Jesus said: ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to 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 the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.Matthew 5:43-48
Today’s reading continues on from yesterday’s message of generosity of wealth and spirit. Today Jesus’ teaching moves on to the key Christian message of love. Again Jesus is flying in the face of traditional Jewish teaching. By quoting once again from the Old Testament Jesus is reminding us of the limitations of the ancient ways. It was commonly known that we should not only love ourselves, but that we should also love our neighbours. Of course, this teaching contains an element of ‘being able to please ourselves’. We choose the neighbourhood in which we live; we can choose those whom we would class as our neighbours. This is not good enough for Jesus. Jesus goes on to subvert the self-interest contained in the old law by urging us not only to love our neighbours, but also to love our enemies, even those who would persecute us.
We often hear it said that the sun shines on the righteous, Jesus takes us one step further than that. Jesus reminds us that the sun does not only shine on the righteous, it also shines on the unrighteous. The wonders of God’s creation are for all, and not just for those with whom we feel some affinity.
Jesus’ message is simple: God loves us all.
We are all made in God’s image, and we are all called to love as God loves. We do not have the right to decide that some are more righteous than others, on whom the sun may or may not shine, who is more deserving of love.
Today’s point of reflection is both simple and challenging.
Think not of those we should love out of duty or mutual affinity. Rather, think of those we should love but do not. Think of those whose way of life or whose manner repels us. God loves them just as much as he loves us. God calls us to love them too. How open are we to God’s call to love even our enemies?