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Jesus radically expanded “Love your neighbor”

April 17, 2024

Daily Scripture

Matthew 5:43-48

43 “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor [Leviticus 19:18] and hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you 45 so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete.

Daily Reflection & Prayer

We know that Jesus identified loving God and loving your neighbor as the “great commandments” (cf. Matthew 23:35-40). But in his sermon on the mount (which was not a one-time event, but a summary of the way he regularly taught about the Kingdom of God—cf. Luke 6:27-36), he expanded the meaning of loving your neighbor in ways that must have sounded, and may still sound, radical. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return.” *

  • Dr. King went on in that sermon: “This is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Love your enemies.’…. I’ve seen too much hate to want to hate, myself… every time I see it, I say to myself, hate is too great a burden to bear.” * Do Dr. King’s words, and Jesus’ words he quoted, inspire you to embrace Jesus’ kind of radically self-giving love? In our polarized society, how can love actively help to dismantle the “us vs. them” mentality and build bridges, even with personal, social or political “enemies”?

  • Jesus said loving your enemies makes you more like God, who “makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.” What kind of growth in character and maturity does it take to love your enemies? Did Jesus mainly mean altering your emotions to feel more affectionate toward them, or altering your behavior to act for their good? How can you become more like God in your willingness to act for the good of all?


God, grant me the strength to trust that love is a powerful force against division and evil. Guide me to actively seek to build bridges, challenge personal prejudices, and confront injustices with a living faith that transforms my heart. Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Elijah Herrell

Elijah Herrell

Elijah Herrell serves as the modern worship leader at Resurrection’s Downtown campus. He was originally based in Hickory, NC before moving to the Kansas City area in 2013. Over the last 10 years, he’s served with various churches and ministries all over KC as well as recorded multiple albums with his band “Familiar.” He loves most all things Dolly Parton, has strong feelings about cereal and looks forward to fostering a dog as soon as his landlord allows.

As I grow older, I often have moments where I contemplate my journey in the Christian faith. I look back on my formative years and have great gratitude for the ways I was taught about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity. When I look forward, I bounce around a handful of familiar questions. “Do I still believe this?” “Is Jesus any different than any other religion or faith?” “Is it worthwhile to pursue this lifelong?”

To answer that last question, I often look back at today’s passage. It describes an outlandish, deeply unnatural way to live. “Love your enemies?” Everything I encounter in the natural world seems to contradict this sentiment. Metaphorically, I feel like this is one of the crown jewels of the Kingdom of God. This concept is one that always strikes me as deeply “holy” (unlike the normal, set apart) because of its backwards nature. We serve a God who was willing to die to show us love. We mirror a Savior who possesses all power but always prefers to care for the vulnerable, unprofitable ones who have nothing to offer. We give because we already have it all.

This is what I can’t seem to find in other places. No other path or faith that I’ve encountered has tapped into this borderline ludicrous way to love in the same way. Truly loving your enemies is risky. It opens you up to pain and disappointment by those who have already hurt you. It feels diametrically opposed to the logic of modern society. But, maybe, just maybe–it’s the narrow path. It’s a code of conduct from a Kingdom unlike any others. It’s the heartbeat of the Kingdom of Heaven. Compassionate to a fault. Kind to all undeserving. I am very grateful to belong to a King who loves His enemies. I was his enemy once. Now, I’m a son in the family of God.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* “A Christmas Sermon on Peace,” in James M. Washington, ed. A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1986, p. 256.