In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus encourages his hearers (and us) to take a different look at how we understand the Old Testament. It was radical teaching, because over the years, the Jewish leaders had added cultural traditions to the Scripture that the text itself may not have implied.
For example, in Matthew 5.43 (NLT), Jesus says, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbour’ and hate your enemy.” Many faithful Jewish people had assumed that the law told them to love their neighbours and hate their enemies, when in fact, the text does not call God’s people to hate their enemies. (This is why the single quotation marks appear around ‘Love your neighbour’, because that is the Old Testament quotation, from Leviticus 19.18.) Jesus goes on to say, “But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In this way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.44-45a, NLT).
This was challenging teaching for Jesus’ first hearers, because they had been in political struggles with enemy nations, and theological struggles with Samaritans and the like, for so long, the notion of hating one’s enemies had become engrained in the culture.
At another point, Jesus would challenge their concept of love of neighbour by telling the
story of the Good Samaritan, whose aid of a Jewish man on the road to Jericho (pictured: the green areas highlight what was the original road to Jericho; taken from Wadi Qelt, between Jerusalem and Jericho, February 19, 2019) was radically counter-cultural.
How are you doing with love of neighbour?
How are you doing with love of “enemy” – however you might perceive your enemy?
In this age of outrage, especially on social media, followers of Jesus are called to love neighbour and enemy…even if they are the same person.
(I’m going to expand on this in my message, “Lessons From St. Patrick” at St. Paul’s Church, Nobleton, this Sunday.)