Counter-Cultural Christians, Part 2 (Matthew 5:43-48)

WW2015-wk37A few years ago a country song came out by Jaron and the Long Road to Love titled “Pray for You”. Part of the song’s chorus went, “I pray your brakes go out runnin’ down a hill, I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill and knocks you in the head like I’d like to”. This warped view of prayer, unfortunately, is the type of prayer many would love to pray over their enemies. However, Jesus shows us a different way. In Matthew 5:43-48, He declares for us to pray for our enemies but not in some vengeful way. Rather, in what may be the most radical command Jesus has given up to this point in the Sermon on the Mount, He calls for His followers to not simply pray but to love their enemies. He begins by addressing “what you have heard”. It is worth noting here, as with the other statements (5: 21, 27, 33, 38), Jesus is not correcting the Old Testament but misrepresentations of it. While there are Old Testament passages which appear to approve of hating one’s enemies (see Psalm 11:5 and Psalm 139:21-22), we must keep before us the judgment of God. In connection with this, Dan Doriani says, “The Bible never commands us to hate individual enemies, but there is a place for righteous wrath toward God’s settled enemies” (Doriani, The Sermon on the Mount: The Character of a Disciple, 100). In other words, we must understand enemies are those who are against God, those who will ultimately face the wrath of God if they do not repent. Still, how do we see God treating them? “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (verse 45). God gives what is called common grace in our daily lives. When we realize that, we understand an even greater truth: God gives common grace and He has even given saving grace to some of His enemies (Romans 5:6-8). As those who have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, our motivation to love our enemies does not come from something we produce in ourselves. Our motivation for loving our enemies comes from the love of Christ. The gospel compels us to not only not retaliate and show kindness but to love as well. We, as Christians, beyond the cultural norm and love those who we are opposed to (verses 46-47). We love our friends, our neighbors, and, yes, our enemies. We love by praying for those who persecute us, that they may receive God’s common grace and be made alive by God’s saving grace. Our love for them reveals the love we have received in God (verse 45). As so, this type of love is a call to reflect our Father. By the power of the Holy Spirit, we can grow in our family resemblance. God’s love is a counter-cultural love and may ours be so too!

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