Love and Hate - A Reflection on Matthew 5:43-48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
One of the reasons I lost my faith as a boy was because nobody answered the many questions that I had. I was told to “just believe”, and to a person of some intelligence, that was absurd. I soon began to realize that people didn’t have answers because THEY “just believed”, and then I began to wonder if they were any answers to be had at all. Religion might be exactly what Marx said it was: the opium of the people. But since my return to the faith, I have realized that there are answers to be found. And they are good answers.
This is why, whenever I begin teaching people about the faith, especially in the Schools of Discipleship, I begin by telling the listeners they SHOULD ask two questions. One is ‘why’, so that they have reasons for why they are being told to do something. And the second is ‘how’ to do what they are being told to do. Today’s passages offers us opportunities to ask both questions. Jesus says, “Love your enemies”. Really? I find it difficult to love my friends, I am supposed to love my enemies? Why?
Well, Jesus provides a few answers to that question here. One, we are children of the Father. The Father provides both the good and the bad with rain and sunshine (perhaps a little too much of each sometimes), and if we really want to show that we are his children, then we have to do the same. Right? Another reason is because there is a reward awaiting those in heaven who obey the will of the Father, and that we love our enemies IS the will of our Father. Which leads to another ‘why’.
Why is it the will of the Father that we love our enemies? Because our enemies should not be our enemies, they should be our friends. We are all people that God created, and he didn’t create us to hate each other. Just think about this for a moment. You think God created us to hate each other and destroy one another? Come on! Now if you really want to destroy your enemy, make him your friend. Isn’t that a better option than chopping his head off?
Which brings me to another reason, and we reflected on this yesterday. Hatred only begets hatred, and we will only end up destroying ourselves. Do you really want to be the survivors of a nuclear war? So that brings about the next question: How? Start talking about love. Start teaching about love. Start expressing love. Have you noticed that when it comes to hate, there is no hesitation in anybody about demonstrating it? When it comes to expressing love, there is only reticence.
Have you also noticed that it is easier for us to punch another person than it is for us to give the person a hug. Why? I’ll tell you. It is because the devil has twisted love—like he has twisted everything else—into something terrible, and has made us afraid of it. Should we buy into his lies, or should we do what God tells us to do. So, that’s how we do it. By understanding love is from God. By understanding that it is a good thing. And by understanding that if we want a better world, it can come only through love.
And then putting this understanding into practice.