“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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 do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
The Pharisees perverted the truth by omitting the word “yourself” (Lev. 19:18). They also perverted the truth by adding the phrase “hate your enemies.” This phrase is found nowhere in scripture. The religious leaders excluded the tax collector and the sinner—the common people—from their love. They only included people like themselves.
Jesus corrects the perverted truth of the Pharisees by stating the pure teaching of the scripture. Jesus says, “But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”
How then are we to demonstrate this love? Luke provides the more detailed version of this teaching in his account. It says, “do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you and pray for those who mistreat you” (Luke 6:28).
Jesus says this should be our testimony, “so that you may be sons of the father who is in heaven.” Our purpose for living and loving this way is based on the fact that we are thankful that God saved us and loves us, even when we were unloving towards Him.
The reason for obeying Christ’s commands in this passage are:
Let us all obey Christ by loving our enemies. This is a counter-cultural notion even today. When we do, we put Christ on display in our lives that others may come to know Him in saving faith.