One of my favorite Peanuts comic strips has Lucy with a scowl on her face, sitting and reading a book. Snoopy walks up to her and plants a kiss on her cheek, “Smak!’ As he returns to his perch on his doghouse, Linus confronts him: “How can you do that? I don’t understand how you can kiss such a crabby face. In the final panel, Snoopy is lying on his doghouse and he says to himself, “Lips don’t care… Lips can’t see!” It is relatively easy to love the lovable. It is quite a different thing to love the unlovely, and especially those who hate us. But Jesus calls us to an indiscriminate kind of love.
As we have seen, the message of the Sermon on the Mount is a counter-cultural message. The world operates on a principle of reciprocity. You scratch my back and I will scratch your back, and if you hurt me, I will hurt you in return. The moral economy of the world is one of pay backs in kind. And we like to keep all accounts even. But Jesus expects something far higher, far different for those who belong to Him, to those who have come under the rule of His powerful grace. We are to be marked by a righteousness that is better than the best the world offers. And Jesus has been illustrating that for us in the section of His Sermon which we are considering. In fact, we will finish this section with the sixth and final illustration of the righteousness that is better than that of the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 5:17-20).
Read Matthew 5:17-20 and then verses 43-48. Use the questions below to help you meditate on the kind of love Jesus wants to characterize His followers.
1. How would you define an enemy? Do you have any?
2. Jesus references something that people were hearing but that cannot be found as it is in the Bible. Read Leviticus 19:18. According to what Jesus says, what appears to be the common interpretation of this command in His day? What had happened to this command? (refer to Luke 10:25-29)
3. What is Jesus’ principle (v. 44)?
• What do you think it would look like to love an enemy? Can you think of any examples?
• How might you pray for someone who is persecuting you?
• Do you think there is any connection between love for enemies and prayer for persecutors?
4. Why does Jesus tell us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors (v. 45)?
• Do you think that this verse teaches that God loves everyone the same, without distinction? Do you think everyone will be saved? (cf. Matthew 25:46)
• Do you have to love like God to become a son of God or do we love like God to become like our heavenly Father? What think ye?
5. What are the lessons in verses 46-47?
6. In verses 45-47 Jesus touches on three incentives for loving our enemies and those who persecute us. What are they?
7. There is some debate about whether or not verse 48 applies simply to this last illustration (vv. 43-47) or to all six illustrations (vv. 21-47). What think ye? And why?
8. What is Jesus teaching us by way of this sixth illustration? What does righteousness look like under His rule?
9. What do you think the Lord would have you do in light of these words to you from His Sermon?
God be with you and I hope to see you on Sunday!