The GOOD Letters
Published in

The GOOD Letters

Impossible Love

Matthew 5:43–48

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[i] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

In this passage we find Jesus talking to a large group of people in his most famous sermon: “The Sermon on the Mount.” He takes what would have been a familiar approach to teaching and talks about how we are called to be righteous, humble, merciful, and virtuous in general.

The aspect of the message that is revolutionary is Jesus conveys to the crowd that God is a Father who cares about what we have in our hearts, not just what appears to be righteous actions and religion. Jesus simultaneously calls us to be righteous and reminds us how impossible it is to be righteous in our own strength.

This sounds confusing, but it highlights the fact that our righteousness is completely dependent on Him working in our lives. Jesus is following in the oral tradition of the times that he existed in. This sermon is packed with content and rhetorical devices that are meant to be memorized and passed on by its hearers.

In verses 43–48 of Matthew 5 Jesus says something very peculiar, an almost paradoxical statement: Love your enemies. The reason Jesus punctuates this part of the sermon with that statement is because loving our enemies, is when we are most like God AND it is something that we can’t do in our own strength.

As sinners, our entire being is at odds with the character of God’s holiness. “Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This shows us that the love of God is truly unconditional, and that it transcends feelings.

The Greek word for enemy, echthrós, translates as foe or adversary. That is a very strong word! I doubt most of us are walking around with sworn enemies who want to see us dead. But Jesus was intentional with this word for the fact that it sounds so extreme. Even now, if you reflect on that one person at your job or in your class that can get under your skin with the smallest ways, it feels utterly impossible to love them and regard them with all of the virtue that love requires.

What’s more is, the Greek word used for love in this passage is, agapate, this love means to love unconditionally. Jesus is telling us to love that person in our lives that is seemingly unlovable, with love that doesn’t take into account their jealous actions, bad attitude, condescension, and downright rudeness. This sounds impossible, because it is, but when Jesus is our source of love, it is more than possible.

Jesus marries the Old Testament understanding of loving your neighbor with the new testament concept of God as Father who loves us despite our sin because of Christ’s death.

  • Leviticus 19:18 “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.
  • Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Challenge: Pray, everyday this week, that God will teach you how to love that one person in your life who is the hardest to love. Ask God to shine through you as you love like Him.



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