You Have Heard: Neighbours and Enemies
“Love your neighbour” can be found in Leviticus 19:18 whilst ‘hate your enemy’ may be inferred from passages such as Deuteronomy 23:3-6, 25:17-19 and Psalm 139:2.
Who is My Neighbour?
If I know who my neighbour is, then whoever does not fall within these parameters will automatically be my enemy.
So groupings begin, Neighbour vs Others, Jews vs Gentiles, Shared Values/Position vs Differing Values/Position, Friend vs Enemy; and Love vs Hate.
Over time, these groupings can become nationalistic, exclusive, prideful, narrow-minded, inward, and even selfish.
Extending to interpersonal and casual relationships, this resulted in infractions, party lines, religious positions, and cliques, developing a US vs THEM mentality.
Society became fragmented, family relationships strained, marriages broken.
Enemies are anyone who opposes or disagrees with me – a spouse, parents, schoolmate, colleague, boss, pastor, cell leader, church member, and the list goes on.
If we allow another into our “space”, he becomes our neighbour; even an enemy.
If we are willing to extend our “space”, everyone becomes our neighbour.
Here is another point to ponder: if you are not my neighbour, then you are my enemy; however, if you are not my enemy, it does not mean I consider you my neighbour which results in apathy and self-centeredness.
But I Say To You: Love Your Enemies
There is consistency in Matthew 5:44-45 and Luke 6:27-36, where they teach us how to love one’s enemies.
You are to bless those who curse you, do good (kalos) to those who hate you; and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute.
The other New Testament writers teach the same points in Romans 12:20–21, 1 Corinthians 4:12, and 1 Peter 3:8–9.
God’s Common Love and Grace
God loves all, God’s common love and grace are extended to all.
His sun and His rain are given to all who are evil or good, just or unjust.
When He withholds, that is His prerogative and by His instruction.
Often, we see that for the group of people, the “cup of sin” has reached its fullness, and that is when God acts in His judgment at the perfect time that only He knows.
God demonstrates His love to all, including His enemies (Romans 5:8, 5:10 and Colossians 1:21-23a).
He invites all to be saved into His kingdom through faith in Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:4).
But not all will respond to this invitation and demonstration of His love.
Jesus loved His enemies, both Jews and Gentiles, but was reviled, persecuted and crucified (1 Peter 2:21-24).
In the same way, we are to love our enemies.
Bless them, do good to them, pray for them but not all will respond positively or kindly, though some might (Luke 6:35b).
The Main Point And Goal Is Perfection
Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).
“Therefore” is a summary statement, wrapping up this segment of Jesus’ teaching.
Stating that “You Shall Be Perfect”.
Not Sinless but growing towards maturity, completeness and wholeness.
This is expected of sons and daughters of God.
To love our enemies in the same way that God loves those who oppose Him, whether or not they finally accept or turn to Him.
Are we perfected in Christ?
Or being perfected?
We have been perfected in Christ but we are still being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).
Our salvation is being worked out toward perfection and maturity. This cannot be achieved by the flesh but in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Adoption by whom we cry “Abba, Father.” (Romans 8:15-17).
In the flesh, we will react according to the ways of the world and hate our enemies.
But in the Spirit, we are enabled to walk “upside down” in the ways of the kingdom to love our enemies.
All these are so that we might be conformed to the image of His Son – fullness of maturity (Romans 8:28-29).
Practice Makes Perfect
If you want to mature in Christ, get ready for some kingdom assignments that train you towards perfection as these will reveal misalignment and help us rightly realign in the Spirit.
Be faithful and obedient in the small things.
Start with little or petty disagreements, and these will be opportunities for us to bless others, to do good, and to pray for those who oppose us or give us trouble.
It will be challenging when you begin as the initial reaction is to strike back or to suppress.
But we are to surprise if not them, then ourselves.
Reconsider how you define neighbour and enemy: how big is your “space”?
Technically, there is only One enemy, Satan (and his fallen angels).
Fallen humanity is held captive by him to do his will.
We are to be aware that we are not likewise deceived, but we are not to hate them.
Instead, to bless and pray, hoping that some may respond and be saved.
How big is your space?
How big is your heart?
How big is your grace?
How much grace have you received from the Heavenly Father that you can extend that same grace?
We need to start by the Spirit.
Ask the Holy Spirit to help you.
Ask God to bless them with good, health, wealth, abundance, promotion and prosperity.
If needed and where possible, love them through a simple act.
Pray for them, not imprecatory prayers but for their well-being, for their salvation, for them to know the Lord.
Love is the fulfilment of the Law.
And in learning how to love more and more like Jesus, we grow up into perfection and maturity, “to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” as in Ephesians 4:13.
Prayer and Reflection
- Imagine how Church, family, society, and the world would be if followers of Christ, Christians, would live like the above?
- Ask of the Lord how you can ‘practice’ loving your neighbours and eventually loving your enemies.
- How can we ‘bless’ those who curse us, ‘do good’ to those who hate us and ‘pray’ for those who persecute us?