Pragmatic wisdom – love enemies?

By Dave Henning / March 25, 2023

“To love those who do not love you is not offered as a piece of pragmatic wisdom, but as a reflection of the character of God himself (v. 45), who gives a fruitful earth, through rain and sun, to all people regardless of the motives or character.”- R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father, who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.”- Matthew 5:44-45 (ESV)

Timothy Keller concludes Chapter 7 of Forgive with commentary on Matthew 5:43-48.  In addition, Pastor Keller describes Jesus’ final paragraph as revolutionary.

First, the author states, Jesus notes that Leviticus 19:17-18 stopped short in several ways of commanding believers to love their enemies — ‘You have heard that it was said’.   Because, of course, people interpreted the word neighbor to only refer to their own people.  Those who belonged to their nations and religion.  Outsiders need not apply.

Therefore, here in The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus makes it explicit that everyone is your neighbor.  Hence, as Pastor Keller explains:

“We are to open our arms and hearts to the ‘Other’ — those religiously, morally, and politically different from us.  And we are to will their shalom.  So Jesus ‘introduces a concept of undiscriminating love (R. T. France).’ ”

In conclusion, Pastor Keller tells the story of African American evangelist Tom Skinner.  Born and raised on the streets of New York, Skinner testifies that his conversion to Christianity saved him from death, prison, or a higher life of crime.

However, a few weeks after Jesus Christ reached him, one play in a high school football game tested his faith.  A left guard, Skinner delivered a crushing block on a defensive end on an end run.  In response, the other player, who was white, punched Skinner in the stomach, then kicked him after he fell to the ground – cursing Skinner.  Skinner, though, told the other boy that because of Jesus, he loved him anyway.

Today’s question: Have you ever viewed Jesus’ command to love all people as just a piece of practical wisdom?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Instagram is not enough!”

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Dave Henning

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