Church, I want to begin talking to you about love today, but not just this world’s cheap, generic idea of love. I want us to look at God’s perfect love!
How many of you know that God’s love is perfect? There is nothing missing in it. It is perfect, complete, and lacking nothing! And this is the love that you and I should aspire to both receive from Love Himself and to walk in ourselves.
Now before we move any further, I want you to know that this is a message for the mature. In God’s sight, this love for others that we will begin emphasizing today is the mark of true spirituality and maturity. So, I say that to say if one is spiritually immature and/or does not aspire to be spiritually mature, this message will not be for them. This message is for those who desire to grow up in the things of God and walk as He walked when He dwelt among us 2,000 years ago.
Now in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), we have the Lord teaching a new standard to His original covenant people. In it, he addresses the heart and points away from the simple outward observance of God’s law. And one of the main things that the Lord teaches us in His Sermon on the Mount is the importance of true, genuine love in our hearts.
So, let’s look at a passage of Scripture that clearly reflects what God aspires for all of us to walk in:
In Matthew 5:48 we have one of those Scriptures that we have the tendency to just glance over when we are reading the Word. It says, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Now why do people tend to ignore this particular verse? It is because people see it as truly impossible. They believe that it is unattainable because they feel that they are miles away from ever getting close to God’s standard of perfection.
But I want you to know that this is not referring to our idea of being “perfect.” When we hear this word, we think of perfection regarding never making a mistake. In other words, us being perfect is not having any faults, no failures and being completely flawless in our lives. But that is not what this word meant in their day.
You see, the word Jesus used for “perfect” in this verse literally described something that is “brought to an end.” In other words, it is finished or completed. In most of the instances that this word was used in the New Testament, it was used to describe maturity and being fully grown. But the gist of the word is to be wanting nothing necessary to completeness.
Therefore, when we look at this word, it doesn’t describe the same thing as “perfect” does in our culture today. In Jesus’ time, “perfect” described something or someone that had come to “completion” and “maturity.”
Now as it is with “maturity,” we really don’t ever arrive at a place of true maturity. Sure, we might be more mature today than we were in yester years, but that doesn’t mean we won’t ever behave immaturely in our lives again. The fact is, you and I can be very spiritual one day and then the next, act very unspiritual.
I just say this because I think we can have the mentality that there are those who are spiritually mature and those who are not—and that is just the way it is. But the truth is, while there are certain people who generally walk in spiritual maturity more than others, that doesn’t mean they cannot be less spiritual than others on other days. As my father in the faith, Andrew Wommack, likes to say, “I haven’t arrived, but I’ve left”—meaning, he hasn’t arrived at that pinnacle of perfection, but he makes it his aim to strive towards that place of perfect maturity every day. We ought to make this our goal as well.
Yes, this means that Jesus was telling us in this verse that we should strive towards God’s level of maturity. It should be our aim and aspiration in life—to live in His “perfection” every day.
But what is God’s idea of maturity? What makes Him perfect, and what does this “completeness and maturity” look like according to God’s perspective?
Well, in order to answer this question, what needs to be understood is the context of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:48. Yes, understanding the context will help us to see what the Lord was specifically referring to when He said this. After all, Jesus did say at the beginning of this verse “therefore”, and we know that when we see the word “therefore”, we need to find out what it is “there-for.” So, let’s back up and read these verses beginning in verse 43…
Matthew 5:43-47 says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”
So, we can see that the context of Jesus’ sayings here is the unconditional and “perfect” love of God. More specifically, this is referring to the impartial love of God that is extended towards even our enemies—those who curse, hate, and persecute us.
He begins by addressing a saying that apparently the Jews were being taught by their religious leaders, which was not a completely accurate statute from the law. You see, while the law did say to love our neighbor, it did not add the “and hate your enemy” part. Sure, there were other things that might have alluded to like those “eye for an eye” and “tooth for a tooth” statements, but the Lord never told them to hate anyone, including their own enemies.
So, this was a perversion of the Scriptures by the Pharisees that Jesus was correcting. But Jesus did not just say that we shouldn’t hate our enemies, He went the extra mile by saying, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…”
Now that is the polar opposite of what the religious leaders were teaching the people. They were condoning and excusing ill-will towards their enemies, while encouraging love towards those who were like them. But Jesus set a new standard—a standard of love that blesses, does good, and prays for our enemies.
Of course, this is not easy, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it. This takes a level of spiritual maturity to walk in this kind of love. And the truth is—unless someone is walking in this kind of love, they are spiritually immature. There is just not a way to candy coat it. If we are spiritually mature, we will love our enemies through these specific actions.
But let me say that we need to understand that love is an action. It is not a feeling. It is not an emotion. It is a deliberate action because we have been ordered to do it. Many fail to understand this, which results in them throwing their hands in the air and not doing these things because they don’t feel like loving their enemies this way. But Jesus was not telling us to feel like loving our enemies. He simply tells us to love them, not to have warm feelings in our heart towards them.
And this is key, church, because it is by doing what He told us to do here that we can experience good feelings towards them.
You see, the Lord showed me before that when there is someone who has done us wrong, if we will do these things that Jesus said to do in verse 44, it actually releases a grace in our lives to forgive and love those who have hurt us. So, let’s look at these three things Jesus told us to do so that we can learn how we are to love our enemies …
The first thing Jesus explained in verse 44 is that we are to bless those who have cursed us: That doesn’t mean they have placed a curse on you or have called you a four-letter word. The word “curse” here literally means to speak negatively of something or someone. So, this would describe someone who said some bad things about you. They might have said them to behind your back or they might have said them to your face. I’m sure we’ve all had people “curse” us like this before. Well, what does Jesus teach us to do to those who speak negative things about us? To “bless” them! Now to “bless” them does not necessarily mean to do something that blesses them (Jesus will address that in the next statement). No, the word “bless” here literally means to speak well of someone or something. So, what Jesus was saying to do here is that when we have people who speak negative things about us, we are to speak positive things about them.
Now what most people do—thinking they are doing the right thing—is they do not speak anything about the person who is slandering them. In other words, they do not even go there. They keep their mouth off of the person who is putting their mouth on them. But that is not what Jesus commanded us to do! He said that we are actually supposed to speak well of this person.
Now it might seem like we are being disingenuous if we do this, but I believe we can always find something positive to say about anyone if we look hard enough. For example, I can take a leader that I disagree with just about everything they say and do and find positive things to say about them. I can either magnify their heart, saying that they have good intentions and that they really want what’s best for the people they are leading. I could also choose to magnify that they might know something that I don’t yet understand. But if I am just certain that there is nothing good I can say about this person, at the least, I can call those things that be not as though they were—meaning, I can declare blessings over them and use the power that is in my tongue to see things changed in their life.
My point is that we can always find something positive to say about someone else, and that is our responsibility to do so.
The second thing Jesus said to do good to those who hate us: Now we’ve all had people hate us before—sometimes they hate us for something we’ve done and sometimes they hate us for no reason at all. And it is usually pretty obvious when someone hates us. Well, according to Jesus, what are we supposed to do with those who hate us? Just have the attitude that it’s their problem, they’ll just need to get over it, and stay away from them? No! Jesus said we are to “do good” to them.
Now there are a lot of ways that we can do good to someone, but the idea here is not to just leave them alone.
And do you know why the Lord wants us to do these things? It is because if a person has allowed hate in their heart, they are in trouble. The are allowing sin and Satan to have access in their lives and unless they repent and resolve that, they are going to experience some sort of death in their life. Therefore, a truly spiritual person will understand that, and then will have compassion on them by doing good to them somehow.
Now this can take on many different shapes and sizes. It could be us giving them a gift. It could be us sending them a kind message. It could be us praying for them. Each individual situation must be dealt with uniquely. But the point is that love will do good to them somehow and will certainly not hate them in return. It will be merciful, compassionate, forgiving, and kind—because that is what Love does.
But the Lord does not stop there. He goes on to tell us to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. These words “spitefully use” describe someone who accuses and abuses someone else. The word “persecute” literally describes someone who pursues someone else—obviously to do them harm.
Have you ever felt like someone was just pursuing you? And, no, not in a good way, but in the manner like they are on a mission to hurt you. This could be manifested in someone simply trying to find fault in you or someone actually trying to sabotage you or abuse you in some other way.
I’m sure we’ve all had this happen to us before as well. Well, what did Jesus say we are to do with these people who are hunting us down to hurt us? Pray! We are to pray for them. Which is different than praying about them. Praying for them indicates that we are sincerely praying that God would be merciful, gracious, and good to them.
Church, the truth is this—if we are truly loving our enemies, then we would pray for them. In fact, we would pray for them like those we genuinely love that are a part of our lives like friends and family members. And I believe that is how God desires that His children love the world—like they love their own flesh and blood.
So, these three ways that the Lord taught us to love our enemies are keys to releasing the grace & power to not only forgive them but also to have compassion on them.
Then the Lord goes on to say, “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” In other words, loving our enemies in this manner proves that we are sons of our Heavenly Father. And why? Because, as the Lord went on to say in this verse, this is what He does! He makes His sun rise on both the evil and the good. He sends rain on both the just and the unjust. He is completely impartial and is no respecter of persons regarding His love for His creation. He is love and loves everyone perfectly! In other words, He treats his enemies the same as He does His children. He treats the poor like the rich. And He does this because His love is perfect.
Then, in verses 46-47, Jesus went on to use the argument of how even sinners can love those who love them. That is easy. What makes God and His children different is we love those who will not do anything in return to us (i.e. enemies) and cannot do anything in return to us (i.e. the poor). Church, we are supposed to be living at this higher model of God’s standard of complete & perfect love!
So, when we look at “perfection” from this perspective, we see that Jesus is referring to a love that has come to maturity and is full grown—you could say this is a “perfect love.”
So, with that being the case, Jesus was likely referring to the same thing that the apostle John was referring to in First John chapter 4:17-18 when He referred to PERFECT LOVE!
Let’s look at these verses: “Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.”
The words used for “perfected & perfect” in these verses, come from the same root as Jesus used in Matthew chapter 5. So, a mature, complete, and grown up love is what John is referring to—and that is a love that expels fear of the day of judgment.
A Scripture we all are familiar with and one that would likely be considered the most popular verse in the entire Bible, John 3:16, teaches us about God’s perfect love. It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
Notice that this verse did not say that He so loved His children, His servants, or those loved Him in return. No, it was not the holy people that He loved here, nor was it those who reciprocated that love. Here, Jesus said that God so loved the world. And the “world” here does not just describe this physical world we live in. This is referring to all of His creation that is contained on this physical planet.
So, this would include all of those who are of the world as well—which is obviously the lost, the sinners, and those who are under the sway of the god of this world. This means that God so loved even His enemies and those who have hated Him that He gave His only begotten son.
And notice that Jesus did not just say that He loved the world; He said that God so loved it. That is much more emphatic—for to “so love” something or someone is to love it passionately and intensely. So, I would translate this verse like so—for God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son…”
Say, for instance, I were to eulogize your life, what would I be able to say that you “so loved”? Hopefully, we would all be able to have it said of us that we loved the world so much just like our Heavenly Father does.
So, again, what is this perfect love? It is God’s love—a love that is extended “completely” to everyone. It is a love that does not respect the face of any man—a love that will give as fully to its enemy as it will its family, a love that will give as completely to someone who has nothing to give as it will to someone who has everything to give.
Just imagine that there is a pie-grid that is divided into 4 parts… In one part there is the category of those who we just naturally love—our family and friends. In another there are those who it might benefit us to love—the rich and influential. Then in the other two grids you have two categories of people that come a little harder to love… In one you have those who cannot give you much back—he poor and undesirable. In the other you have those who probably will not love you back—our enemies. When we love these other two just as much as we love the previous two then we have the perfect, complete, and total pie which in this case represents the perfect, complete, and total love of God Himself.
Let me give you a couple of good examples:
THE RICH YOUNG RULER (Matthew 19:16-22)
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
In one account of this story of the rich young ruler, we are told that Jesus looked at him and loved him.
THE PARABLE OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN (Luke 10:25-37)
In Luke chapter 10 we have a wonderful parable that Jesus gave illustrating this perfect love we are talking about today. It is called “The Parable of the Good Samaritan.”
In this familiar parable, Jesus was answering a question that was asked Him by a certain lawyer. Verse 25 says, “And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So, this is the question of the hour—What does one do to inherit eternal life? And “He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’”
Notice that last question Jesus asked—“What is your reading of it?” There is oftentimes a big difference between what is actually written in the Word of God and how people “read” it (i.e. interpret it or hear it). Church, we need to commit ourselves to believing what we read and not reading what we believe. You see, so many times professing believers have molded and shaped the Word to fit their experiences. Like this lawyer here: he was only wanting to justify himself (i.e. make the Scriptures convenient to how he was conducting himself). On the other hand, what he ought to have done is let the Word mold and shape his theology.
Verse 27 goes on to say, “So he answered and said, ‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,’ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.’”
Now the fact that this lawyer mentioned these particular passages of Scripture shows that he had rightly divided the Word of Truth and captured the spirit of the law. Therefore, this man truly understood the law, but as we will find out, he sought a way around doing the things that He knew to be true.
So, Jesus responded in verse 28 by saying, “And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’” But in verse 29, this man was trying to find a way around the Way: “But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’”
So, how was this man trying to justify himself? By trying to disqualify certain people from being his “neighbor.” In other words, he was probably hoping his neighbor would be those whom he liked, agreed with, and was convenient for him to love.
This is what provoked this parable that we are familiar with. So, let’s look at in detail, but what I want you to see is that this parable is also about the One who shared it …
Jesus begins in verse 30 by saying, “Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.’”
Now notice that this story was of a certain man who was travelling from Jerusalem to Jericho. What nationality do you suppose this guy was? That’s right—it is obvious he was a Jew. And Jesus told us that this Jewish man “fell among thieves.”
Now, again, I don’t want us just to look at this from the natural perspective, but also from a spiritual perspective because I believe that while Jesus was teaching this lawyer (and us) who our neighbor is in a very practical story, He is also speaking of what He had come to do for us.
You see, this certain Jewish man in this story was a type of mankind in general who all have fallen among the “thief.” Isn’t Satan himself called the thief in John 10:10? Now I know that there are those who don’t think that Jesus was referring to the devil in John chapter 10 because the context does refer otherwise. But there are many times in the Scriptures where the context seems to be referring to a physical man who lived in those times (For example, the prince of Persia), but we can see in hindsight that this king was also typified as the devil. Well, I believe that while the thief Jesus referred to here was the abusive religious leaders of His time, they received their nature to steal, kill and destroy from their father, the devil. So, it is for that reason that the devil is the original and ultimate “thief.”
So, with that in mind, notice how Jesus is teaching us here how we all (i.e. all of mankind) have fallen among the thief. In other words, this is all of our plight before we came to Christ (or in this case, before Christ came to us). Through Adam’s “fall”, the thief was able to overtake all of those who have come from Adam.
Then notice what Jesus said was the three things that the “thief” did to this certain man:
1. He stripped him of his clothing
2. He wounded him
3. And he departed, leaving him half-dead.
First of all, the stripping him of his clothing can symbolize several things: It can refer to stripping man of his robe of righteousness and garments of salvation which he lost when he transgressed in the garden. It can also refer to the same instance when he was stripped of his authority over the earth. And, last but not least, his “clothing” can refer to his prosperity thereby leaving him in poverty (which was 1/3 of the curse of the law).
Now the “wounding” of this man describes his physical affliction. This symbolizes our physical afflictions as well as all of our sicknesses, diseases, and infirmities. Again, this is another third of what was contained in the curse of the law.
Then with the last effect of the thieves, we see that they departed him, leaving him “half dead.” You see, this is always what these “thieves”—Satan, sin and his cohorts—will do to us: They will entice you, and then when they are through destroying your life, they will forsake you.
But, again, notice that these thieves left this man “half-dead.” This symbolizes the state that man was left in after his transgression—half dead—that is, left alive physically, but dead spiritually. You see, these three things: being stripped of his clothing, being wounded, and being left half-dead can symbolize the three-fold curse of the law—poverty, sickness, and death. Yes, our run-in with sin left us cursed, but our rescue by our “good neighbor” left us blessed! Yes, this “Good Samaritan” Jesus is about to tell us about is a type of our Lord and Savior. We will get into that momentarily.
But first, let’s look at verses 31-32: “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.”
So, what we are seeing here is that this certain Jewish man who fell among the thieves had both a priest and a Levite of his own blood come across him, but they chose to pass him by on the other side of the road. So, the point Jesus was obviously making here is that the person everyone would consider this man’s neighbor being would be his own countrymen and the religious leaders of his own blood to boot. So, for these guys to turn away from him and not take care of him in his predicament is an obvious transgression of loving one’s neighbor as themselves—for if anyone should be living in this commandment it would be the religious leaders, right?
But as Jesus goes on to say, we see who it was that truly loved his neighbor. Notice what Jesus begins to say in verse 33: “But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’”
Now, first of all, who were the Samaritans? The Samaritans in Jesus’ day began as a race of people in the Old Testament, formed after the Assyrian King took most of the nation of Israel into exile. He repopulated what was then Israel’s capital city, Samaria, with foreigners who eventually intermarried with the Jews who remained in the land. As a result, their offspring was only half Jewish. These half-Jews became known as Samaritans. The Samaritans were still in the land when the Jews returned from captivity. So, the Jews shunned them because the Samaritans were not "true" Jews. The Samaritans wanted to help rebuild the temple in Jerusalem, but the Jews didn’t want their help. The Samaritans then tried to stop the Jews from rebuilding the temple. When they were unsuccessful, they built their own temple on Mount Gerazim. This was the beginning of animosity between the two groups, which continued until the time of Jesus.
Now like the Jews, the Samaritans believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. However, they believed Mount Gerazim was the only place for sacrifice and worship, as opposed to the temple in Jerusalem. They didn’t believe in the entire Old Testament, only the first five books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. These beliefs further separated the Samaritans from their Jewish neighbors.
But Jesus had a different attitude toward Samaritans than most Jews. He didn’t hold them in contempt; instead, he reached out to them. He healed a Samaritan leper. When a Samaritan village refused to welcome him, Jesus didn’t allow his disciples to order its destruction. Jesus also once went out of his way to travel through Samaria so he could speak with the woman at the well. As a result, she and many people in the town believed in him as the Messiah.
So, this Samaritan was the one who did all of these things for this Jewish man. And notice what all he did for him. I would say he went above and beyond.
So when Jesus asked the question in verse 36— “So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”—the obvious answer was what the lawyer responded with in verse 37— “He who showed mercy on him.”
But again, this mercy that this good Samaritan showed this Jewish man is what our Good Lord has done for us!
Notice that He “journeyed” and came where the man was. This symbolizes Jesus journeying from heaven to earth, where we are (vs.33). And that is what love does: it goes where others are at and doesn’t expect others to become like them. And when Jesus saw us, like this good Samaritan, He was moved with compassion.
Then in verses 34-35, we see what Jesus did for us: Number one, He bandaged our spiritual and natural wounds! How? By pouring on oil and wine! The oil represents the indwelling of the Holy Spirit upon salvation. The wine represents the infilling of the Holy Spirit after salvation. Glory! He then put us on his animal which describes us taking His yoke upon ourselves which is easy and light. Then in verse 35 after doing so much to take care of us, departed but promised to come again! Jesus perfectly illustrated how to love your neighbor as yourself by what He did for us! Amen?
So, again, the Parable of the Good Samaritan was told by Jesus in response to the lawyer’s question—“And who is my neighbor?” (vs.29) So Jesus’ intent was to show this lawyer (and us) that our “neighbor” is not limited to our religious or social affiliations. You see, human nature is to look for a shortcut and to make excuses. This lawyer wanted Jesus to verify that his neighbors were those that were living in a manner or location that was simply close to him. He wanted Jesus to say, “Well, your neighbor is your fellow Jewish brothers and sisters—but not just any Jew… I’m talking about those like you—religious and socially acceptable. But Jesus didn’t give him any shortcuts! No, Jesus used a Samaritan—a religiously and socially unacceptable person—to represent the one who loved their neighbor. He did this to show that your “neighbor” is not just your friends and affiliates; Your neighbor is also someone totally different from you. Jesus’ point was that your neighbor is anyone you come across on your way regardless of the color of their skin, their religious beliefs, etc. Your “neighbor” is whoever is close to you at the time—not necessarily geographically, but also those whom you are aware of.
And as Jesus told this lawyer in verse 37, “Go and do likewise,” we ought to go and do likewise too. Church, loving those who are not like us is the mark of a truly spiritual man or woman. It is what the Lord has done with us, and He expects His children to do through Him. Amen.