Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
The core message of Jesus’ entire Sermon on the Mount is basically to do the right thing in every circumstance, even though the right thing is often the hard thing to do. God’s commandment is not to hate, but to love; not to seek revenge, but to demonstrate mercy; not to act like the world, but to be like God, to respond differently, to have different motives. It’s not about who the other person is—just or unjust, evil or good, right or wrong—but it is about who we are, children of God. And we should act accordingly.
Jesus starts this sermon with the beatitudes, and maybe He does so because it is that kind of heart that will desire to follow God’s ways. That heart will despise sin. That heart will want justice. That heart strives for righteousness. That heart seeks the good of others and loves the unlovable. Following Jesus, truly following Him, is completely different than the norm, the worldly way of going about life. But we are to strive to be like God. It is His standard we must follow, and it is sometimes higher than we are willing to reach to.
But the goal is to actually be children of our Father, and being that is different than saying we want to or pretending to do so and making it seem like we are, like the Pharisees were doing. And only through Christ can we be like Him, so we must allow Him to make us into what we are supposed to be. We must choose these right things by the leading of His Spirit. We must forsake our pride and our reasoning and our self-serving desires and replace those with love, compassion and mercy.
What Jesus says we are to do often contradicts what others say we should do or what our natural flesh would choose to do. But may we be willing to do what Jesus says anyway. It’s not always easy to do the right thing, but let’s do the right thing anyway. We may be persecuted or ridiculed or disliked for following Jesus’ way, but let’s follow Him anyway. God is glorified and magnified and made known to a lost and sinful world when His children become more like Him.