As we come to the Matthew text we need to begin by clarifying who Jesus is dealing with when He says,
“”Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy” (v. 43).”
44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may prove yourselves to be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors, do they not do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Even the Gentiles, do they not do the same? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The question needs be asked here is where has Jesus’ audience heard what is recorded as having been said? Where would they have heard that they were to love their neighbor but hate their enemy?
Is that somewhere in the Old Testament? Does the Law and the Prophets teach that principle?
You can scour the OT and you will not find any command to hate thy enemy. Jesus here, when He says, “You have heard it said,” is not quoting from the Law & the Prophets. He is quoting from the talmud like expostulations that were being said by the teachers of the law that Jesus was dealing with during his incarnation.
And that such was the attitude of Jews during that time is seen readily from chaps like the historian Tacitus who could write of the Jews during this time frame;
“They readily show compassion to their own countrymen, but they bear to all others the hatred of an enemy”
St. Paul describes these same Jews being those who “contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak unto the Gentiles that they might be saved” (1 Thess. 2:15, 16).
Such was he disposition of the Jew. They loved their own which would not be a problem except that they insisted that to love their own they must also hate the Goyim.
A. W. Pink says on this score;
“The Jews have ever been a people marked by strong passions—loving their friends fervently and hating their enemies intensely; and from the Pharisees’ corrupting of the law of God so as to make it square with the prejudices of their disciples, the most evil consequences followed.”
This Jewish mindset wherein all those outside the Jewish circle are hated is what Jesus is speaking against here.
The Pentateuch will be searched in vain for any precept which required the Hebrews to entertain any malignity against their foes: thou shalt “hate thine enemy” was a rabbinical invention pure and simple.
Instead the Old Covenant taught;
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord” (Lev. 19:18)
So, the principle here is to determine ahead of time that cunning and wickedness against those outside your clan, people or tribe is perfectly acceptable is contrary to Jesus own words.
Now here the alert person will raise a point of objection and we may say rightly so. The alert person will point to texts like
“Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate Thee? And am not I grieved with those that rise up against Thee? I hate them with a perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies” (Ps. 139:21, 22).
2 Chronicles 19:2
Jehu son of Hanani the seer went out to confront him and said to King Jehoshaphat, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is upon you.
I hate the mob of evildoers, and refuse to sit with the wicked.
I hate those who cling to worthless idols, but in the LORD I trust.
I look on the faithless with loathing because they do not keep Your word.
I hate them with perfect hatred; I count them as my enemies.
An unjust man is detestable to the righteous, and one whose way is upright is detestable to the wicked.
And pointing to these texts they will ask how can we at one and the same time love our enemies and hate the wicked.
The answer that resonates from Church history and frankly though not completely satisfying still is the best answer going is that the loving our enemies and hating the wicked must be understood as not being in the same manner or the same sense.
We must make distinctions here between private personal enemies and public enemies of God and His Kingdom.
A private personal enemy may well still be a Christian. They have done you a severe wrong. They have maligned your name or cheated you personally in some manner. Here we are to be like our Father in Heaven who sends His rain on the just and unjust. We must not take vengeance into our own hands. We must live with the promise that God will repay. We’ve all had people like this in our lives at one time or another. You can hardly be in a Church very long and be injured by these people. They are broken people who are babes in sanctification. They spew a cutting word or by some misunderstanding of the meaning of Scripture they are driven to denounce you.
Very well then … we must entrust the matter to our heavenly Father. We must not repay evil for evil. We surely can defend ourselves but the Scripture teaches here that we should return good for evil thus pouring burning coals on their head – thus communicating the idea of bringing burning shame and remorse upon those whose hostility is repaid with kindness. We bring them a meal when they are ill. We visit them in the hospital.
We see Jesus Himself living out this truth in His life.
We read in the Mt. 8 right after finishing the Sermon on the Mt. of the account where Jesus heals the Centurion’s slave. How much more of an enemy can one find than a Gentile Centurion who is part of the hated occupying force of the Nation?
So, in a living illustration of what Jesus himself has called for, Jesus goes to heal the Centurion’s slave. We see the same when Jesus heals the child of the Canaanite woman. These were non-Jews and yet Jesus shows the love to them that He is requiring of those who would be His disciples.
Very well that is how we deal with our personal enemies. But how are we to deal with God’s enemies?
How are we to deal with those who are open and inveterate in their revolt against God, those who are a menace to His cause and His people? The answer from the texts above is we righteously hate them, their cause and their sin. We pray imprecatory prayers that God would arise and cast them off. We plan to put snares before their feet. We do all that we can do to crush the public enemies of God. As the Holy Spirit says in Romans, “We hate that which is evil and we cling to that which is good.” (Romans 12:9)
Now having said this we realize that it is not always easy to distinguish between a personal enemy and a public enemy of God. Sometimes those two can easily and so often do overlap. As such there is a need for discernment here and this is one place where prayer has to come in.
“O Father, you know I am a wicked man and desire nothing more than to call every slight against me a matter of someone being your public enemy. Help me to distinguish properly Father between your public enemies and my personal enemies. Help me to be generous with people and try and think the best of them. Help me also though not to allow my cowardice of public confrontation not make me stand up and denounce the wicked who are your public enemies. Grant me wisdom in these matters please.”
I hope I have cleared that up as much as possible.
We obviously have to try and make these kinds of distinctions between personal enemies and God’s public enemies. To just say that we must love everyone unconditionally is to turn Christianity into a suicide pact. Are we to love unconditionally the men and women of the New World Order who would sink the globe into the social order of Hell? Are we to love unconditionally the unrepentant pedophile and rapist? Are we to love unconditionally the minister sending people to hell by preaching Cultural Marxism from the pulpit thus representing Christianity to be something that it is not? Surely, to ask the questions is to answer the question. The Christian life does not require one to be a pacifist in order to serve in the Kingdom of God.
“Unconditional love is a more revolutionary concept than any other doctrine of revolution. Unconditional love means the end of discrimination between good and evil, right and wrong, better and worse, friend and enemy, and all things else. Whenever anyone asks you to love unconditionally, they are asking you to surrender unconditionally to the enemy.”~~RJR
So the Scripture does not teach unconditional love is the sense we lose the ability to hate they who are evil.
Now we need to continue to consider this requirement of our Lord Christ to love our enemy – our personal enemy. We must ask what to love our enemy concretely means.
And here we run into how the word “love” has been redefined thus leading us astray in these matters. As all of you know love has become a word that really means nothing precisely because it means everything. Our English word love has come to mean something that is entirely emotional. We measure the definition of love as only against our un-sanctified emotions.
However, that is the not the Biblical use of the word “love.” In the Scripture love is not emotive before it is juridical. That is to say that love is defined as dealing with one’s neighbor justly according to God’s standard. If you love someone you treat them lawfully according to God’s law.
So, to love our enemy means to keep the law in relationship to them. Thou shalt not kill, commit adultery, bear false witness, steal, or covet or defraud your enemy. You will treat him as you would be yourself treated. You do not reason that since one is my enemy I no longer have to deal justly according to God’s law with them.
We must understand that love is defined as the fulfillment of God’s law towards one another. So, the command to love our enemies is the command to treat them consistent with God’s law. One doesn’t even have to have warm emotive fuzzies while doing so.
Secondly on the meaning of loving our enemy and so treating them consistent with God’s law, this means that there will be times when we are loving our enemy and our enemy is going to be screaming at us that we are not being very loving.
For example, when a minister preaches God’s law and by doing so exposes the wickedness of the wicked the wicked are typically going to screaming “you’re not being very loving.” Every time we lift us God’s standard for right and wrong someone is going to hurl at us the charge that we are not being loving to our enemy and to God’s enemies.
But as you know, speaking in such a way is the very essence of loving our enemy and showing God’s love to our enemy. It is not love to not warn someone standing on a railroad track that a train is bearing down on them and that they need to get their blankety blank tush off the tracks. Similarly it is not love to not warn the wicked that God is a just God who will by no means clear the wicked for their wickedness… to not warn them that they are sinners in the hands of an angry God…. to not warn them that God hates workers of iniquity. To not warn the wicked – family members, friends, and acquaintances – to not warn them and so speak frankly is not love but the very essence of hate and so we are compelled to speak in a way that the wicked will insist is not being loving.
Yet in speaking this way we are of all people loving our enemies.
All this came to the fore some years ago when a Pastor wrote me about the very matter we are examining this morning. Allow me to share that letter with you;
Sodomites, then, are your enemy, and the enemy of your family, no? In such a situation, what does Christ command? “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” He presses his case even further: “…love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” Then he points out that such behavior will bring us great reward from the “…Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
I don’t see much wiggle room there, or any exegetical tricks that allows for Orwellian twists of phrase like, “…my hating is an expression of my love for the Lord.”
I would be willing to wager that, if you pray with just a bit of persistence and ask God to grant you the ability to love sodomites, that he will grant you that ability, because he is a God of mercy who keeps his promises, and surely if he has commanded you to love your enemies, he will grant you the ability to do that. Not that it won’t be difficult: with God all things may be possible, but that doesn’t mean they are easy. No, usually the process is so difficult that it feels like your heart will break and you will likely just die before it’s over.
Your problem is that you are defining love differently than how God and I define love. We define love as acting towards others consistent with what God’s law teaches. God’s law teaches that sodomy requires the death penalty. You are defining love consistent with some kind of sentimental warm fuzzy. We are in different worlds and will not agree. You don’t think I’m being loving. I think my disposition towards the Christ hating sodomite to be the marrow of love. I also think your love is really hatred. I think it is hatred because you are not considering your hatred towards all those children who will be entrapped into the same lifestyle because sodomy was not criminalized. Your “love” for the sodomite, is hatred for the judicially innocent.
Of course you have completely ignored the command of Scripture to “hate that which is evil and to cling to that which is good.”
You also have to deal with the Psalmist who said…”21 Do not I hate them, O Lord, that hate thee? and am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?
22 I hate them with perfect hatred: I count them mine enemies.”
Now keep in mind that if this is a Messianic Psalm then this is Christ saying this.
You accuse me of exegetical tricks and Orwellian twists. Allow me to return service and accuse you of reading the Scripture through your postmodern emotions.
Throughout the Scripture we find love being expressed by hatred. we see it in Jesus attacking His enemies. You remember those times … “White washed sepulchers full of dead men’s bones,” and “You are of your Father the devil,” and “brood of vipers.” Are you really going to tell me that Jesus was not being loving here?
And what of St. Paul who told his enemies to go castrate themselves?
Yours is an effeminate Christianity. I want nothing to do with it.
I would be willing to wager that, if you pray to the God who is and not the god of your imagination and ask the God who is to open your eyes and give you wisdom and the ability to have a love that hates that which is opposed to your love, the God of the Bible who is angular and will never be made smooth, will grant you the ability to understand how a biblical hate serves biblical love.
Praying that the Spirit of Christ will grant you repentance Brad.
And so we agree with RJR on this matter when he wrote,
Unconditional love is contrary to the Bible. The charge of the young prophet Jehu, the son of Hanani, to King Jehoshaphat was blunt: “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord? therefore is wrath upon thee from before the Lord” (II Chronicles 19:2). The commandment is “Ye that love the Lord, hate evil” (Psalm 97:10), and the prophet Amos repeated it: “Hate the evil, and love the good, and establish judgment in the gate” (Amos 5:15)….
The enemy of God’s justice and God’s law, of fundamental law and order, must not be loved. To love them is to condone their evil. The accusation of the psalmist is to the point: “18 When thou sawest a thief, thou consentedst with him, And hast been partaker with adulterers” (Psalm 50:18). What we condone morally, we also approve of or delight in. Those who preach unconditional love are simply trying to disarm godly people in order that that evil may triumph.
ROOTS — pg. 626
So what succinct principles can we take from this survey of loving our enemies?
1. We are to love *our* enemies, not God’s enemies. To love God’s enemies is to seek the destruction of Christianity. We certainly may and must hate God’s enemies with a holy hatred. A man *cannot* love good if he does not hate evil.
2.) Love is not unconditional in the sense that one is required to open themselves to harm in the name of Love.
(Not even God’s love is unconditional. Remember, Jesus Christ met the conditions of God’s Holiness in order that we might have peace with God.)
3.) Love for Christians in their relation to others is defined as operating in terms of God’s law towards others — neighbors or enemies.
4.) Loving one’s people (neighbor) does not require hating those who are not one’s people or neighbor. This was the Jews mistake as Jesus handles the problem in the Sermon on the Mount.
An implication of #1 above when we think about hating God’s enemies we have to be done with the “Hate the sin love the sinner” mentality. While it might work as an abstraction in can never work in the concrete because one cannot artificially divorce actor and action. God does not throw sins into Hell, He throws sinners into Hell. There is no murder without a murderer or theft without a thief. Nowhere does the Bible teach “hate the sin, not the sinner” because, indeed, such is impossible. This is just a liberal bromide that’s been used, quite effectively, to undermine Christianity.
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