Allen Rea, pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church, Baxley
Love is a many-soiled thing these days. In the summer of last year, our Supreme Court decided the biblical mandates for love were outdated and no longer relevant to our day. Jesus continues this section of the Sermon on the Mount by speaking about love.
All of His words transcend time and cultures. God’s Word, which is infallible and inerrant, has no need of amendments. Our churches must remember that the Word is our final authority. What His Word says about love must be shined forth to a world that has forgotten the true meaning of love.
Jesus begins by quoting Leviticus 19:18 and Deuteronomy 23:3-6. Jesus continues to illustrate the authority of the Word of God. He once again takes His followers to a higher plane. Jesus delivers to us very clear directions for love.
What His Word says about love must be shined forth to a world that has forgotten the true meaning of love.
We are to love our enemies. If you are a Christian and do not have enemies, you are not living boldly enough. Our enemies may believe that they owe us revenge, spitefulness, or anger; however, what we owe our enemies is love. If we are persecuted for our faith, then we must pray for those that persecute us.
Few in the United States have experienced persecution for their faith; however, persecution is becoming a reality in our anti-Christian country. Why should we pray for our persecutors? We should pray for their salvation! Enemies need love, persecutors need prayer, and believers need to obey the commands of our Lord.
Doing something so radical as loving and praying for those that don’t reciprocate such actions proves something. Jesus says that we are truly the children of God when we are obedient. Jesus makes the striking point that the Father loves all. He allows the sun to give light to the good and the evil. The Father gives rain to the righteous and the unrighteous.
This verse is often used by some theologians to speak of God loving some in a special way and others in a lesser way. However, that is not what the verse says, nor is it what Jesus means. Jesus’ point is that the Father does not love based on a person’s worth. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2). The Father does not have one love for some, and another, lesser love for others. Any theology that suggests otherwise is not only unbiblical, but dangerous.
Our love also should not change based on our preference of the person. This is exactly Jesus’ point in verse 46. Loving those that love you does not show you are a Christian. There is no reward in loving those that love you back.
What are the motives for what we do? Do we feed the hungry so that they will idolize us? Do we share the Gospel so that our church will set us up as a pristine model? We are to love those that have no intention of loving us back.
Jesus mentions that those tax collectors, so looked down on by Jews, even loved those that loved them. Jesus, then as now, was calling us far beyond cultural norms. We should not just meet our society’s expectations, but be obedient to Jesus’ commandments.
Love as a fruit of the spirit
This section of the Sermon on the Mount ends with a concluding statement. Jesus demands that we be “perfect” just as our heavenly Father is perfect. While some denominations teach sinless perfection in this life, such a belief is difficult to justify from Scripture. The sense of the original Greek here is that of completion. Jesus is demanding completion.
This is the conclusion to a section begun in verse 21. Jesus has been quoting Old Testament law, and ushering His followers to a higher plane of obedience. Our heavenly Father is complete. He lacks nothing. He needs nothing. We are to embody the same sense of completion; however, we will never be complete without obedience to Jesus’ commandments.
Our sufficiency is in Christ. We will never be complete without Him. Jesus proclaims that apart from Him we can do nothing (John 15:5). Christians often admit that the lost are incomplete without Christ, and this is certainly true. Oh how sad it is to see the lost wandering aimlessly! However, Christians rarely notice the droves of believers seeking to attempt to live out the Christian life in the power of the flesh.
Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5. The fruit of the Spirit is a product of the Spirit. A part of that fruit is love. Our love must be unconditional. Our love is sourced in the love of Christ.
Through the love of Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we must love the unloveable. We must pray for the prayerless. We must know and realize that love outranks faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13). The world does not deserve our love, yet we did not deserve God’s love. We must arise daily and determine to follow all of Christ’s commandments.