Friday, August 07, 2009

Love your what?

Today's study brings me to Matt 5:43-48. The opening two verses are shocking, and jolting to say the least - especially if one is a follower of Jesus and takes these words seriously:
Vs. 43 “You have heard it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ Vs. 44 However, I am saying to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you...
Reading Dale Allison's excellent book: The Sermon on the Mount: Inspiring the Moral Imagination, I found this quote which penetrated my thoughts:

Jesus quotes Lev 19:18 not to contradict it but to enlarge it. The Pentateuch, like subsequent Jewish tradition, understands “neighbour” to be Israelite (see Lev 19:17), and this reading allows one to confine love to one’s own kind, or even to define neighbour in opposition to enemy. Jesus, however, gives “neighbour” its broadest definition. If one loves even one’s enemies, who will not be loved? One is inevitably reminded of the story of the Good Samaritan, who is good to an Israelite, his enemy (Luke 10:29-37). Love must prove itself outside the comfortable world of family, friends and associates.

Allison, The Sermon on the Mount, pg. 100

This saying embodies the activities of Jesus perfectly - and thus it is a call to disciples to be perfect, as their Father in Heaven is perfect (vs. 48). Anyone who thinks being a follower is easy, has obviously not understood what Jesus requires!

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