Friday, November 11, 2011

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday November 13, 2011

(Loving those who you perceive to be your enemies)
(Matthew 5:43-48 & Luke 6:27-36)

Just like in today’s society, the people of the first century, during JESUS’ day, could understand pretty well how they should love their family and friends, and even their next door neighbors in some instances, but there was no way they could accept the statement from JESUS, “Love your enemy as yourself”. In fact, they considered hating their enemies as being the right thing to do. It boggled their minds, this concept that JESUS taught, about loving someone who was mistreating you, or seeking to do you hurt and harm.
In Matthew chapter 5, verses 43-48, and Luke 6:27-36, JESUS re-introduces us to a love that is not of the fleshly variety, but rather, is of the spiritual “agape” kind of charity that GOD has for all mankind, believers and unbelievers. It is a kind of “unconditional love” that actually defines just who GOD is, and then, overflows into a fountain of blessings, prayers, attitudes, and actions that can change the heart of any person who may be in opposition to you or yours.
The Pharisees wrongly taught that the Jews should love those who were near and dear to them, and hate their enemies. By this kind of teaching, they were errantly implying that “their hatred” was “GOD’s means” of judging their enemies. It was a terrible misinterpretation of Leviticus 19:18. JESUS taught that GOD’s love extended to everyone, even to those whom we perceive to be our enemies. And since GOD’s love extends to everyone, we, as Christians, need to make ourselves more of a “channel of GOD’s love”, by striving to love all mankind as ourselves.
Here in these passages of Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, JESUS talks about seven aspects of agape love. And because of our “sin nature”, these seven things are not naturally done by man, and require the supernatural interceding of GOD, through the HOLY SPIRIT, in order for us to achieve such a high state of righteousness.
These seven aspects include; (1) Loving our enemy, (2) Doing good to those who hate us, (3) Blessing those who curse us, (4) Praying for those who mistreat us, (5) Resisting the urge for revenge against those whom we feel have wronged us, (6) Giving freely without the expectation of being paid back, and finally (7) Always treating others the way we want to be treated (otherwise known as “The Golden Rule”). In order to successfully and consistently do all these things, especially to people that we don’t know or like, one has to be “inspired to love” by the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD.
JESUS wants us to show the same attitudes toward each other, that GOD HIMSELF shows to us. This kind of love will set us apart from the world, and allow us to emulate the ways of GOD in Heaven, while yet living here on earth. This kind of behavior will clearly show the world at large, that, Christianity really does produce the best men and women.
And finally, in Matthew 5:48, JESUS makes yet another “rock hard statement” that most Christians still struggle with, here in this, the twenty-first century. There JESUS says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your FATHER which is in Heaven is perfect” (KJV). In the biblical Greek, the word used for “perfect” is “teleios” and it has nothing to do with what we might call abstract, philosophical, or metaphysical perfection. What JESUS is saying here is that, if we are to be righteous, we must be as GOD is, mature and holy, compassionate and merciful. If we are to be children of GOD, then, that means that we must be GOD-like people in our behavior. Murder, lust, hatred, deception, and thoughts of retaliation are not a part of GOD’s make-up, or HIS nature, and so, if we are to share GOD’s nature, those things must not be a part of our make-up either. Therefore, “perfect”, in the Greek sense of the word, is “functional”, it goes to how we behave in life, towards GOD, and, towards each other.
Something is perfect when it reaches the full maturity, or realization of its purpose. For instance, a student who has reached a mature knowledge of his subject of study has perfected it, and can now enter into that field which he has long studied, and become an expert through experience and practice. Likewise, a man who has realized, through the study of GOD’s Word, the purpose for which GOD created him, and sent him into the world, the same has now matured to the point where he can now serve GOD to the fullest of his GOD-given capacity.
GOD will not lower HIS standards to accommodate mankind, but rather, HIS standards will remain high, and indeed, perfect. And although HIS standards will never be met, or lived up to by man, GOD still expects that we will aspire to meet those standards, and even consider it our unreachable goal in life.
Now one might say, “Ah! If the goal is unreachable, why bother, or why waste our time trying to attain it?” However, even though this standard may never be perfectly met by any man except JESUS, a person who has faith in GOD will enjoy, by striving toward those standards, a righteousness, that is being reproduced in his or her life, every single moment that they remain focused on that goal, during their Christian Walk.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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