These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, teaching points, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 5:43-48 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Teaching Points – Love Your Enemies
Where might this phrase “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy” come from?
Did this concept come from the Old Testament? What does the Old Testament have to say about this?
Who were the enemies of the Jews at this time?
Why might they feel justified in hating them?
So how does Jesus’ command raise the standard?
Are there any biblical examples of people who loved their enemies? What can we learn from them?
Is this natural to love one’s enemies? What is the natural reaction?
What does it mean to love your enemies? How can this love be described or defined?
In what way did Jesus say you should show love to your enemies (pray for them)?
Since we don’t really have enemies in the same way the Jews did, what kind of people might it be difficult for us to show love to?
What specific ways can you show love to people who don’t love you?
What does the phrase mean “that you may be children of Your Father in heaven?”
Why does Jesus talk about God’s common grace to mankind in verse 45? What does this have to do with us showing love?
What are ways people around us love those who love them?
Who would be considered the Jews “own people?”
How can we possibly be perfect as God is perfect? Since we can’t, what hope do we have?
Romans 12:19 – Let love be genuine.
1 John 3:18 – Love in deed and truth.
John 15:12-14 – Love one another as I have loved you.
Luke 6:35 – Love your enemies and do good, expecting nothing in return.
1 John 4:7-8 – Beloved let us love one another.
1 Corinthians 16:4 – Let all that you do be done in love.
Leviticus 19:9-18 – Love your neighbor.
1 Corinthians 13 – Chapter on love.
1 Peter 48 – Keep loving one another sincerely.
- You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” – Once again the common cultural standard of the day was incorrect and woefully misrepresented God’s true heart. The first part of the phrase is true and comes from the Old in Leviticus 19. But the second part to “hate your enemy” was added on to it. Now 2000 years later its hard to know exactly when and who added this phrase. Perhaps it was a rabbi or a scribe or a religious leader. In any case, it was likely added on to with the Romans in mind. Someone once asked Jesus “who is my neighbor?” Likely this question reflected a controversy at the time, namely need the Jews love everyone, even those who persecuted them? The religious establishment’s answer to this question was “no.” Neighbor was basically defined as fellow Jews or perhaps even more narrowly defined as those who live near you and who you are familiar with. We can see this as well in Jesus’ answer to the question “who is my neighbor” in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He shows two religious Jews who ignored their fellow man in need. This attitude of spurning those who were not viewed as neighbors was steeped in the culture of that time. It was practiced by the religious establishment and therefore adopted by the people. It was viewed as acceptable and even righteous behavior to hate one’s enemies. This is why Jesus said that the people must have a righteousness that exceeds the scribes and Pharisees. We also see a problem that the religious leaders had. Instead of looking to obey the spirit and principle of the law, they would instead narrowly define the terms used in the law to give themselves “an out” from following God’s commands. In this case, they narrowly define the term “neighbor.” Instead of focusing on loving others as God wanted them to do, they simply said, “He is not my neighbor. I am not required to love him.” We must be very careful to avoid interpreting Scripture in this way and instead genuinely seek to obey the principle of God’s Word instead of invalidating it for our desires and traditions.
- Love your neighbor – See Matthew 25:36-44. We cannot see God. But we can see the people around us. Our love for God should motivate us to love them as well. There are many examples that loving the people around us is THE WAY by which we love God. For example, in giving. I don’t think there is any cash in heaven. God has no use for your pieces of paper with Chairman Mao (or Lincoln) on the front of it. But we give to God by giving to people in need or people (such as missionaries or pastors) who use those funds for serving God. See 1 John 4:20. I had three brothers so I heard this verse from my mom many times growing up. God requires us to show our love for Him by obeying His commands to love the people around us. When I heard this verse growing up sometimes I thought, “Yeah, but God is perfect and my brother is not.” And yet Jesus said we should love each other as He has loved us. John 15:12-14. We certainly didn’t deserve His love, but He loved us anyway. Another example is found in Jesus’ conversation with Peter in John 21:15-17. He told Peter that if he loved Jesus, he should feed His sheep. Teaching and preaching the Word was the mission Christ called Peter to. What is God calling you to? He certainly calls each of us to share the gospel. This is one of the best ways we can show love to a lost world, by giving them the chance to be part of Christ’s family.
- To what degree should we love our neighbor? – Love your neighbor as yourself – Jesus showed in the parable of the Good Samaritan what the term “neighbor” means. What does it mean? You can see these passages and Jesus’ answers were carefully fashioned to take away any potential excuses which we would have. The commands are extremely clear. There is nothing ambiguous or confusing. Hence, they become a good question when we are not sure what to do. These commands can be a helpful guide in giving us direction. What is the loving thing to do? Should I talk to my friend about his bad habit of taking God’s name in vain? What is the loving thing to do? Should I discipline my child or not? What is the loving thing to do? Should I volunteer to help serve at church? What is the loving thing to do?
- But I tell you – Jesus’ had a higher standard. Not only are we to love our neighbors (and that is broadly defined by Jesus as well), but we are to love even our enemies. To the Jews, enemies would be the Romans. These were foreigners who invaded their country, killed their sons, raped their women, stole their land, and took their money. It was not a hypothetical situation. Many Jews surely had experienced personal hurt at the hands of the Romans. They could think of the unjust murder or ill treatment of a spouse or a relative by the Romans or by their puppet, Herod. It is surely easier to agree with and obey the concept of loving your enemies than it is to love an actual enemy with an actual face who has actually persecuted you. But this is what God requires. You probably don’t have enemies like this today. So what kind of people is it hard for us to love?
- Family members who criticize or berate us.
- Bosses who mistreat us.
- For teachers, students or their parents who are very uncooperative and annoying.
- For doctors, patients who are unreasonable and ungrateful.
- Strangers who are rude and bullying in the crowded streets of your city.
- People who you have tried to show love to again and again and who never reciprocate.
- That you may be children of your Father in heaven – In verse 45, Jesus gives us a good reason why we should love others. The reason is the example of God. God shows grace to every person who lives. He sends the rain to water the earth, which both the righteous and unrighteous need. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. God loves the world. He loves sinners. He loves His enemies. Jesus Himself showed love to the people who crucified them by asking God to forgive them (He practiced what He preached by praying for those who were persecuting Him.) We are supposed to be like our Father in heaven. Loving those who are rude and mean to us is one way that we can be like God and therefore prove to be His children. Like father, like son. On the other hand, if we hate others, no matter what the reason, we are acting like Satan and not like God. The lesson is simple. Is God your Father? If yes, then act like Him. His central nature is love. And we need to live out that love in our daily lives even when we face people who seem very unlovable.
- Pray for those who persecute you – So how are to we to love people who are difficult and unlovable? Loving them is not hypothetical. It is not just an emotion. It is tangible and real. We are to love in deed and in truth. Jesus gives one concrete way and that is to pray for them. Pray for their salvation. The more you pray for them, the more God will give you a heart of love for them. It’s hard to stay angry at people that you are praying for. In what other ways can you show love to them?
- “It was in a church in Munich that I saw him, a balding heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.
It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown.
“When we confess our sins,” I said, “God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever.”
The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.
And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones.
It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights, the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor, the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!
Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbrück concentration camp where we were sent.
Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: “A fine message, fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!”
And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course–how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?
But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. It was the first time since my release that I had been face to face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.
“You mentioned Ravensbrück in your talk,” he was saying. “I was a guard in there.” No, he did not remember me.
“But since that time,” he went on, “I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein”–again the hand came out–“will you forgive me?”
And I stood there–I whose sins had every day to be forgiven–and could not. Betsie had died in that place–could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?
It could not have been many seconds that he stood there, hand held out, but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.
For I had to do it–I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. “If you do not forgive men their trespasses,” Jesus says, “neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.”
I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality.
Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.
And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion–I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.
“Jesus, help me!” I prayed silently. “I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.”
And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.
“I forgive you, brother!” I cried. “With all my heart!” (This excerpt is from: https://www.guideposts.org/better-living/positive-living/guideposts-classics-corrie-ten-boom-on-forgiveness)
- If you love those who love you what reward will you get – This type of love is not unusual. It is not other-worldly. This kind of love is quite natural. Anyone around us can love with this type of love. In the world this is the standard, to treat people nicely if they treat you nicely. But Christ holds us to a higher standard. Is there a person you need to forgive like Corrie Ten Boom did? Is there a person you need to take initiative to meet
- Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect – Wow. What an incredible high standard this is. Of course we cannot reach it. I believe this was part of Jesus’ goal in sharing this. He wanted people to realize that they could not reach God’s standard on their own. He wanted them to become desperate knowing that they could not save themselves by being good enough. He wanted them to be driven to God as the only place to turn to since they couldn’t solve the problem on their own. The people of Jesus’ day were very religious. But like most people today they were relying on the false bridge of “good deeds” to bring them to God and Jesus had tos how them that this bridge would not support their weight. What are you relying on? Of course we cannot be perfect like God is. We look at so many areas in this chapter and see that we fall far short. What is the solution? I hope this will push you to God in repentance and make you turn to Him to receive the grace and strength to get closer and closer to His perfect standard.
More to come soon