16 So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, 17 ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.” ‘ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him (Genesis 50:16–17, NKJV).
There are few more poignant scenes of merciful forgiveness in the Bible than Joseph toward his brothers. They had hated and envied him (Gen. 37:3-11). Some of them wanted to kill him before agreeing to sell him to traders (who sold him into slavery in Egypt). Then, they lied about his death to their father and silently watched him grieve (Gen. 37:12-36). Now their father was dead, and they feared retribution (Gen. 50:15). In contrition, they fell before Joseph, entirely at his mercy (Gen. 50:18). Joseph forgave their sins against him with humble faith in God (Gen. 50:19-20). Instead of responding with bitter, resentful retaliation, Joseph comforted their fears with kindness and promised to provide for them and their children (Gen. 50:21). Oh, that we may forgive others this way! Surely, in Christ, this is how God forgives our sins against Him (Luke 15:17-24; Eph. 2:4-7; 4:31-32). Remember, God will not forgive us if we do not forgive each other from the heart (Matt. 18:35; 6:14-15).
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).
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire (Matthew 5:21–22, NKJV).”
Jesus challenges us to inspect our attitudes toward others and the words they prompt us to use (Matt. 12:33-37). Brotherly kindness and love (attributes Christians add to our faith, 2 Peter 1:5, 7) go far beyond not murdering a person. The apostle John assures us that “whosoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). Jesus expects citizens of the kingdom to follow a path that leads from hate to harmony. Unjustified anger, contemptuous words, and hateful conduct bring a judgment that endangers the soul. So, we must be careful how we speak to others and speak of them to others. We must remove animosity, contempt, bitterness, malicious speech from our hearts and mouths (Eph. 4:31). Kindness must prevail to be a faithful follower of Jesus (Eph. 4:32). Remember, “A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit” (Prov. 15:4). Furthermore, the perverse tongue condemns the soul.
6 And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 6:6–7, NKJV)
Young minds are impressionable, pliable, teachable. Moses charged parents with teaching their children God’s law, and this responsibility remains true under the gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:4). Make no mistake; forces of error want to impress and persuade your children that sin is not sin. Even now, preschool children and older are being taught in public schools, through media, by friends, and parents that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender behavior is loving, good, and natural. Children are taught people should take pride in LGBTQ+ conduct. They are taught that to say otherwise is an act of bullying, bigotry, and hate. The Bible speaks on the subject, not with “hate speech,” but with words of truth and reason (Acts 26:24-25). It says such behavior is “against nature,” shameful, against the will of God, and dishonors the body’s natural use (Rom. 1:24-29; 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Many have exchanged the truth of God for the lie and are teaching children the lie is the truth (Rom. 1:24-25; Isa. 5:20-21). Real love tells the truth about the danger of sin, not lies that lead souls to hell. The one who tells you God’s truth is not your enemy (Gal. 4:16). The world teaches children God’s truth is a lie. Keep training your children with God’s truth and take nothing for granted.
20 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. 21 She cries out in the chief concourses, at the openings of the gates in the city she speaks her words: 22 “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge. 23 Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.” (Proverbs 1:20–23, NKJV)
Solomon personifies wisdom as a virtuous woman calling out in the streets to all who will stop, listen, learn, and follow her words of understanding. She seeks to bless those upon whom her words fall. Yet, in their ignorance, the naïve turn away from her insight. Others mock her perception while others loathe her knowledge. Even so, wisdom offers her spirit of discernment to all who are willing to hear. But beware. Rejecting wisdom’s call ultimately leads to ruin (Prov. 1:24-27). What is at work in the heart that refuses God’s wisdom? Proverbs 1:29 gives us an answer: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.” Pride and irreverence prevent accepting wisdom’s guidance. We must choose to fear the Lord and to love the knowledge He gives us in His word. If not, we will search for wisdom and never find her (Prov. 1:28). Here is our test: Our attitude and reaction to the gospel of Christ (“the wisdom of God”) tell whether we hear wisdom or despise her (1 Cor. 1:21-25; 3:18).
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.
12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion. 13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way and the perverse mouth I hate. (Proverbs 8:12–13, NKJV)
Wisdom is the insight and discernment that applies knowledge sensibly and carefully. Solomon will go on to say that wisdom begins by fearing the Lord: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever” (Psa. 111:10). We cannot miss the point that wisdom hates evil because it fears the Lord. Wisdom does not love, endorse, or promote evil. Instead, wisdom knows and despises the evil of pride, arrogance, the path of sin, and the profane, perverse mouth. The contrast is vivid: Should we make life choices out of pride and arrogance, we are not fearing God, we are not doing His commandments – we are not wise. The gospel says, “See then that you walk circumspectly (carefully, JRP), not as fools but as wise” (Eph. 5:15). Today, choose wisdom as your companion. Live carefully by fearing God and doing His commands, and it will be so (Matt. 7:24-25).
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:103–104, NKJV)
God’s word is pleasant to the taste of those who meditate on it continually, who rest their understanding in it, and who follow it to avoid evil and do good (Psa. 119:97-102). Possessing a knowledge of truth and an aversion to error equally describe the lover of God’s word. The real test comes when God’s word reproves us and rebukes us. Does God’s word become bitter to us when it exposes our sin and error? It ought to remain just as sweet as when it approves us, for its reproofs identify where we need to correct ourselves and grow in the Lord. Does God’s word become bitter to us when it rebukes our sin? It ought to remain just as sweet as when it approves us, for in its rebukes are pleas to repent and be renewed. Solomon wrote, “The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding” (Prov. 15:31-32). Preaching the word of God includes reproof and rebuke – not to become a judge over others – but to proclaim God’s word of warning and salvation to the lost (2 Tim. 4:2). Whatever message God’s word contains, it will always be pleasant and refreshing to those who accept its wisdom and obey its precepts.
21 “Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. 22 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:21–22, NKJV)
Jesus spoke these words to His twelve apostles before sending them out to preach “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:6-7). After His resurrection, He would send them into all the world to preach His gospel (Mk. 16:15). Jesus was preparing them for the resistance they would face because of their faith in Him and their work for Him. The gospel produced harsh reactions from faithless family and friends as well as strangers in the first century. (It still does.) Their lives would be endangered and embroiled in controversy. Jesus exhorted them to endure the hatred and persecutions “to the end” to be saved. This helps us understand what Jesus went on to say, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34, 35-36). Many react to the truth of the gospel with hostility, including family members. Just as He called the apostles to endure, He calls us to love Him more, follow His truth first, deny ourselves, and always fear God rather than people (Matt. 10:37-39, 28). When we choose family (or ourselves) over the truth of the gospel we are no longer worthy of Christ. We will lose our life, not save it (Matt. 10:37-39).
Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. (1 John 3:13, NKJV)
Jesus had told His apostles to expect the hatred of the world (John 15:19). The world loves its own, and hates the light that exposes its sins (Jno. 3:19-20). This comes as no surprise. Jesus is the light of the world; therefore, the world hates Him (and His Father) most of all (Jno. 15:18, 23-25). When we become Christians, we leave the dark world of sin to live as “children of light” and to walk in the light of truth (Eph. 5:8; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). Therefore, the world hates us, too. Note the irony. Jesus was not hated because He was a great sinner (“Which of you convicts Me of sin?,” Jno. 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22). He was hated “without a cause” (Jno. 15:25). When people in the religious error and moral corruption of the world hate you for following Jesus and His truth, accept your cross and bear it for His sake (Lk. 9:23). Do not marvel. Their hatred is par for the course. Do not be distracted by the world from practicing righteousness and loving one another (1 Jno. 3:10-15).