Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount

This is the week that we look back as a country to the horrific things that occurred on 9/11. I’m sure that your teachers discussed it with you and that you have seen videos of the destruction of the Twin Towers a few times in your life. I think that this is a good thing.

Sadly, you guys don’t know what things were like before 9/11. There was a peace and sense of safety that hasn’t existed since. We were by far the most powerful country in the world and the thought of being attacked was utterly ridiculous until it happened. People were in shock for a while after it happened. And for a while people set aside their political differences and other differences and supported one another. People who weeks earlier had been at odds with one another came together.

I mention this because it’s the closest I’ve seen to our country actually showing love to one another. It was short lived and ended when people started accusing other Americans of conspiracies that caused these deaths. And it devolved from there.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is going to inform us that we are to love our neighbor and thereby prove God’s love for us.

We are to love our neighbor and by doing so prove God’s love for us.

Love Your Neighbor (Vv. 43-44)

Jesus is again, like the last few weeks, fixing a wrong interpretation of Scripture that was prevalent in His day. The command is to love your neighbor. The interpretation of that was to love those closest to them. Jesus here points out that this is not what the commandment actually was. The command to love your neighbor was actually a command to love the rest of humankind. A simple look at the texts helps us to see that.

“18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”—Leviticus 19:18 ESV

“33 “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.”—Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV

“2 Speak now in the hearing of the people, that they ask, every man of his neighbor and every woman of her neighbor, for silver and gold jewelry.”—Exodus 11:2 ESV

16 when they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make them know the statutes of God and his laws.”—Exodus 18:16 ESV

16 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.”—Exodus 20:16-17 ESV

“4 “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him. 5 If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying down under its burden, you shall refrain from leaving him with it; you shall rescue it with him.”—Exodus 23:4-5 ESV

As you read these texts who do you think the Law means when it says to love your neighbor? It becomes obvious doesn’t it? Everyone, even the sojourner in the land and the “one who hates you”. Why then had it been interpreted otherwise? I’m not sure. But I know that people oftentimes see what they want to see and interpret things how they want to interpret it.

Regardless of the reason it was misinterpreted we need to understand that there is not a group of people that are pulled out of this discussion. The Law is that we are to love everyone. The Law to love is not limited only to those who think and act like us but to everyone.

Christian, you are to love everyone, not just other believers. You are not just to love those who look like you and act like you, but all people.

Here again the Law draws us to Christ, doesn’t it? We see our failure to love those that we should and are drawn to Christ because we need forgiveness.

Love and Pray for Your Enemy (V. 44)

Jesus, in correcting the thinking of His day also pushed people to see that they need to act on this love for their neighbor. It’s not enough to just say that we are to love our neighbor, we need to love our neighbor and pray for our neighbor.

Talk is rather cheap. You’ve heard that phrase a lot. Today we see it as people say they are tolerant of other beliefs and then angry at you for believing it. They might even think you ought to go to jail for it. People will say they love everyone and then do quite the opposite. We live in a world where a spouse or parent will give lip service to their love for their family but then leave them quicker than ever in history. Saying that you love everyone is not enough. That’s cheap. We are to show love to our neighbor and our neighbor is everyone, even those who you are currently at odds with.

Christ here states what He would later exhibit powerfully. Though innocent, Jesus was drug before a court where He was beaten nearly to death and forced to carry His cross up the hill called Golgotha. There He would be nailed to a cross in both His hands and His feet. He was then lifted up on that cross and mocked while possession for His clothing was taking place and do you know what He said,

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”—Luke 23:34 ESV

Jesus prayed for His enemies, those who were persecuting Him, those who were killing Him.

If you are a Christian who holds to the truth of Scripture there are a lot of people in our country and world that wish that you did not exist. There are entire movements of people who are attempting to wipe Christianity off the map. But we do not respond by hating them. We respond in love. The example of Jesus and the teaching of Jesus here is what we are supposed to be doing. We should be people who love and pray, even for those who persecute us.

Let us be a people who show love to our neighbor, even those who we consider to be our enemies. Let us show love and pray for those who wish we would just disappear.

Imitate God By Loving Your Neighbor (Vv. 45-47)

Jesus points out to the crowd something quite interesting. He points out that God Himself shows love to all people, whether good or evil by making the rain to fall and the sun to shine on both the good and evil. And then we are called to imitate God.

It is not enough to just love those who look, act, and believe like we do. We are to imitate God in showing love to all people.

This brings up a slew of questions that clang through our minds. The one that stands to the forefront of my mind is whether or not I have to love everyone the same. The question is does God love everyone the same. Does He?

No. He does not. There are some people who are His children. God loves His children more than He loves people who are not His children. There are Scriptures that unquestionably bear this out (Psalm 5:4-6, 11:5; 1 John 3:1; Deuteronomy 7:9). So, what is going on here? It’s the same thing that is going on with you every day. Do you love some people more than others? Of course, you do. Is God not allowed the same freedom to love as you? Of course, He is.

Here is the point. We are commanded to imitate God in His love for all people. This love may be hierarchical in some ways. You will, no doubt love some people more than others but you are to love all people. Scripture commands us to love our spouses in a special way, our parents in a special way, our children in a special way, our fellow believers in a special way, but we are also supposed to love everyone. Jesus is calling us to love all people, not just those who love us and are bound to us by common interests or politics, but everyone just as God does.

Love your neighbor, even those you can’t stand and treat you very poorly. Love the person that disgusts you and love the person that no one else loves sitting by themselves in the cafeteria. By doing so you are imitating your Father in Heaven.

God’s People Will Love Their Neighbor (V. 45)

Jesus says here that we are to love those who persecute us “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven” (V. 45). Those people who are God’s people will imitate God and love their neighbor.

Does this mean that we are made right with God through our love of other people? No, it is not. It is clear throughout the Scriptures that we are made right with God through faith in Christ. In fact, verse 48 reveals to us a standard that we cannot meet: perfection. But our love does do something. It reveals to us the nature of our relationship with God. Those people who love God will imitate His love for others.

The unbelieving world does not love as believers do and this has been exhibited throughout history. The Early Church remained when nearly everyone else fled as a plague spread through Rome. Why did they remain? They remained to care for the sick. It was, to the unbelievers in Rome, the most unbelievable act of love that most people had ever seen. The Church made it their business to care for orphans and widows as an act of love for others throughout history. Orphanages were set up and taken care of by local churches. As time went on the methods for care changed. In Geneva Switzerland, John Calvin’s church paid widows to work at the Church giving them a job where they took care of the facilities to the best of their ability. Pastors traveled and preached and used the earnings from their travels to pay for the orphanages. Even today Christian organizations throughout the world and especially here in America are caring for those in need with hospitals and adoption agencies. Christians have, throughout history, showed an incredible amount of love for their neighbor.

God’s people will love their neighbor. Christians have been doing it throughout history and the reason is that God’s love changes us. God the Holy Spirit transforms us (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 3:5; 1 John 3:9; 1 Peter 1:23; Ephesians 2:10). And we become people who love our neighbor.

This is a time for looking at your own life. Has God worked in you? Are you loving those who the rest of the world would consider unlovable? Are you loving your neighbor?

Let us prove the love of Christ toward us in our love toward others.


R. Dwain Minor