Monday, October 19, 2009

Loving Our Enemies

"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...Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:43-44, 48)

Many critics have claimed that Jesus could not have mentioned the words referring to the hatred of enemies, as no such injunction is found in the Old Testament or in the Jewish literature.

[Donna: It is obvious that Jesus wasn't quoting a scripture that referred to hatred of one's enemies because he said, "You have heard..." Whenever he quoted a scripture, he always said, "It is written" or "Is it not written?]

The Manual of Discipline from the Dead Sea Scrolls, however, advises the Qumran community members to "love all that God has chosen and hate all that He has rejected" , and also to "hate all the children of darkness". It is thought nowadays that Jesus was referring to the Essenes, who were his contemporaries.

Love for one’s enemies is, however, contained in the OT ordinances. In Exodus 23:4-5 we read: "If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering off, be sure to take it back to him. If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."

Santala, Risto. 1992. The Messiah in the New Testament. Jerusalem: Keren Avah Meshihit., pgs 172-173


  1. I am appreciative of having this knowledge of the Savior's injunction with the Old Testament reference and the knowledge of what the Essenes taught.

    I heard James Charlesworth speak on the possibility that John the Baptist lived with the Essenes for awhile but ultimately could not take vows with them because of their injunction to hate their enemies. I am thankful to have more knowledge about contemporaneous teachings that Jesus had to deal with in His day. This gives us courage to deal with the false doctrines that abound in our time.

  2. I love the application of this to service. Many years ago we were in a difficult area, one where people were enriched in tradition and not welcoming to anyone new. I struggled for several years on how to best handle the coldness and rudeness. A phrase came to mind "We love those whom we serve." I had always taken that to mean it in that order - that if we love someone, THEN we would serve them.

    But that day, I felt that it could also work in reverse. I began serving, individually, each of the people who I felt like "hating". Sometimes it was just a written note where I had to struggle (sometimes for hours) to find something positive to write in it. Othertimes, I had to think hard about what I had noticed about that person and come up with something I thought they might like or appreciate. I began to realize there was good in them that I had not noticed as the bad had taken priority in my mind. In a very brief period of time, the hate was replaced by love.

    I'm not sure if it was replaced in their hearts, but to me it was. Even a month afterward I couldn't even remember the painful details, as through service and love, the Savior had healed my heart. I was changed. It was a powerful lesson to me on how to deal with one's enemies, tying well to what you have written above:

    "If you see the donkey of someone who hates you fallen down under its load, do not leave it there; be sure you help him with it."

  3. Thanks Jennifer, for sharing your personal experiences with us. It is evidence that the same principles that worked for those living in the Old Testament period are still blessing us in the 21st century.