“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, 45 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.” (Matthew 5:44-45, NKJV).
Our “Father in heaven” is a God of benevolent impartiality. His blessings are offered to “evil and good” and “the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Though our sins make us deserving of punishment God still offers us great blessings. Romans 5:8 says, “...but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So, 1 John says, “we love Him, because He first loved us” (4:19).
If we want to be “sons of your Father in heaven” then the same love needs to exist in us. We must be willing not just to love those who love us back, but to love those who have wronged us. As Jesus states, “love your enemies.” This does not mean we love what our enemies do to us anymore than God loves our sin. Yet, it does mean we still act in such a way towards them that we indicate our goodwill even while they act with ill will towards us. Notice a few practical ways Jesus teaches us to put our “love” into practice when it comes to our “enemies.”
“Bless those who curse you...” When a person "curses" another person they devalue that person. When we “bless” another person we indicate to them they are souls with great worth. Since all people are creatures of God we ought to see all people as valuable. James says of our tongues, “With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:9-10).
“Do good to those who hate you...” We will only continue the cycle of hate by vengefully returning hatred with hatred. If we want to possibly turn our enemies into our friends, then “do good” to them. Paul writes, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:20-21). It is hard to keep hating someone who keeps doing you good!
“Pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you...” Jesus is the ultimate example in persecution. Yet, while on the cross He prayed for the very ones who cried out for His death, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Days later, the very ones who called for the crucifixion of Jesus became His first disciples (Acts 2:36-31). Love works!