General Idea: Jesus once again challenges the Pharisees' misunderstanding of the law, and calls for a hard and necessary stand in response to evil, but doing so with goodness and kindness instead of a desire to get even. When our tendency is to respond back in kind, evil for evil, we will only escalate the situation. Thus, when we take this stand with kindness, we may turn an enemy into a friend. In addition, when we do this, we become superior to the enemy in virtue and standing with God. When we respond in the same way as we are harmed, we become as they are, heinous in His sight!
Because we are children of God, we must always measure ourselves on what we say and do on the basis of who we are in Christ. We must mirror His precepts and character, not what others may say or what we desire. In so doing, we become perfect, as being complete in Him.
1. You shall love your neighbor: Jesus is challenging the teachers of the law, who have twisted what the law said and contorted it to their will and means. The Scribes and Pharisees would have lavish debates on defining a neighbor, to whom they could be kind, and to whom they could be mean. In so doing, their responsibility to do as God called was negated as they changed the rules and definitions of God's call, teaching false conclusions. Jesus saw this as heinous and evil. Jesus answers their question of, who is my neighbor, in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37).
a. We are never to contort God's Word to fit our agenda!
b. Nowhere in the OT does it say to hate your enemies (Ex. 23:4-5; Lev. 19:17-18; Prov. 25:21-22).
i. The law taught that kindness was to be shown to your enemy (Ex. 23:4-5; Prov. 25:21-22).
ii. Some took Psalm 139:19-22 as an excuse; however, in context, the request is clearly for those who are wicked. Yes, there were times God called the Jews to attack to take their land, defend themselves, and wipe out sin. However, the focus is always on peace, love, and reconciliation.
c. The Essenes (the writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls) taught the piousness of hating those outside of God's will and covenant. And, the Greeks during Jesus times taught that we are to learn from our enemies, as did the classic book on warfare and tactics, The Art of War, by Suzi, written between 700 and 200 years before Christ. Yet, many taught then, as is taught today, to get your enemies back harder than they got you.
d. Jesus calls us to do the opposite of your feelings and the ways of the world. He said to love them back instead of seeking revenge and payback (Luke 6:32-33). Then, Jesus continually warns us of persecution (Matt. 5:10-12; 10:16-32; 24:9-13).
i. We are to love them in all the characters of love (1 Cor. 13: 4-8). Love is measured by what is costs us, not what we get from it!
ii. We are to bless them; this is also a form of love that shows kindness and self-giving from the teachings, examples, character of, and ways that Jesus acted to those who persecuted Him.
iii. We are to pray for them, not about them. This means we do not pray that God gets them back, rather that He changes their hearts toward Him and His perfect Will. This was going further that the most pious OT saints did (2 Chron. 24:22; Psalm137: 7-9; Jer. 11:20; 15:15; 17:18: 18:23).
iv. Proverbs 25:21-22 tells us that when we overcome evil with good, it totally disorientates those who hurt us, sending them into chaos and confusion, until they are convicted or fall deeper into sin and death. This should give you a wake up call that this is the best revenge; let their own misdeeds haunt them, and let the perfect Judge deal with them!
e. Most Jews did not consider Gentiles as neighbors, so they treated them with contempt, the opposite of OT precepts. They were not to be influenced by them or inter-marry with them, but they still had a responsibility to proclaim the Word of God to the World (Gen. 12:1-3).
2. Sons of the Father means we are to demonstrate ourselves to be truly His children (Luke 6:35-36; Rom. 5:8,10; Eph. 4:31-5:2; 1 John 4:10-11)!
3.Tax collectors were considered the wickedest people, as they often were Jews preying upon other Jews, extorting money and land for foreign powers (in Jesus time the Romans), while keeping a good deal or most of it themselves.
a. There is a fine line between building relationships with neighbors, while keeping ourselves pure and holy.
b. We are called to stay away from pagans, from imitating their bad influences (Duet. 18:9; Jer. 10:2).
4. Perfect means complete or whole, lacking nothing, with the aspect of being merciful (Luke 6:36).
a.This, in context, is calling us to fulfill verses 21-47 into our lives. This is a call to application and commitment.
b.Be perfect is God's call for us to follow His character. It is seeking His standards, and not our own, as the Jewish leaders did. When we strive for His perfection, we will exhibit love and benevolent grace even to our enemies. Our Father shows kindness to evil and unthankful people! We may never live up to God's purity because of our sinful nature, but one day we will in eternity. Our goal is to continue to strive for perfection (Phil. 3:10-13). However, never use eternity as an excuse to do nothing in developing your character, because character is the one thing you earn and build that will go with you into heaven!
c.The Bible elsewhere calls us to be holy as He is holy (Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:26).
d. In classic Judaism and Greek philosophy, Ethics is the imitation and application of God's character.
Perfection comes when we squeeze out all of our preconceived ideas, interests, wants, and desires, and yield ourselves over to Him, so that we are following His purpose, which is perfect, and not our own, which is flawed. To be God's servant allows Him to be glorified from your walk in Him. To rely on His plan, which is more creative, and has better options than we could ever conceive should be our goal as Christian leaders.
1. Do you like to watch movies and TV shows that have a revenge premise to them, such as the Charles Bronson moves? If so, what would that movie be like, and would it be interesting, if the main character held to the precepts of this passage?
2. Why must we take a hard and necessary stand in responding to evil? How could you and society benefit from doing that?
3. Do you think the situation escalates when we respond in kind, evil for evil? Why or why not?
4. Should we, as children of God, always measure what we say and do by who we are in Christ and from His precepts and character, not what others say or what we desire? If you agree, why is that so hard for most Christians? If you do not agree, what is your basis for faith and practice, and for the direction you are taking?
5. Who are your neighbors (Luke 10:29-37)? How do you get along with your neighbors?
6. What do you think the motivations were of the teachers of the law who twisted and contorted what the law said to serve their own agenda? Why do some church leaders still do the same today?
7. Why does Jesus see the removal of responsibility as heinous and evil?
8. What happens when we to contort God's Word to fit our agenda?
9. Why would people say it is OK to hate your enemies? Where would they get this idea?
10. Did you know that the OT law also taught that kindness was to be shown to one's enemy?
11. How do you balance the equation that we are to be kind to our neighbors, yet not be doormats, suffering abuse and wrongful actions by them when, and if they occur?
12. The focus of peace, love, and reconciliation fulfills what role to this passage? What role would it fulfill to our personal life and the conflicts that may come?
13. What lessons could you learn from those who may be your 'enemies?'
14. How would these lessons improve your maturity, faith, and your relationship to God and others?
15. What are the characters of love that are missing from your relationships and communications with others?
16. How can you develop and apply those missing love and kindness characteristics to your relationships?
17. Jesus continually warns us of persecution, yet tells us to love those who hurt us. How do you put this into action in simple misunderstandings as well as life threatening persecutions?
18. Love is measured by what is costs us--not what we gain from it! How is this so in your life? If it is not, do you think you have ever experienced true, real, and impacting love?
19. When we overcome evil with good, it totally disorientates those who hurt us and throws them into chaos and confusion, until they are either convicted, or they fall deeper into sin and death. How can this knowledge motivate you to allow their own misdeeds to haunt them, and let the perfect Judge deal with them? Would this satisfy your lust for revenge? Why or why not?
20. How can you use the precepts of this passage to inspire you to seek perfection? How will you seek His standards, not your own, or those of the pious frauds and hypocritical leaders that you may encounter (Phil. 3:10-13)?
© 2002, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org