Love (Matthew 5:43-48; Luke 6:27, 28, 32-36)

Submitted by admin on Thu, 2007-11-22 11:29.

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” (Matthew 5:43) Whereas the law did command the Israelites to love their neighbors or their fellows, it did not command them to hate their enemies. They were, in fact, to avoid harboring grudges or seeking revenge. (Leviticus 19:17, 18)

In keeping with the spirit of the law and the example of his Father, Jesus rejected the view that love of neighbor implied hatred for one’s enemy, saying, “Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you.” (Matthew 5:44) Such love would be demonstrated by continuing to treat them kindly as fellow humans, not seeking to harm them but coming to their aid in time of need. Praying for persecutors would include petitions that they would come to see the error of their ways, accept God’s arrangement through Christ so as to come into possession of eternal life, and be forgiven of their sin. (Compare Acts 7:60; 1 Timothy 2:1-4.)

By loving their enemies and praying for their persecutors, Jesus’ disciples would reveal themselves to be “sons of [their] Father in the heavens.” They would be imitating his example and thus be like him. He does not prevent persons who conduct themselves in a lawless and unjust manner from enjoying the benefits of the natural cycles that make life on earth possible. As Jesus said of his Father, “He makes his sun rise upon the wicked and the good, and [makes it] rain upon the upright and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)

“If you love those loving you,” Jesus continued, “what reward do you have? Is this not also the same thing the tax collectors are doing? And if you only greet your brothers, what exceptional thing are you doing? Do not also the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:45-48)

It is easy to love those who reciprocate with love, and the display of such restrictive love brings no “reward.” Observers would not consider it noteworthy and deserving of particular credit. Even tax collectors who were known for their dishonesty, enriching themselves by charging more than the tax rate, loved their friends. To limit one’s greetings only to a particular circle and ignoring others would not be something noteworthy. By comparison, persons without any belief in God then would not even slightly fall short. To be “perfect” or “complete” as God is would mean placing no limits on love. It would be the opposite of restricting one’s care and concern to a select few and excluding all others.


Luke’s account regarding Jesus’ teaching on love and compassion parallels thoughts in Matthew 5:43-48. To those listening to him, Jesus said, “Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:27, 28) Disciples of God’s Son would not manifest a retaliatory spirit, never acting unlovingly or hatefully toward anyone. They would not withhold needed aid from those who may have treated them hatefully. Others may curse or mistreat them, but they would not respond in kind. They would bless those who may seek their injury or express the prayerful desire that the final outcome for such ones would ultimately prove to be a favorable one.

For Jesus’ listeners simply to love those loving them and to do good to those doing good to them would not make them stand out as different from sinners or persons known for living a godless life. Therefore, they should not have expected any reward for doing so. Even lawless ones love their friends and do good things for those who do good things for them. (Luke 6:32, 33)

There is nothing particularly exceptional about lending money to someone with the expectation that the full sum would be repaid. Even “sinners” or godless persons may do that. Lending money to someone in need when there is a possibility that nothing may ever be repaid, however, is an expression of compassion that goes beyond what “sinners” may be willing to do. (Luke 6:34)

Summing up his teaching on love and compassion, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good, and lend, expecting nothing back, and your reward will be great. And you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ingrates and the wicked. Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.” (Luke 6:35, 36)

Persons whose love and compassion reflect that of the Most High demonstrate that they are his “sons” or his children. Their actions are like his, for he continues to allow thankless and lawless ones to get enjoyment from life, not depriving them of life’s necessities. The Most High will abundantly reward his Son’s disciples for responding to everyone with love and compassion and never turning a blind eye to genuine need.

It is noteworthy that, whenever a marked sectarian spirit develops within a group, Jesus’ admonition is ignored. Persons who live exemplary lives and sincerely desire to be disciples of God’s Son may be looked upon as wicked and not even be extended common courtesies if they disagree with a particular teaching of the movement with which they may have been associated. Even godly individuals who never were associated with the movement may be regarded as divinely disapproved and bad companions. Rejection of an interpretation is equated with disloyalty to God even if there is an acknowledged possibility that the interpretation could be in error, and certain scriptures (for example, 2 John 10, 11) are misapplied in order to justify the course that the membership is required to follow.