Loving Your Enemies, Is That a New or an Old Testament Concept?

A Daily Little Lesson

Read the transcript of this video below.

Loving your enemies, is that a New or an Old Testament concept? The question we’re asking today is about a very familiar commandment, love your enemies. Everybody knows Jesus said that. Everybody knows Jesus said that in the Sermon on the Mount. But some folks were saying that that’s something that the world never heard before and that a new ethic, a new standard of morality. Jesus is raising the bar now that he’s come to the earth and he’s got a set of followers. He’s expecting more out of them than God expected out of anyone before them.

Picture of Bible opened to verse, "Love your enemies."

Of course I have already talked in previous little lessons about how confusing that must have been if it were true to his disciples because often times people who hold to that premise will say, “Well, this is the New Covenant law, but yet Jesus was ministering under the Old Covenant.” Of course he’s quoting from the Old Covenant law, the Law of Moses and he’s making counterpoints but he’s not correcting himself. He’s not correcting the Law of Moses. That would be strange that God would correct himself and so who is he correcting? He’s correcting the false beliefs, the false ideas, false interpretations, things taught by scribes and Pharisees. They’re twisting which has become so clear as we’ve been reading through this and we’ve already looked at three out of the six you have heard but I say to you statements by Jesus.

We skipped over the third one, looked at the fourth one last time. We’re going to skip over the fifth one and look at the sixth one. Now we will come back to the third and the fifth but I’m looking at the ones … First of all, they’re the most obvious that make it so plain to us that the ethic that Jesus was subscribing to and conveying to his disciples was in every case Old Covenant ethics of morality. You’ll see that today is no different and that helps then put the other two within context. They’re not quite as easy to see but actually they’re not that difficult to see either.

Today we come to Matthew chapter five in verse number 43. The Lord said there, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor.'” And in my Bible, those one, two, three, four, five words “You shall love your neighbor” are all capitalized indicating that’s a quote from the Old Testament, from the law. “You shall love your neighbor.”

But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He keeps saying something and he says, “And hate your enemy.” In my Bible, “And hate your enemy” is not in all caps. There’s a little revelation there. It’s not in all caps because it’s not a quote. When Jesus says, “You’ve heard it said,” then he says, “You shall love your neighbor, hate your enemy,” he’s smart enough to know that the second part of that is not in the Old Testament anywhere. Remember he’s God. He knows the Bible pretty well. He’s the inspirer of it, the giver of it. He knows what’s there. When he says, “You’ve heard it said,” he’s not saying, “God said.” Of course he didn’t say, “God said.” He said, “You’ve heard that it was said.” But the reality of it, it wasn’t said. You’ve heard it was said but it wasn’t said. Part of it was what was said but not all of it. I’m quoting to you the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees who are teaching you by their sermons and clearly by their actions that God wants you to hate your enemies.

Now, we know that there was some debate on this whole concept in Jesus’s time because a guy came up one time and asked, “Who is my neighbor?” What’s he referring to? He’s referring to this commandment, “Love your neighbor.” Great question. I think it’s a valid question. Who’s my neighbor? That is a valid question because under the Old Covenant, God told Israelites in some cases to wipe out people and to be separate from certain people, not to associate with certain people because of their incredibly sinful cultures and lies.

Everybody thinks about it very long because, well, obviously not everybody is not my neighbor that I’m supposed to love because how can I be loving to kill somebody under the orders of God? I’m not implying that God is telling anyone to kill anybody today. Don’t misquote me on that.

That’s a good question. Who’s my neighbor? They’re trying to figure that out. I don’t know what their conclusion was. But if we keep reading what Jesus said here in the context of the fact that he’s correcting pharisaical teaching seems pretty safe to conclude that the scribes and Pharisees had determined your neighbor is the person who loves you. That’s how you can tell who your neighbor is, the person who loves you. Is that really what the Mosaic Law taught? That you’re only obligated to love the people who love you, but you have no obligation to ever show mercy and grace to undeserving people? That’s what God was teaching in the law? Well, no. I think anyone who’s ever read the Old Testament knows that and so Jesus is correcting this idea that’s so prevalent in his day that not only is it okay to hate certain people that you label as enemies, it’s commanded by God but it wasn’t. God never commanded anyone to hate their enemies. That’s not a quotation.

Jesus says in verse 44, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Now, some people say, “We never heard that before.” He’s raising the standard now. Oh, okay. He’s raising the standard, so under the Law of Moses, God didn’t want Israel to love their enemies? Because if it’s a new ethic, a new standard, what you’re saying is it can’t be found in the Old Covenant anywhere. Are you sure you’re right about that? That nowhere in the Old Covenant and the Law of Moses that there was any provision for showing mercy and grace for undeserving people and turn the other cheek? You can’t find that anywhere in the Law of Moses?

Pray for those who persecute you. Now, let’s keep reading. So that you may be sons of your Father who’s in heaven. I talked about previously on little lessons about how all of God’s moral commandments all emanate from his own character. This is the proof right here. You’re proving that you’re sons of your father when you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute. In other words, God’s character is loving and merciful. God loves his enemies. How long has God been loving his enemies? Is that something that started with the New Covenant? Are you kidding me? God doesn’t change. Read the Old Testament. You see example after example of God showing underserved mercy and grace and long-suffering. Oh, my goodness is God long-suffering under the Old Covenant towards people who don’t deserve them.

We’re out of time. We have to pick up here on our next little lesson. Thanks for joining me. God bless you.