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12. Why Jesus tells us to love our enemies?

Bible reading: Matthew 5vs38-47. My life (put) alongside God's word, volume 1.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I (Jesus) tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. 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. (Italics mine).

Listen to what Joe Kapolyo from Zambia writes about these words:

“In Leviticus 19:18, the commandment to love your neighbour applied where the neighbour was a fellow Israelite (5:43a). Attitudes towards outsiders and Israelites who had rejected their faith and their people were quite different (Exodus 34:12; Deuteronomy 7:2; 23:3-6; Psalm 139:21-22). Although hate your enemy is not commanded in the OT, it can be inferred from the passages quoted above. But Jesus commanded His followers to love their enemies (5:44). The word translated ‘love’ is agape, which means a strong commitment of goodwill towards another, regardless of whether or not they deserve it.”

“Our attitude towards outsiders, the unlovely and unloving, and even those who persecute us, must not be hatred, rejection or indifference. We must positively seek their good. God has given us the example to follow. His gifts are given freely even to those who do not acknowledge Him as Lord (Matthew 5:45-47). Similarly, Jesus’ followers must learn to shower all people indiscriminately with love. The African church urgently needs to learn this lesson in order to curb the scourge of tribalism and racism that is ravaging this continent”. [1]

That last line is so relevant to Sudanese and South Sudanese people at this time in history. There are still several disputed border areas between Sudan and South Sudan. There are ongoing disputed rights for grazing animals and others for arable farming. There are disagreements over oil and mineral mining rights. Unresolved disputes can quickly degenerate into anger with hatred. “They” become your enemy in daily life. You spit out their name with contempt. You don’t believe anything good can come from “them”.

It is exactly here that each individual Sudanese and South Sudanese Christian must answer my question,Why does Jesus tell us to Love our Enemies”?

Before you read on, what is your answer?

Here is mine:

  1. A deliberate choice to obey Jesus in daily life puts a whole new perspective on my situation.

  2. The hot responses of hatred become impossible for me. I cannot let myself be carried along with the crowd.

  3. Following God’s willing example makes me responsible for encouraging the daily provision for “our enemies” as well as for ourselves.

  4. When the impulses of anger and the selfishness of a “this is what I want” attitude are taken out of the situation, there is flexibility for constructive dialogue to develop between parties.

  5. Sons have the characteristics of their fathers. Sudanese and South Sudanese Christian children of God will exhibit God their Father’s qualities of love, mercy, graciousness, forgiveness, care, patience, forbearance, and a gentle firmness, always with a clear understanding (working definition) of right against wrong.

I will not hide the fact that this type of living is very difficult. It is not what comes naturally to a proud Arab, Dinka, Nuere, Moro, Mabaan, Nuba, etc., nor to a proud Englishman like me! Yet I know I must be a Christian first, and an Englishman second – even if that makes me stand almost alone against my people on some occasions.

  • The NT Greek word translated “enemies” in Matthew 5:43 is echthros. It means “hated or hateful, hostile one”.[2]

As well as meaning our outright foes, the word is big enough to include even our own people when they do not respond Christianly to things happening. The godly-living Christian may have to show his own people, from the Bible, how and why we should love those we have become accustomed to hating. A tough job has just become tougher!

In Matthew 5:38-42 Jesus offers four ways to live very differently to the world around about. They include giving gentle but constructive responses to hostility and exploitation. Then, after our passage in Matthew chapter 6, our Lord Jesus reminds bold Christians that our Heavenly Father sees the secret things we do to become godly-living believers. Our giving 6:1-4, our praying 6:5-13, our forgiving 6:14-15, our fasting 6:16-18, our goal-setting 6:19-23, can all help us to “love our enemies”.

When you get the chance you may want to discuss in small groups of believers ‘how’ these things could work out in practice.

Secret devotion evidences itself in true Christian living (that is living as Jesus Christ Himself would live). His closest disciple John wrote: “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus walked”, 1 John 2:6. “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to His (Jesus’) commands. As you have heard from the beginning, His command is that you walk in love”, 2 John verse 6.

Discussion questions:

1. Matthew 5:45 uses the sun as an example of God’s generous sharing the blessings of

creation with everyone. What does this teach us about our attitudes towards other

people? Why?

2. How does the fact that God sees what is done secretly (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18) help us to

love our enemies?

3. How can you show practical Christian love to your enemy in your own life situation?

[1] Joe Kapolyo Africa Bible Commentary Matthew (Word Alive: Nairobi) 2006, p.1121 [2] Vine W.E., Expository Dictionary of OT & NT words (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1996, p.201


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