Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You are to love your neighbour and to hate your enemy’...”
— Matthew 5:43 (USC)
What Jesus is about to say to his disciples is possibly so shocking to their senses that they might feel compelled to walk away as some did in John 6:60. The teaching that was still now en route was difficult to accept let alone stomach.
But the teaching to come would hit to the heart of the integrity of the gospel. It’s not about us or them, it’s all about the kingdom of God.
There is a far bigger agenda.
Our typical standpoint on relational justice – our default position – even if we needed to be taught this (which we don’t) – is ‘love those who love us, hate those who hate us’. We need to make no effort at all in behaving this way. But, when we execute this ethic, we are not Christian at all, for we are hardly set apart from the rest of the world.
Jesus is about to hit the disciples and other watcher’s-on with an astounding imperative; one that only makes sense from the kingdom perspective because of hindsight.
We woo no one to the gospel when we act as people act in the world.
Indeed, it can be seen in the playing out of many immoral dramas that have affected the church that our world’s society expects a higher standard to come from the church. Sex abuse claims and other scandals light up our news feeds.
So Jesus is surely teaching something quite shocking here, on the one hand, yet something expected, if we are talking holiness and being ‘set apart’ on the other.
And now we come to prepare our hearts for those we don’t agree with. Those who we have come to have difficulty with. Them that have bullied us. The unlovely and unlovable. To these there is love abounding from the Son. He is camped there with them; they are his sinners – as we are.
As we imagine Jesus there, eating with them, engaging them in love – these persons we have given up on – we are counselled to watch him. Does he love them or their deeds? He loves them.
This is our challenge: to love as Jesus loves.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. You will have no doubt tried to love those who have given you difficulty. Does knowing Jesus’ way with sinners help you as you approach those that have hurt you?
2. What about those you have hurt. What encouragement is there that you might be forgiven?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.