Listen: Matthew 5:43-47 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor 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?
I assume that the phrase, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” comes from a rabbinical writing of some sort that people would have been familiar with. There is nothing at all in the Talmud, the most renowned of the rabbinical writings, that says the law requires us to love even our enemies. So what Jesus says in these verses is completely radical for his day.
Jesus points out the source of this radical love. Our Father in heaven shows love to his enemies every single day. He sends them rain. He causes the sun to rise on them. He provides for them in the same way that he provides for his children, his people. And of course, the Savior who spoke these words prayed that God would forgive his enemies from the cross.
How do we practice God’s radical sort of love? We can begin by praying for our enemies. Pray for the person at work who annoys you. Pray for the family member that won’t talk to you anymore. Pray for the people who don’t agree with your politics. Pray for the person who took you to court. Pray for the person who offended you. They may not have a change of heart, but you will.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, it’s easy to love my family and my friends. It is not so easy to love those who have hurt me or who have disagreed with me. I pray that you would give me your heart, a heart that extends kindness to the good and evil alike, a heart that can pray even for my enemies. Amen.
Listen: Matthew 6: 1-4: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
When is charity really not charity at all? It’s when you give just to give yourself a pat on the back, hoping that others may see how generous you are. You might think that this is not describing you, but it is. “I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature,” Paul wrote in Romans 7. My sinful nature affects everything I do. That’s why the Bible says that my righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). When I give to the beggar on the street, my sinful nature pats me on the back. When I write out a check for church, my sinful nature pats me on the back. For the unbeliever, the hypocrite, that is the only motivation he has for his generosity. It makes him feel good about himself.
But for the believer, there is also the new self that God has created in him. In our new self, we don’t like to be noticed for our charity. We would rather that others didn’t notice at all. We are glad when God notices, only because our gifts are always given in thanksgiving for what he has given us, and for what he has done for us. The joy we have in giving back to God from what he has abundantly given us is the only reward we will ever need.
I wish that I could cancel out the false motives of my sinful nature, but I can’t, because until I am in heaven, sin will always be with me. At the same time, I am thankful that my God in heaven accepts my charity as an act of praise for Jesus’ sake. He accepts my charity because he accepts ME for Jesus’ sake. Which only makes me want to give more!
Prayer: Father, forgive me for my shallow praise and thankfulness. In my new self, my only reason for giving is to give you thanks and praise. But my sinful nature with its pride somehow sneaks into my heart as well. Thank you, dear Father, for accepting me for Jesus’ sake. To you alone be all glory forever. Amen.