“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48, bold for emphasis)
Though I have read this passage many times, and though I have thought it was easy to understand, I have failed to get its full meaning, especially in the light of verse 45.
Yes I know verse 45 is talking about “common grace”—that God is gracious to all. But I have failed to relate it to me, to us, to how we should love. This verse is telling us that we as children of God must be gracious to all just as He is. He wants us to love everyone the same, just as He makes the sun to rise on all, and just as He sends rain on all—whether good or evil.
I normally think of this passage as loving maybe one or two or three of my enemies that treat me badly and to also pray for them. But now I see Jesus saying to me that I should stretch out my hands to the whole world in love. This is a much broader and more inclusive love—a love that loves all, always. It is a perfect (or complete) love, the kind of love the Father has and that we are to have. It is a love that shows no favoritism (as in James 2:1-7), and also that does not regard one’s own interests or welfare. This love is absolutely other centered and without self-motives.
This is the kind of love good missionaries have, and that faithful pray warriors have—those that pray for all the people of the world, whether good or evil. This is the kind of love that opposing political parties should have for one another, even when they strongly disagree with each other.