Love My Enemy? (2)

After telling His disciples what they must do, Jesus then tells them why they must do so: Only in this way can they be worthy to be called the children of God, who makes His sun rise on the evil and the good, and who sends rain on the just and the unjust.” God treats all men alike; why should we do otherwise? (Notice that Jesus is careful to define in what way God deals with all people in the same way: His providential care extends to all without exception, regardless of merit. In fact, the sun does come up on all mankind, including the most wicked person; and his rain does fall upon all. But that does not mean that God’s grace will come to everyone without exception; it only means that God does not bestow His good gifts upon us because of any virtue on our part.) Jesus then explains why those who call themselves God’s children must, like their Father, love those who do not love them:Even sinners will repay kindness with kindness. If we love those who love us, that’s no different from the way that tax collectors treat their own outcast colleagues. If we greet only our friends, how does that differ from the way that Gentiles (some manuscripts have “tax collectors” here also) respond to friendly greetings? No! In order to be marked out as children of God, we must imitate His unconditional love. We must be “perfect” as He is perfect. This does not mean that we are without sin, as He is. The parallel passage in the Gospel of Luke spells out the meaning of “perfect”: “Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful” (Luke6: 36 –read Luke 6:27-36 for the best commentary on Matthew 5:43-48). As Paul would later say, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Ephesians 4:32-5:1).