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We come now to the final illustration Jesus uses to compare His teachings with the traditional teachings of the day. This one continues the theme of the ultimate expression of God's love. The last one was about retaliation. In this one Jesus pushes the envelope a little further to the point of loving your enemies. SECRET #23 is: The follower of Jesus eliminates all enemies by loving them.
Here's how Jesus put it: "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 causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-48)
To "love your neighbor" was understood in their teaching. Loving your neighbor in the way neighbor was defined in their teachings was incomplete. Jesus enhances this teaching by taking it another level deeper. His point is that to love your enemies and even pray for those who persecute you is to act as a child of God, the Father. To be a son of God is to take on His character.
The last line of Jesus' teaching is that "you are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect" may be one of the most misquoted and misunderstood teachings of Jesus. He is not saying that we are to be into perfection. That just isn't going to work. There is no way! What Jesus is saying is to be full and complete in your love.
God causes the sun to rise on evil and good. God sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Loving a person who loves you isn't anything special. Even the tax collectors do that. Greeting only your brothers isn't anything special. Even the non-believer Gentiles do that.
So, be full and complete in your act of loving as your Father fully and completely loves everyone-evil and good, righteous and unrighteous. Love everyone, everywhere you go, in every encounter. Demonstrate the full and complete love of Jesus. This is the Gospel-the Good News. This is Jesus, so be Jesus to everyone!
We have here the blueprint for solving the problem of alienation in our world-the ultimate solution for world peace. This is the most effective peace plan ever. Religious wars are in abundance and always have been between the various religious cultures of the world. Every religious system has had its ugly moments in history. Muslims believe all non-Muslims are going to hell.
Christians believe all non-Christians are going to hell, etc. There are ugly differences even within the major religious communities. I grew up Baptist and we believed we were the only Baptists that were going to heaven.
There are three methods of bringing these disparate movements into some form of cooperation and unity. FIRST-There is the inter-faith approach. This is usually a benign, friendly meeting with no significant results. SECOND-There is what is called a multi-faith approach. This is very similar to the first one, yet seems to include a greater respect for one another. This breeds more of a sense of cooperation, yet it falls short of what Jesus is teaching.
The THIRD approach is what Jesus is teaching here. He is teaching how to eliminate all of your enemies altogether. Simply love them! If you love your enemies, you have no enemies. This is the essence of SECRET #23: The follower of Jesus eliminates all enemies by loving them.