We all have working models of how we do things. Models can be theoretical, dreamy and untested, but working models are how we actually operate in reality. In today’s passage (Matthew 5:43-48) Jesus addresses our working model of how we actually love. Who do we love? Are there some people that we don’t love or who we even hate? How risky or risk averse are we with our love? How extraordinary is your love? Who do you model your love on?

In the previous passage v38-42 Jesus had given a negative command relating primarily to personal, passive non-retaliation (“Do not resist the one who is evil”). This command however is positive – “love your enemies” and seek their good. Augustine wrote “Many have learned how to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love him by whom they were struck”.  We are to go beyond the refusal to repay evil and resolve to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21). “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.” (Plummer).

Jesus continually calls us beyond secular culture to a Christian counter-culture. In-grained in ordinary human culture is the notion of retaliation – both retaliation of evil, and the retaliation of good. The first is obvious and is called revenge. The second is doing good to those who do good to you, or put colloquially, “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.” Retaliation is the way of the world – either revenge on one hand (paying back injuries) or recompense (paying back favours) on the other. This is a device of pride which cannot bear to be indebted to anybody and is a sort of ‘rough justice’.

Jesus knows this will never overcome evil. Citizens of the Kingdom must have a higher working model of love. “What more are you doing than others?” Jesus asks (v47). Everybody believes in love. The Pharisees had placed two serious restriction on their love. Love was not for those who injured them, and it was restricted to their tribe (not for Gentiles, tax collectors etc). It was more like “I love nice harmless people and I love my kith and kin and race, but not those who have no claim on me”.

Jesus was addressing those who had renounced the pharisaic hobby of law-dodging and had replaced it with a keen appetite for righteousness. Jesus says that we are to embrace a new working model of radical love as Sons of the Father. We are to love in a way that resembles the Father in His indiscriminate love for every person in creation – His common grace. We are to love in a way that resembles His original Son Jesus, who has both died for us rebellious sinners and leads us by His Spirit into this radical love and mission to overcome evil with good and save the lost – His special grace. It is good to read inspirational stories of those who have been moved by this extraordinary love in recent times – Martin Luther King Jr, the Staines family in India and Tim Costello. 

Love impacts. 

Have a great week!

Pastor Graham