ODB: "Alternatives to Revenge" (17 May, Mt 5:38-45)
Matt 5:43-48 "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
The difference between human love (philia) and divine love (agape) is the attitude towards our enemies. Philia is about loving those who love us, but agape is about loving those who don't love us. Jesus says that if we only love those who love us, then we are not must better than tax collectors, no better than all the rest of the world, for they also love those who love them. That much love (philia) we know exists in fallen humanity because all of us are created in the image of God.
However, God wants us to go beyond philia to love even those who don't deserve our love, viz., those the world consider sinners and wicked people, including our "enemies" (those who hate Christians). Humanly that would be impossible. But because it requires God's grace and agape, it will cause even the "enemies" of the cross to turn to Christ. God himself is doing that all the time when "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous." So, we should be a blessing not just for the "righteous" (Christians) but also for the "unrighteous" (non-Christians). Agape-love is love for all of God's creation/creatures because "This is My Father's World" not Satan's. When we love all of God's creatures (humans), we are simply claiming all of them as God's children (albeit some are still lost & need to come home).
If the church spends all their time and money on themselves and their ministries to one another, then the world will remain lost and the rain and sunshine of God's love will never reach them. So, we need to become a "missional" church that goes into the world to bless the lost children, and not wait for them to come home to us before we start blessing them. And it's only through loving even our enemies with the agape-love God pours into our hearts by His Spirit that we become "perfect...as your heavenly Father is perfect." What a privilege! Hallelujah!
Father, grant us grace to be perfect like You by bringing Your rain and sunshine to all -- Christians and non-Christians alike -- without distinction. Give us more opportunities to do the latter. Amen.