Matthew 5:43. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
In this case a command of Scripture had a human antithesis fitted on to
it by depraved minds and this human addition was mischievous. This is a
common method, to append to the teaching of Scripture a something which
seems to grow out of it, or to be a natural inference from it, which
something may be false and wicked. This is a sad crime against the Word
of the Lord. The Holy Spirit will only father his own words. He owns
the precept, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor," but he hates the
parasitical growth of "hate thine enemy." This last sentence is
destructive of that out of which it appears legitimately to grow, since
those who are here styled enemies are, in fact, neighbors. Love is now
the universal law; and our King, who has commanded it, is himself the
pattern of it. He will not see it narrowed down, and placed in a
setting of hate. May grace prevent any of us from falling into this
Matthew 5:44-45. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that
curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of
your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the
evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
Ours it is to persist in loving, even if men persist in enmity. We are
to render blessing for cursing, prayers for persecutions. Even in the
cases of cruel enemies, we are to "do good to them, and pray for them."
We are no longer enemies to any, but friends to all. We do not merely
cease to hate, and then abide in a cold neutrality, but we love where
hatred seemed inevitable. We bless where our old nature bids us curse,
and we are active in doing good to those who deserve to receive evil
from us. Where this is practically carried out, men wonder, respect,
and admire the followers of Jesus. The theory may be ridiculed, but the
practice is reverenced, and is counted so surprising that men attribute
it to some Godlike quality in Christians, and own that they are the
children of the Father who is in heaven. Indeed, he is a child of God
who can bless the unthankful and the evil; for in daily providence the
Lord is doing this on a great scale, and none but his children will
imitate him. To do good for the sake of the good done, and not because
of the character of the person benefited, is a noble imitation of God.
If the Lord only sent the fertilizing shower upon the land of the
saintly, drought would deprive whole leagues of land of all hope of a
harvest. We also must do good to the evil, or we shall have a narrow
sphere, our hearts will grow contracted, and our sonship towards the
good God will be rendered doubtful.
Matthew 5:46. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
Any common sort of man will love those who love him; even tax gatherers
and the scum of the earth can rise to this poor, starveling virtue.
Saints cannot be content with such a groveling style of things. "Love
for love is manlike," but "love for hate" is Christlike. Shall we not
desire to act up to our high calling?
Matthew 5:47. And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
On a journey, or in the streets, or in the house, we are not to confine
our friendly greetings to those who are near and dear to us. Courtesy
should be wide, and none the less sincere because general. We should
speak kindly to all, and treat every man as a brother. Anyone will
shake hands with an old friend, but we are to be cordially courteous
towards every being in the form of man. If not, we shall reach no
higher level than mere outcasts. Even a dog will salute a dog.
Matthew 5:48. Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Or, "Ye shall be perfect." We should reach after completeness in love,
fullness of love to all around us. Love is the bond of perfectness; and
if we have perfect love, it will form in us a perfect character. Here
is that which we aim at, perfection like that of God; here is the
manner of obtaining it, namely, by abounding in love; and this suggests
the question of how far we have proceeded in this heavenly direction,
and also the reason why we should persevere in it even to the end,
because as children we ought to resemble our Father. Scriptural
perfection is attainable, it dies rather in proportion than in degree.
A man's character may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing; and yet
such a man will be the very first to admit that the grace which is in
him is at best in its infancy, and though perfect as a child in all its
parts, it has not yet attained to the perfection of full-grown manhood.
What a mark is set before us by our Perfect King, who, speaking from
his mountain-throne, saith, "Be ye perfect, even as your Father which
is in heaven is perfect"! Lord, give what thou dost command; then both
the grace and the glory will be thine alone.
This exposition consisted of readings from Matthew 5:43-48; and Matthew 6:1-4.