It has happened that in the process of pursuing a worthwhile goal something else happens which was also good.
Several inventions have happened in such an “accidental” way. Play-Doh was initially marketed as wall-paper cleaner to get rid of soot from solid-fuel stoves. Post-It notes came about when one man who had concocted a “low-tack” adhesive which remained sticky after several uses met another man who needed bookmarks that wouldn’t slip out of place in his hymnal. The microwave oven, penicillin, Saccharin, Teflon, and popsicles have similar not-intended-but-still-resulting-in-good histories.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 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, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
Such is not the case, however, with what we have in Matthew chapter 5. The Pharisees had begun with the good goal of guiding their lives by the inspired words of the Bible–Moses and the prophets. But the devil, in concert with their sinful natures, had led the Pharisees away from that goal. The result was not something which was also good. Rather, the result was a catalog of man-made rules and regulations which bore little or no resemblance to the original Word of God.
What we have in the verses before us is similar to what came earlier in Matthew’s fifth chapter. God had intended that His law serve as a mirror to show us our sin. But when a Pharisee looked at the law, he saw a mirror which showed him how good he supposedly was!
What had happened? God’s Word in the second table of the Law (“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Leviticus 19:18) had been modified to read, “Love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.” The original command was not intended to specify WHOM we are to love; rather, the point was to lay out WHAT we are to do—namely, to love our neighbor as ourselves. And in our text Jesus identifies just what such loving our neighbor involves. It is not loving only those who are friendly toward us, for such loving would be no different from what anyone—even non-Christians—might display. No, being followers of Jesus means loving everyone, even our enemies—those who may be out to get us or to ruin us, and even those who may persecute us.
Having our enemy’s eternal welfare as the top concern in our hearts and doing everything we can to lead such to know the Savior—this is what marks us as “sons of our Father in heaven” who makes no distinction between who gets the sun and the rain. “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
So it is that all, whether acquaintances or enemies, whether family or foe, need to come to know of their Savior through us!
As we move forward then with the good goal—with the scriptural resolve that to love our neighbor, even our enemy, as ourselves—may God keep us from going beyond to a goal which is not good, leaving His Word behind in the process!
Let us not fall prey to the thinking that being perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect means that we can be or even need to be holy before God based on our own efforts, or that our perfection mirrors our good works—as if with our sinful human natures we can do what is God-pleasing.
To be perfect as our Heavenly Father is perfect means that we, by faith, find our complete holiness in His Son whose sinless life was offered in our place. Thank God that for Jesus’ sake He sees us as perfect, and in the message of the gospel gives us the strength we need to continue to strive to love our neighbor as ourselves!