Matthew 5:44


This is another instance of the way in which Christian righteousness is to exceed the righteousness of scribes and Pharisees. Let us consider the duty and the motives that urge it.

I. THE DUTY.

1. Positive. This carries us beyond patience under insult and nonresistance to injury. The previous passage insisted on those duties only. It was negative in character, forbidding a wrong course of conduct; therefore obedience to it would be purely passive. Now we come to a positive and active duty - to love and aid.

2. Helpful. Love is a subjective sentiment, but it cannot confine itself to the breast of the person who cherishes it. It must flow out in deeds of kindness. Here is the key to the precept in the previous paragraph. By itself it seems to be impossible to carry out so extraordinary a rule; or, if it were put in practice, it looks as though it might be quite subversive of society. But it must be followed by the conduct now recommended. Bare non-resistance will not be successful. It will only end in the extinction of right and the triumph of aggressive evil. But non-resistance, sustained by active love to our enemies, will assume a very different character. Love is a more powerful weapon than the sword. We are to "overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21); to conquer our enemy by destroying his enmity, while we prove ourselves his friends.

3. Prayerful. Love is not sufficient to meet the hard heart of enmity. Only the gracious influences of the Spirit of God can do it. Therefore we are to pray for these. If we are wrongfully used, we may overcome our enemies by seeking for God to turn their hearts while we show them brotherly kindness.

II. ITS REASONABLENESS. This duty is so contrary to the ways of the world that it seems to be quite unnatural and unreasonable. But Christ shows that he has good grounds for demanding it of us.

1. The example of our Father in heaven. God is not only kind to the good. First, he shows infinite patience and forbearance. Then he goes beyond these passive excellences and manifests active beneficence in sending sunshine and rain to all sorts and conditions of men. Thus he is impartial in his kindness. He does not regulate his favours by our deserts. The very constitution and course of nature reveal this large, indiscriminate beneficence of God. Yet God maintains order in the universe, and ultimately effects the triumph of the right. Therefore kindness to enemies is not unnatural; it is the very method of nature. It is not unreasonable; it accords with God's wise way of governing the universe.

2. The obligations of Christianity. The law of resentment represents a low stage of moral development. If religious people follow this law, they are no better than the irreligious - "the publicans;" if Christians follow it, they are no better than the heathen - "the Gentiles;" i.e. Christian love as such only appears when we begin to love those whom we should not love if we were not following Christ. We prove our religion, not in those good things in which we agree with the irreligious, but in those by means of which we surpass them. Meanwhile no lower standard can be allowed to the Christian; he must aim at nothing less than the Divine example of perfection. - W.F.A.









But I say unto you.
I. THE RANGE AND EXTENT OF JESUS' IMPERATIVE SPEECHES. He keeps up to His own superior level of command upon all occasions and before all men. Men like us only assume without offence an imperative mood in certain relations of life. Christ did before the Rulers, before the Roman power.

II. THE NATURE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF THESE RELATIONS OF LIFE, AND THOSE ELEMENTS OF HUMAN NATURE, OVER WHICH JESUS QUIETLY ASSUMED MASTERY.

1. The miracles of Christ not the greatest of His wonderful works; a greater assumption of power to exercise authority over the higher principles and laws of our human nature, than to claim authority over winds and waves.

2. With what calm consciousness of right Jesus assumes this authority — which belongs to God alone — over human hearts.

3. The nature or right of this supremacy of the Christ.(1) One ever-present illustration of what Jesus is to this universe we have within us in conscience. Hence you have a means of understanding the authority of Christ.(2) It reappears in the law of love. He is the righteousness of God with man.

4. We should bring obedience.

5. Do we not need, all of us, to be most thoroughly commanded by something higher and better than ourselves? We fall from our own possibilities, and need a command to step forth like princes to our high calling.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

The world feels it from centre to circumference; every fruitful field rejoices in it, and this earth would be indeed worthless and dark without it; but we can only make guesses at the riddle of its gravitation and its light; and while any child knows that it is, the wisest can only declare in part, in very little part, how it is.

(Newman Smyth, D. D.)

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