19:17, NIV
Jesus reminds us, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”—vss. 43,44
This ideal must be our goal.