Summary: Believers should respond to opposition with love, prayer and a witness for their Savior.

Responding to Enemy Behavior

Matthew 5:43-48


A. Lifeguard rescuing a drowning person.

1. Suppose it was your best friend or just a casual acquaintance.

2. We would probably risk our life to save them.

3. But suppose the drowning person was a contemptible person, your enemy.

4. Someone who had wronged you, committed some injustice, cheated you, or slandered your name.

5. What if the person was a pervert, murderer, child abuser, drug addict?

B. Jesus says we must risk no matter who the person is or what they have done.

1. Another hard teaching.

2. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commends his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

C. Many refer to this as the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.

1. Contrasts true and false righteousness (real versus play religion).

2. Religious leaders had corrupted God’s standards.

D. Jesus speaks.

1. Reminds them of what they had been taught-“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”

2. Left out a part of the teaching of the O. T.-“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

3. Deuteronomy taught to help a fellow countryman by returning his lost animal and this also applied to an enemy.

4. A neighbor was anyone in need.

E. Religious leaders had changed God’s standard.

1. Love those you got along with but hate the enemies.

2. Left out the phrase “as yourself.”

3. Could not imagine loving someone else as much as they loved themselves (they were self-centered).

4. That phrase was only partially taught and practiced.

5. Didn’t like the phrase so they removed it.

6. Narrowed the meaning of neighbor to those they preferred or approved of.

7. Approved of only their kind.

F. Added the phrase “hate your neighbor.”

1. Anyone not an Israelite was an enemy.

2. Sayings of the Pharisees, “If a Jew sees a Gentile fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out, for it is written, ‘Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor,’ but this man is not thy neighbor.”

3. Pride led to hate of the Gentiles.


A. Jesus said to love enemies.

1. God responds without discrimination.

2. Most powerful teaching on love.

B. Command must have seemed foolish and naïve.

1. They were a proud and prejudiced people, hateful and judgmental.

2. Hypocrites masquerading under the guise of God’s law.

3. Felt it was their duty to hate their neighbors.

4. Jesus was teaching something different.

C. Jesus places his word on the same level as Scripture.

1. Must have startled his hearers because he was the standard of truth.

2. Tend to base our love on the desirability of the object.

3. Tend to love those like us or those we would like to be like.

D. Bible speaks of several kinds of love but Jesus uses agape.

1. Always involves action.

2. God loved us while we were sinners.

3. William Hendriksen said, “All around him were those walls and fences. He came for the very purpose of bursting those barriers, so that love-pure, warm, divine, infinite-would be able to flow straight down from the heart of God, hence from his own marvelous heart, into the hearts of men. His love overlapped all the boundaries of race, nationality, party, age, sex…”

E. Question is not whom to love but how to love most helpfully.

1. People can be mean, slander us, abuse us and be judgmental.

2. R. C. H. Lenski said, “(Love) indeed, sees all the hatefulness and the wickedness of the enemy, feels his stabs and his blows…but all this simply fills the loving heart with the one desire and aim, to free its enemy from his hate, to rescue him from his sin, and thus to save his soul.”

F. George Wishart, Scottish reformer and contemporary of John Knox was sentenced to die as a heretic.

1. Executioner was hesitant because he knew Wishart ministered to those dying from a plague.

2. When Wishart saw this remorse, he kissed him on the cheek and said, “Sir, may that be a token that I forgive you.”


A. We devise many things to cover the guilt of our sin.

1. Religious beliefs, rituals, practices.

2. Religious persecutions have been one method.

3. Let them see the divine standards of Christians as judgment on their wickedness.

B. Just as Jesus was persecuted so will we be.

1. When it comes, we are to pray for those doing it.

2. Pray they will seek forgiveness and the grace of God.

3. Demonstrate the agape love of God.

C. Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

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