43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you (Matthew 5:43–44, NKJV).”
The Law of Moses did not say, “Hate your enemy.” The scribes and Pharisees omitted “as yourself” when teaching its command to “love your neighbor.” (They also had trouble identifying their neighbor, Luke 10:29-37). Jesus had already warned against hate and its judgment in this sermon (Matt. 5:21-26). Now, He corrects the “righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees” by teaching the very essence of love. Love shows goodwill toward its enemies as well as toward those with whom it agrees (Matt. 5:46-47). This comprehensive and selfless trait of love is the embodiment of God’s love for all humanity (Matt. 5:45). We cannot claim to be a child of God and hate our enemy. Love is “unconquerable benevolence, undefeatable goodwill” (Wm. Barclay). We must not allow the world to define love for us. God is love, and in love, He gave His Son for us when we were His enemies in our sin (John 3:16; Rom. 5:8, 10). Love does not overlook sin, truth, and justice. At the same time, love refuses to be driven by hateful motives and vengeful conduct toward its abusers (Matt. 5:38-42). The perfecting of our character “as your Father in heaven is perfect” includes loving everyone like God (Matt. 5:48; 1 John 4:20).
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43–45, NKJV)
God never said to hate others. Indeed, the Law and the prophets commanded Israel to love their enemies (Exo. 23:4-5; Lev. 19:18; Prov. 25:21-22). At this moment of crisis in our country, hate-filled acts of violence are destroying property and lives. What began as peaceful protests over the killing of an unarmed, defenseless man has devolved into hateful displays of violent, criminal mayhem. Christians must rise above bias and bigotry, prejudice and pride, to conduct ourselves like our heavenly Father. With malice for none, He shines His sun on the evil and the good, showering the just and the unjust with blessings. Even so, God does not condone evil. Neither do we. The crimes of others are not our excuse to return evil upon them. Justice demands the punishment of criminals (Rom. 13:1-6). And, the love of God demands that we love our enemies, compelling righteous acts even when we are treated unrighteously.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. (Colossians 3:15, NKJV)
The gospel calls us to peace with God and with others. Sin introduced conflict between man and God, producing spiritual death and consequentially, physical death (Gen. 2:17; 3:19; Rom. 5:12; 6:23). The angelic announcement at Christ’s birth (“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”) praised God for His goodwill toward humanity that brought peace between Himself and sinners through His Son (Lk. 2:14; Tit. 3:4-5). Jesus Christ “is our peace” (first with God, then with other sinners) – “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one…” (Eph. 2:14). Being reconciled to God “in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity,” hostility with God is removed and replaced with harmonious tranquility “in one body” (the church). That is the peace the angels announced. That is the peace Christ’s death accomplished. That peace must now rule (govern) our hearts. Being at peace with God, we can successfully strive to “live peaceably with all men” (Rom. 12:18). Until then, sin rules the heart, infusing our marriages, families, nations, and the church with its selfishness, confusion, and every evil thing (Jas. 3:14-16). By contrast, “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (Jas. 3:17). Thank God for His peace! Without Him, peace is unattainable.
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. 5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? (James 4:4–5, NKJV)
One cannot help but see the parallel of apostasy for the sake of covetous pleasures with the actual sin of adultery (Jas. 4:1-3). The inspired writer openly rebukes Christians who befriend the world (v. 4; 1 Jno. 2:15-16). They have conflicts with others, and their ultimate conflict is with God. The danger of unfaithfulness to the Lord and the blessing of faithful devotion to Him are described by the psalmist, “For indeed, those who are far from You shall perish; You have destroyed all those who desert You for harlotry. But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Psa. 73:27-28). God is a jealous God who yearns intensely that we honor Him for His glory and faithfulness (v. 5; Gen. 6:5; Exo. 20:4-6). When we spurn Him for other pleasures (false gods) we provoke His jealous wrath. Yet, He will give grace and forgive us when we humble ourselves, submit to Him, resist the devil, and draw near to Him by purifying our hands and hearts (Jas. 4:6-8). We cannot be faithful to God while being unfaithful against Him with the world. Faithfully following God marks true friendship with Him, but unfaithfulness makes us His enemy (Jas. 2:22-23).
Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:4, NKJV)
Whose friend are you – God’s, or the world’s? The world is the system of evil that opposes God and His will (1 John 2:15-17). A Christian cannot join hands with the world, doing and endorsing what the world does, without becoming God’s enemy. Simple as that. James uses adultery to make the point. The world celebrates adultery. When husbands and wives commit adultery, the world calls it a “love affair,” but there is nothing loving about it. The entertainment industry (movies, television, the internet, etc.) celebrates adultery. The porn industry persuades it. But, God is very clear: The sin of adultery is not a love affair, it is a lust affair (James 4:1-3; Hebrews 13:4). Jesus said, “You are My friends, if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14). The worldly-minded do not love Jesus, because they do not obey Jesus. They are driven by selfish desires. They are God’s enemies. Do not be counted among them. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them” (Ephesians 5:6-7).
17 Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. 18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:17–19, NKJV)
The examples set by the apostle Paul and the other apostles form a pattern we must follow. By way of contrast, Paul warned there are many who appear to be following the apostles, but who are in fact “enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Not everyone who says they love Jesus, does in fact, love Jesus.) When will we heed Christ’s warning about false prophets who are wolves in sheep’s clothing? “You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:15-21). Likewise here, Paul describes these enemies as those who worship their own desires (“whose god is their belly”) and who set their minds on earthly things instead of things above (cf. Col. 3:1-4). Does it matter what a person believes and does? Absolutely! Their end will be destruction – eternal punishment (2 Thess. 1:8-9). We weep with Paul over the existence of such enemies of Christ. Many walk – but they do not walk in the apostolic pattern of revealed truth. Whenever we walk by our own desires and purposes, our end will be destruction, too. Let us be warned, and never become an enemy of Christ. Walk worthy of Christ by following the examples of His apostles (Eph. 4:1).
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. (Proverbs 27:6, NKJV)
True friends tell us what we need to hear, when we need to hear it. They know the difference between sparing our feelings and watching us make dreadful mistakes that damage our lives and our souls. Friends have our best interest at heart, and give us sound counsel, even when it brings a momentary pain (wound). Such a friendship is forged in the crucible of life’s trials, its joys and sorrow, its pain and grief. That is the friend we need. That is the friend we ought to be to others. Feigning care and concern, while paving a path of deceit in order to gain an advantage over someone, is not the action of a true friend. The next time your friend tells you what you need to hear – even though it is painful to hear – thank them for it. They are a true friend. The world needs more of their number.