Love Your Neighbor AND Your Enemy!
The Biblical Command To Love One Another.
A Scripture Study
You have heard that it has been said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you love your enemies. Bless them who curse you. Do good to them who hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you; that you may be the children of your Father, who is in heaven. For He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. (Matthew 5:43-45)
This article is a scripture study on an instruction of Yahushuah that's very challenging to do. He commands Bet Yeshurun Assembly (BYA) to "agapao" (G25; "love") our enemies. Furthermore, He expects us to: (1) bless those who curse us; (2) do good things for those who "miseo" us (G3404; "hate, detest"); and(3) pray for those who persecute and maliciously use us.
The Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) has no phrase that precisely matches this quote from the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy." However, the principle of this saying is evident within a complaint from Joab (Yo'av), commander of Israel's army, when King David (Dawith) mourned and wept over his son's death. Keep in mind Yo'av had just executed Absalom (Avshalom) as an enemy of the state for seeking to usurp his dad's position as Israel's leader. But the King covered his face and cried with a loud voice, "O my son Avshalom! O Avshalom, my son, my son!" And Yo'av came into the house to the king and said, "You have shamed this day the faces of all your servants, who this day saved your life, the lives of your sons and of your daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines; in that you love your enemies, and hate your friends. For you declared this day that you regard neither princes nor servants. For, this day I perceive that if Avshalom had lived and we all had died this day, then it had pleased you well." (2 Samuel 19:4-6) David's unexpected behavior met with disapproval from fellow citizens. It was unacceptable for Israelites in King David's time to love their enemy. Likewise, Yahushuah's saying is difficult to accept in modern times. People frown on His wisdom because they don't know Yah. God is the butt of jokes, because His teachings and His Ways go against society's conventional wisdom. "Yet I show to you a more excellent Way. (1 Corinthians 12:31) To love your enemy was an unthinkable act. It wasn't being preached in Yahushuah's time. However, the first part of the ancient saying, "love your 'neighbor: agapao sou plesion" was a well known teaching.The Greek word "sou" (G4675) = "thy, thee, your" and "plesion" (G4139) = "neighbor, friend, any member of the Hebrew nation and commonwealth." This principle was readily accepted amongst Yah's people. "You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall in any wise rebuke your neighbor and not suffer sin upon him. You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people. But, you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am YAHUAH (jwjy)." (Leviticus 19:17-18)
When Matthew (MattithYahu) quoted Yahushuah to say, "You have heard that it has been said," He was acknowledging that people were being instructed to love their neighborANDto hate their enemy.The second half of that principle was exactly the opposite of what He taught, "love your enemies."
Proof that Israelites during His time on earth were taught to "hate their enemy" is confirmedin an ancient document unearthed at Qumran (1QS). If you're unfamiliar with Qumran literature, read the archived article from our pastor (Vol. No. 519 in the teaching blog at www.messianics.us).
Document 1QS begins its instructions to love fellow members of Qumran and to hate all non-members with this: "In order to seek Elohim (with all the heart and soul) doing what is right and good before Him, as He commanded through Moses and through all His servants the prophets, and in order to love all that He has chosen and to hate all that He has rejected, keeping away from all evil and adhering to all good works, and in order to love all the Sons of Light each according to his lot in the Council of Elohim, and to hate all the Sons of Darkness, each according to his guilt at the vengeance of Elohim." Scripture attests to Dawith's hatred of Yah's physical and spiritual enemies (such as the "Sons of Darkness"). "Surely You will slay the wicked, O Elohim. Depart from me therefore, you bloody men. For they speak against You wickedly and Your enemies take Your name in vain. Do I not hate them, O jwjy, who hate you? Am I not grieved with those who rise up against you? I hate them with perfect hatred. I count them my enemies." (Psalm 139:19-21) Scripture also attests that the apostle John recognized and loved those whom Yah chose to be saints ("Sons of Light"). "Behold, what manner of love the Father bestows on us that we should be called the Sons of Elohim. Therefore the world knows us not because it knew Him not. Beloved, now we are the Sons of Elohim and it does not yet appear what we shall be. But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him. For, we shall see Him as He is. And every man who has this hope in Him purifies himself, even as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)
Nonetheless, what evolved from a scriptural principle of loving Yah's "Sons of Light" and hating "Sons of Darkness", evolved at Qumran into a practice of shunning anyone who wasn't of their nationality or creed. Reading further into 1QS, the opening verses surprisingly grew into a full dissertation on "loving" fellow members of Qumran's sect and "detesting" all non-sectarians. In short, the Qumran teaching was to avoid anyone who was not amongst their sect. That somewhat explains the Yahudah practice of "shunning" gentiles (i.e. people who are of other nationalities).
In an article about the Dead Sea Discoveries ("Love and Hate at Qumran: The Social Construction of Sectarian Emotion"),Ari Mermelstein explains how "the sect behind 1QS used the emotions of love and hate to teach its members the proper ways on evaluating the world. Sectarian love and hate were vehicles through which the sect communicated core beliefs."
Mermelstein further notes a member of Qumran's sect was "expected to recognize his utter dependence on the divine will by loving those whom God loves and hating those whom he hates, thereby affirming his place in the covenantal community. Since divine love and hate manifested itself in the selective revelation of knowledge, sectarian love and hate required the unselfish disclosure of knowledge to other group members and the concealment of the same knowledge from outsiders."
So, Qumran practiced love of neighbors by disclosing knowledge of Torah to each other. They also practiced "hate" of enemies by concealing Elohim's teachings and instructions from strangers. Qumran scribes took a wise principle, "hating Elohim's declared enemies" (e.g. adversarial nations, Satan, and his cohort of fallen angels), and twisted it around. They forgot their mission and Elohim's call to be people of light and a blessing to the world (other nations, gentiles) as Solomon (Shelomoh) prayed at the Temple dedication. "Moreover concerning a stranger, who is not of your people Israel, but comes out of a far country for Your name's sake (for they shall hear of Your great name, and of Your strong hand, and of Your stretched out arm). When he shall come and pray toward this house; hear in heaven Your dwelling place and do according to all that the stranger calls to You for. So that all people of the earth may know Your name, to fear You, as do Your people Israel and that they may know that this house, which I built, is called by Your name." (1 Kings 8:41-43)
Outside of Yah's teachings and instructions (His Word), Israel wasn't and isn't unique from other nations. Yah chose Israel to serve as His candlestick, with Yah's Word being His Light to the world. Thus, Israel was to be the keeper/holder of His Light. "No man, when he has lit a candle, puts it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick that they who come in may see the light. (Luke 11:33) Yahushuah often spoke about inaccurate religious practices. In particular, He took strong exception to certain teachings such as those of the Qumran scribes. He expects His disciples to follow His lead, and not the traditions of men. "Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel or under a bed, and not to be set on a candlestick? For, there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested. Neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad." (Mark 4:21-22)
Likewise, BYA's Walk should reflect that of our King Yahushuah. So, we aren't expected to just hang out with other believers. Yah expects us to visit the physically and spiritually ill, even if non-believers. As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said to him, "Follow me." He arose and followed Him. And it came to pass, that, as Yahushuah sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Yahushuah and His disciples, for there were many and they followed Him. When the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eat with publicans and sinners, they said to his disciples, "How is it that He eats and drinks with publicans and sinners?" When Yahushuah heard it, He said to them, "They who are whole have no need of the physician, but they who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." (Mark 2:14-17) Reflect on Yah's principle of not shunning the physically and spiritually weak people, who aren't our kindred (family, friends, and fellow believers). Be a Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-37). Don't bury your talents from the world. Use what Yah has given you for His Kingdom work. (Matthew 25:14-30)
Yahushuah also expects His disciples to go the extra step with a goal of reconciling with enemies by blessing those who curse, hate, persecute, misuse and abuse them. To bless our fellow believers (neighbors) is nothing more than what non-believers are capable of doing. For, if you love them who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the publicans the same? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more than others? Do not even the publicans so? (Matthew 5:46-47)
One way to love our neighbor (family, friends, fellow believers and love our enemies (non-believers) is to share Yah's gift with others as He did (His Good News of salvation; His covering over us) Yahushuah said to him (BYA), "If you will be perfect, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me." (Matthew 19:21)
In the Gospel of MattithYahu, Yahushuah closes His teaching on "Love our neighbor AND our enemy" by encouraging BYA to: "Be you therefore perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) In Strong's Concordance, that word "perfect" is translated from the Greek "teleios" (G5046), which means to be "complete, brought to its end finished, wanting nothing necessary for completeness." In Hebrew, the word "tamiym" (H8549) means "complete, whole, entire, sound, healthful, wholesome, unimpaired and innocent, having integrity, what is complete or entirely in accord with truth and fact."
Yahushuah's apostles reached this type of perfection. "Howbeit we speak wisdom among them who are perfect? Yet not the wisdom of this world, or of the princes of this world, that come to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of Elohim in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which Elohim ordained before the world to our glory, which none of the princes of this world knew. For, had they known it, they would not have crucified Adonai (Yahushuah) of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:6-8) "Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth to those things which are before. I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of Elohim in Yahushuah ha Mashiach. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing you be otherwise minded, Elohim shall reveal even this to you." (Philippians 3:13-15) "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation. For, in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man and able also to bridle the whole body. (James 3:1-2)
Can BYA achieve such perfection? Scripture says we can. "You shall be perfect with jwjy your Elohim." (Deuteronomy 18:13) "Let patience have her perfect work that you may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (James 1:4) If we stop following the world's ways and seek to transform, to renew our minds, we shall discern what is good, what is pleasing, and what is perfect according to Yah's will. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of Elohim, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to Elohim, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world. But be transformed by the renewing of your mind that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect Will of Elohim." (Romans 12:1-2)
Learning to love my enemy certainly challenges me. It is so foreign to my basic human instinct that at times I even question the wisdom of doing so. Nonetheless, I accept that Yah must have a mighty good reason for doing so. "Because the foolishness of Elohim is wiser than men and the weakness of Elohim is stronger than men. For, you see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But, Elohim has chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and Elohim has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty. And base things of the world and things which are despised, has Elohim chosen. Yes, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of him are you in Yahushuah ha'Mashiach, who of Elohim is made to us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption: That, according as it is written, He who glories, let him glory in Yahushuah. (1 Corinthians 1:25-31)
If you also find the road to being perfect no easy route, I encourage you to sanctify (be dedicated to Yah) and put on Elohim's armor (His Word). We can be holy as YAHUAH is holy. "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind. Be sober and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, fashion not yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance. But as He who has called you is holy, so you be holy in all manner of conversation. Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy. (1 Peter 1:13-16) "For I am jwjyyour Elohim. You shall therefore sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy; for I am holy." (Lev. 11:44) "Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel and say to them, You shall be holy! For I, jwjy your Elohim, am holy." (Lev. 19:2)
With many missteps and shortcomings along the way, Dawith ultimately reached perfection. He became a man after Yah's own heart. Our path to perfection (being upright) is surely reachable in keeping Yah's commands as given through Yahushuah (in spirit) and through Torah (in truth). "For I have kept the ways of jwjy and have not wickedly departed from my Elohim. For all His judgments were before me. And as for His statutes, I did not depart from them. I was also upright (perfect) before Him and have kept myself from my iniquity." (2 Samuel 22:22-24)
As we mature physically and spiritually, we will have opportunities to choose various paths. There is only one path to perfection - the Way of Yah. "It came to pass, when Shelomoh was old that his wives turned away his heart after other gods. His heart was not perfect with jwjy his Elohim, as was the heart of Dawith his father. Shelomoh did evil in the sight of jwjy and went not fully after jwjy, as did Dawith his father. (1 Kings 11:4.6) I pray that BYA becomes proficient at obeying Yah's commands and at being a light and salt to family, friends, strangers, and even enemies (those estranged of Yah). "That all the people of the earth may know that jwjy is Elohim and that there is none else. Let your heart therefore be perfect with jwjy our Elohim, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day." (1 Kings 8:60-61)
May this study encourage BYA to exercise its faith and to perform all that pleases Elohim. And, may Yah's mercy and grace be with us all. Shalom, Curt
Thoughts for Meditation"It's better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude." Adrian Rogers
"A mistake is always forgivable, rarely excusable, and always unacceptable." Robert Fripp
"Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much." Oscar Wilde
"Always try to learn something new each day." Elmore Leonard
"Are you teachable? Asked a wise mentor