You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy. But this I tell you: love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wicked and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust.
If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much? And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much? As for you, be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
“If a Jew sees that a Gentile has fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out. Of course it is written, ‘Do not rise up against your neighbor’s life.’, but this man is not your neighbor.” (Paraphrase of Tristram, Eastern Customs in Bible Lands, quoted in Sanders, For Believers Only, Bible.org) Enemy came from Latin, hostis, “hostile.” One’s enemy comes in different nationalities and from various places. To take one an enemy is disastrous not only to its object, but more so its subject.
Jesus surprised his hearers, because he included love of neighbor, even one’s enemy. It was counter-cultural. Jesus extends the range of Jewish neighborliness. It is no longer exclusive, but totally unselective to include one and all. Today, the Biblical concept of love has been distorted in language and society. The world equates love with puppy love or love at first sight. Though love comes with emotions, it’s not exclusive. True love, after the teachings of Jesus, is transcendental, selfless, sacrificial and compassionate. Love till it hurts. “I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.” (Mother Teresa)
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