Mat. 5:43-45 – Love your Enemy

A Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 07 August 2011

Nate’s Translation:

43. Y’all heard that it was declared, “You shall love your neighbor and you shall hate your enemy.”

44. Yet I myself am saying to y’all, “Love your enemies, [bless the ones who curse you, do good to the ones who hate youTR/Byz] and pray for the ones who are [threatening you andTR/Byz] persecuting you,

45. So that y’all might become sons of your Father in heaven, because His sun rises upon evil men and good men, and it rains upon righteous men and unrighteous men.


So far in Jesus’ masterful discipleship of His followers, He has taught about the 7 kinds of people who are blessed by God, and warned them of persecution and the need to be salt and light, then He has addressed the O.T. law on murder (relating that to hatred), the O.T. law on adultery (relating that to lust), the O.T. law on bearing false witness (relating to simply telling the truth), and the O.T. law on justice (relating that to Christian grace). Now, at the end of the chapter, Jesus quotes the O.T. law on love:


Mat 5:43  ᾿Ηκούσατε ὅτι ἐρρέθη, ἀγαπήσεις τὸν πλησίον σου καὶ μισήσεις τὸν ἐχθρόν σου.

43. Y’all heard that it was declared, “You shall love your neighbor and you shall hate your enemy.”


“You shall love your neighbor” is a direct quote from the Greek translation of Leviticus 19:17-18 “You shall not hate your brother in your thoughts: you shall certainly rebuke your neighbour, and not take on sin on account of him. And your hand shall not avenge yourself; and you shall not be angry with the children of your people; and you shall love your neighbour as yourself; I am the Lord.”


Many times throughout the New Testament, this command is given as the summary of the whole of the law of God:

s         By Jesus when He gave the two great commandments: “Love the Lord your God… and love your neighbor as yourself” Mt. 19:19; 22:39; Mk. 12:31-33; Lk. 10:27

s         By James 2:8 If you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well.

s         and also by Paul: Rom.13:9; Galatians 5:14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." (NASB)


But where on earth did “you shall hate your enemy” come from?

s         This phrase is not found anywhere in the Bible.

s         The closest that you get to “hate your enemy” in the O.T. is the part which is usually skipped over in Psalm 139 – vs.17-24 “Your friends, O God, have been greatly honored by me; their rule has been greatly strengthened. I will number them, and they shall be multiplied beyond the sand; I awake, and am still with thee. Oh that You would slay the wicked, O God; depart from me, you men of blood. For You will say concerning their thought, that they shall take your cities in vain. Have I not hated them, O Lord, that hate You? and wasted away because of Your enemies? I have hated them with perfect hatred; they were counted my enemies. Test me, O God, and know my heart; examine me, and know my paths; and see if there is any way of iniquity in me, and lead me in an everlasting way.”

s         Notice this does not say to hate our enemies but rather that David had a perfect hatred for those who hated God. He didn’t hate people because they hated him, he was appalled that they hated God and praying for God to do something about it. That’s something different.

s         Here Jesus says, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” It is my opinion that He was paraphrasing the actual scripture verse according to the way it was applied by Jewish teachers of His day. I suspect that Jesus and His disciples had heard Leviticus 19:18 taught in the synagogue growing up as: “Love your neighbour, as in, only love your neighbor. No Jew is obligated to show love to an enemy by this because it just says love your neighbor.”

s         Once again, the commentator John Gill has unearthed instances of this:

o       "When one man sins against another, he may not hate him in his heart, and be silent, as is said of the wicked; Absalom spoke not with Amnon: but it is commanded to make it known to him, and to say to him, why hast thou done to me so and so? As it is said, "rebuking, thou shalt rebuke thy neighbour"; and if he returns, and desires him to pardon him, he shall not be implacable and cruel; but if he reproves him many times, and he does not receive his reproof, nor turn from his sin, then מותר לשנאותו, "it is lawful to hate him".'' ~ Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora precept. neg. 5. Vid. Maimon. Hilchot Rotseach, c. 13. sect. 14.

o       "Every disciple of a wise man, שאינו נוקם ונוטר כנחש, "who does not revenge, and keep as a serpent"; that is, as the gloss explains it, "enmity in his heart", as a serpent, is no disciple of a wise man.'' ~ T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 22. 2. & 23. 1.

o       "A disciple of a wise man, or a scholar, whom a man despises and reproaches publicly, it is forbidden him to forgive him, because of his honour; and if he forgives him, he is to be punished, for this is a contempt of the law; but "he must revenge, and keep the thing as a serpent", until the other asks pardon of him, and then he may forgive him.'' ~ Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora, c. 7. sect. 13

s         This interpretation of a good law in the Bible was dead wrong, and Jesus was attacking this wrong interpretation, not the law itself.

s         The law said “Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite, nor an Egyptian” (Deut. 23:7)

s         John Calvin pointed out that the basic problem was that the teachers were filtering the perfection of God’s law by the limitations of “human capacity” to fulfill God’s perfection. (They said, “It’s not humanly possible to love everybody, so we’ll just do what we can do; we’ll just love our friends.”) “However, we must not look for an excuse in our faults and weakness, but rather examine quite simply what are the demands of the rule of charity, in order that, relying on the heavenly power of the Spirit we may win the battle, however much against the impulse of our own emotions.” We must look to God to give us the power to love beyond our human capacity to love!

s         As Marvin Vincent pointed out, the word “neighbor” implies someone who is “nigh” to you – nearby. In God’s providence, He has placed certain people near you and has commanded that you love them.

s         The Jews applied this figuratively to say that God only commanded us to love people who are close to us in terms of family or like-mindedness, but that is an unwarranted limitation. (JFB note that this was the reason why the Romans said that the Jews hated the human race!) Jesus opens the meaning of “neighbor” back out to God’s original intent.

When we look at the way the word “neighbor” is used throughout the Bible, we can see that God intended the word “neighbor” to have this wider meaning:



Can be a good friend or companion:

Or even a spouse:

Or a neighbor as someone living nearby:

But has a broader meaning as anyone you are in contact with, as seen in the OT laws:

And elsewhere:

And even the Samaritan, who was a stranger to the Israelite man, was the one Jesus called neighbor:

Your neighbor is anyone nearby – the people next-door, the people at work and school, the international students in our town, the soldiers, the students, the professionals, your own family, everybody. It is not by accident that they are near you. God has sovereignly arranged the placement of each person (Acts 17:26) and commanded us to love them!


However, not everybody around us is friendly toward us. Some of them are downright antagon­istic and hate us! Are we supposed to love even those who have been enemies toward us?


Mat 5:44  ᾿Εγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν, [εὐλογεῖτε τούς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶςLk6:28, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶςMaj/TR/Lk6:27] καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν [ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς καὶMaj/TR/Lk6:28] διωκόντων ὑμᾶς,

44. Yet I myself am saying to y’all, “Love your enemies, [bless the ones who curse youLk6:28, do good to the ones who hate youTR/Byz/Lk6:27] and pray for the ones who are [threatening youLk6:28 andTR/Byz] persecuting you,


Here in verse 44, we have a curious situation where apparently some Greek scholars early on combined the words of Luke 6:27-28 with the original words of Matthew 5:44 and came up with a much longer verse. That longer, conflated version is the one which was followed by the King James translators, including the phrases “bless those who curse you,” “do good to those who hate you,” and “pray for those who despitefully use you” from Luke 6, in addition to the “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” which is what the oldest Greek manuscripts of Matthew 5 read. I’m not going to complain about scripture getting copied over in another place, though. It actually saves us the trouble of cross-referencing with the parallel passage in Luke 6.


Jesus makes explicit what He originally meant when He gave the law and said to love your neighbor. He meant: love your fellow man – and that includes both friends and enemies.


How on earth can I love my enemies? Part of understanding how to do this involves understanding what God means by “love:”

What does it mean to love?

JFB distinguished the love of God from mere “personal affection” by saying that love means “the benignant, compassionate outgoings of desire for another’s good.”

s         John 3:16 God so loved the world that He gave

s         John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” (“Friends” defined as those who obey God.)

s         Ephesians 5:1-2 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma… 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her,

s         Do you see the pattern? Biblical love is not really about having fond feelings, it is about giving yourself to look out for the best interest of another person.

s         This is one key to applying this command to love your enemies – you don’t have to start by changing your feelings toward them, you start by giving something that will be a blessing to them.

s         The first way of expressing this love to enemies is mentioned in the second half of the verse: “pray for them.” And, just in case you’re thinking of praying imprecatory prayers, Luke 6 adds “bless them” which is the type of prayer for God to do something good to them, not a prayer to bring curses down upon them.

s         ILLUSTRATION of Stephen, the first Christian martyr


Love your enemies; give of yourself something that is in their best interest: pray blessings upon them! WHY? What’s in it for me? Is this Jesus stuff worth the cost?

Two reasons to love enemies as well as friends:

Mat 5:45  ὅπως γένησθε υἱοὶ τοῦ πατρὸς ὑμῶν τοῦ ἐν οὐρανοῖς, ὅτι τὸν ἣλιον αὐτοῦ ἀνατέλλει ἐπὶ πονηροὺς καὶ ἀγαθοὺς καὶ βρέχει ἐπὶ δικαίους καὶ ἀδίκους.

45. So that y’all might become children of your Father in heaven, because His sun rises (He causes His sun to rise) upon evil men and good men, and it rains upon righteous men and unrighteous men.


1. God shows kindness to those who love Him as well as those who hate Him (sun & rain)

s         The Greek text says literally “his sun rises” - Who owns the sun? God does! And, even though it’s His, He shares it – as well as the rain – with everybody!

s         During that heat wave we had a couple of weeks ago, weren’t the rains so refreshing? One of those days, the temperature dropped from 110 down to 80, wow, what a relief, and God gave it to everybody in our town – the farmers, the bums on the street, the Christian bookstore owners and the liquor store owners, the happily married and the sexually immoral – everybody is getting these blessings of common grace!

s         This word for “rain” indicates more than just watery precipitation[1], too. It’s used of God providing manna and quail for the Israelites in Psalm 78:24 “He rained down manna upon them to eat… He rained meat upon them… Even winged fowl…” (cf Ps 78:27) Bread and meat from heaven:

o       for Bezalel and Oholiab the anointed temple workmen as well as for the people who did wicked things around the golden calf,

o       for Eleazar and Ithamar – the good priests, as well as Nadab and Abihu who offered strange fire before the Lord,

o       for Joshua and Caleb as well as for the other 10 spies who discouraged the people from entering the promised land,

o       for Moses and Aaron – the servants of the Lord, as well as Korah, Dathan, and Abiram who rebelled against God’s chosen leaders

o       for Zimri, who publicly took a Midianite prostitute as well as for Phinehas, whose zeal for the Lord was rewarded with a special covenant of peace with God.

o       Good or bad, they all got sunshine, rain, and food from God’s bounty.

s         We’ve already met with these “evil” people that God allows the sun to shine upon in v.11 (those who speak evil of Christians) and v.39 (those who insult, extort, coerce, and ask unreasonably) those evil people.

s         1Cor. 6:9 Gives a partial list of who the unrighteous are: “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals…”

s         Can you believe that God would allow such people to get not only sunshine, but also rain? Can you believe He even died to save such people?! 1Pet. 3:18  For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;

s         It’s a good thing because “such are some of [us]!” Romans 5:6-11 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (NASB)

s         God provides sunshine and rain and even salvation to His enemies and therefore we should follow His way and give blessings freely to our enemies too. This first reason has to do with following God’s nature, but the second reason tells us what’s in it for us:


2. “So that you may become children of your Father in heaven”

1.      this phrase “become a son” is used in the natural sense of childbirth, such as when Adam’s son Seth “begot a son” (Gen. 4:26 – first instance in LXX) and the genealogy at the beginning of Matthew’s gospel.

2.      It is also used of adoption in Ex. 2:10, when Moses’ birth mother gave him to Pharoah and Moses “became a son” to Pharoah’s daughter.

3.      In John chapter 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus the Pharisee that he must be “born again” using similar words, but specifying that this is a spiritual birth, not a physical birth.

4.      It is this same impartation of spiritual life of which Jesus spoke in John 12:36 "While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light." (NASB) indicating that it takes believing in Jesus to be given this illuminated life.

5.      1 Peter 1:21-23 …through Him [you] are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart, for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God. Here, loving one another comes as a result of being born again which comes about through believing in Jesus.

6.      Back to Matthew 5:45, if God is already your father, how do you subsequently become His child? This seems to be one of those “chicken and egg” conundrums if you try to nail down which comes first, faith or love. The point is that they come together, and if you just go ahead and act out this kind of love, you’ll know that you have that status of being a beloved child of God.

7.      “In sum, Christ testifies that this will be the mark of our adoption, if we are kind to the bad and unworthy. Do not think that we are made sons of God by our kind deeds… no one begins to be a son of God from the time he loves his enemies, but this is Scripture’s normal way of speaking, to present the free gifts of God as a reward, by way of encouraging us to do the right thing.” ~Wm. Hendriksen

8.      Do you ever wonder if you are right with God; if you are o.k. in eternity? Well, if you are acting graciously like God, then you need not worry.

How do we go about loving enemies?

1.      First, we must leave the punishment of our enemies in God’s hands.

s         Numbers 10:35 And it came to pass when the ark set forward, that Moses said, Arise, O Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered: let all that hate thee flee.

s         Deuteronomy 30:7 And the Lord thy God will put these curses upon thine enemies, and upon those that hate thee, who have persecuted thee.

s         Deuteronomy 32:41 For I will sharpen my sword like lightning, and my hand shall take hold of judgment; and I will render judgment to my enemies, and will recompense them that hate me… 43 Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.

s         Deuteronomy 33:11 Bless, Lord, his [Levi’s] strength, and accept the works of his hands; break the loins of his enemies that have risen up against him, and let not them that hate him rise up.

s         These references are from Brenton’s English translation of the Septuagint

2.      We must look to God to give us the power to love beyond our human capacity to love!

s         “We cannot but find ourselves very prone to wish the hurt, or at least very coldly to desire the good, of those that hate us, and have been abusive to us; but that which is at the bottom hereof is a root of bitterness, which must be plucked up, and a remnant of corrupt nature which grace must conquer.” ~Matthew Henry

s         We read earlier in the service about the scenario of discovering your enemy’s stray donkey and not ignoring it, but taking care of it and returning it to your enemy (Ex. 23:4-5)

s         God will often give us opportunities to either ignore or do good something helpful to someone who hates us. When you see that situation arise, and you feel that battle with your flesh that says, “I don’t want to inconvenience myself to help him or her; I want them to suffer for what they did to me!” Just offer a quick prayer and say, “God, you know my struggle; would you please give me the power to love my enemy now?”

s         Not only can you pray for yourself, you can also…

3.      v.44 Pray for them!

s         While dying on the cross, Jesus prayed for those who hated Him, “Father, forgive them!” There is our example!

s         As Stephen was being stoned to death as the first Christian martyr, he followed in Christ’s steps and prayed for God to forgive the Jewish leaders who were throwing those stones at him.

s         Maybe you’re not being stoned to death; maybe you just get funny looks or insulting words thrown at you. Can you respond with an unselfish prayer for God to bless that miserable person who is trying to make you miserable for following Christ?

4.      Give of yourself to them so that they will be blessed

s         “we must take notice, with pleasure, of that even in our enemies which is amiable and commendable; ingenuousness, good temper, learning, and moral virtue, kindness to others, profession of religion, etc., and love that, though they are our enemies. We must have a compassion for them, and a good will toward them. We are here told, 1. That we must speak well of them: Bless them that curse you. When we speak to them, we must answer their revilings with courteous and friendly words, and not render railing for railing; behind their backs we must commend that in them which is commendable, and when we have said all the good we can of them, not be forward to say any thing more… 2. That we must do well to them: “Do good to them that hate you, and that will be a better proof of love than good words. Be ready to do them all the real kindness that you can, and glad of an opportunity to do it, in their bodies, estates, names, families; and especially to do good to their souls.” It was said of Archbishop Cranmer, that the way to make him a friend was to do him an ill turn; so many did he serve who had disobliged him.” ~Matthew Henry

s         Romans 12:20-21 "BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (NASB)

s         1 Corinthians 4:11-12 To this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty, and are poorly clothed, and are roughly treated, and are homeless; and we toil, working with our own hands; when we are reviled, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure; (NASB)

s         1 Peter 3:8-9 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. (NASB)

s         Notice these are all from persecution contexts (diokal literature) – Jesus after promising persecution earlier in ch. 5, Christians in Rome, Paul in Ephesus, and Peter preparing the fledgling church for persecution in his epistle.

[1] I count only 7/18 references to Brechw in the LXX being beneficial rain. As many refer to judgmental storms (Genesis 19:24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire…, Exodus 9:23 Moses stretched out his staff... And the LORD rained hail on the land of Egypt…), but the context of Matthew 5 is obviously speaking of beneficial rain.