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Sermon Message


"A Love As Wide As God's"

Matthew 5:43-48
Theme: Jesus commands His followers to imitate the heavenly Father in loving their enemies.

(Delivered Sunday, December 5, 2004 at Bethany Bible Church. Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture is taken from the New King James Version.)

We have been studying the six commands of our Savior in the fifth chapter of the Sermon on the Mount. I'm sure you'll agree that, in these commands, He has been calling us - as His followers - to an exceedingly great standard of righteousness. It's a standard that's expressed in verse 20 of this chapter: "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees," that is to say, a righteousness that exceeds even the highest accomplishment of human ability in even the most outwardly religious among us, "you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven."

And now, we come to the sixth and the last of His expositions of the true intention of God's commandments. In many ways, it's the hardest of all to keep. It calls us to a standard of righteousness that exceeds all our natural inclinations and human capabilities. Jesus 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? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).

* * * * * * * * * *

As I thought about this passage, I was reminded of one of the most familiar characters in all the Old Testament - Jonah. Most of us know him best through the story of how he was swallowed by a great fish. It's one of the first Bible stories many of us have ever heard. And because he's typically remembered as the prophet who spent three days in the belly of the fish, we tend to think of that as the most important part of the story.

But do you know what lesson God really wants us to really learn from the story of Jonah? His story was given to us by God to illustrate the very thing that our Savior was teaching His disciples in this morning's passage. It's a story that's intended to teach us about divine love. It's meant to illustrate to us that God is a great lover of those who are His enemies - and that we are to follow His example and love those who are our enemies, just as He loves those who are His.1

You remember the story of Jonah, don't you? He was a prophet of God; and his story began with God giving him a very difficult task. "Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, 'Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me'" (Jonah 1:1-2).

Nineveh was the chief city of the wicked people group known as the Assyrians. They were, without question, one of the most brutal and feared nations in all of ancient times. And the people of the city of Nineveh were outstandingly wicked. In fact, if you know your Bible history at all, you'll know that one whole book of the Old Testament - the book of the prophet Nahum - is dedicated to a prophetic description of how God would destroy that great city in judgment.

Jonah lived around one-hundred years before the time that the judgement of God finally fell upon Nineveh. But the prophet knew about its great wickedness. He also knew that it was destined to be a persecutor and troubler of his own people, the Jews. And we can be sure that he knew something about its destined destruction under the mighty hand of God - and that he was really quite happy about it.

But what Jonah didn't really understand was the heart of God toward the wicked people of Nineveh in his own day. It was in God's plan to show love to his contemporaries living in Nineveh, and to have mercy upon them. And so, when God commanded Jonah to go and cry out to the Ninevites that their wickedness had come up before God, and warn them of impending judgment, Jonah rebelled against God. He strongly suspected that his preaching would result in the people of Nineveh repenting, and in God showing mercy upon them; and this was not something that Jonah wanted to see happen. He didn't want them to experience God's mercy in any way. Instead, he hoped that God would do to the Ninevites what He had done to Sodom and Gomorrah!

And so, we're told that Jonah fled from God into Joppa, and booked passage on a ship going to Tarshish - which was in the opposite direction from Nineveh. And you know the rest of the story, of course; that this effort to run from God's call on his life resulted in Jonah becoming 'a bit down in the mouth'! But that's when God shared a little 'insider-information' with him. Once Jonah had a chance to 'digest' God's call on his life, he soon found himself 'rising to the occasion' - which only goes to show that 'you just can't keep a good man down.' (Okay; I'll stop!)

Jonah returned to Ninevah to preached the message God had commanded him to preach. I can't help but think of how Jonah must have looked after three days in the belly of a fish - with all the digestive juices having bleached his skin white and burned his hair off! He must have been a ghastly sight to see as he walked gloomily through town! And when he strode three days journey into the very heart of Nineveh - the talk of the town by that point, no doubt - it was then that began to preach, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" (3:4).

It had been a really bad week for Jonah, hadn't it? He had been given a very undesirable command from God, had run away from God as far as he could go in order to disobey it, had become identified as the cause of a life-threatening a storm at sea, had been thrown alive into the water by the sailors, had spent three days in a stomach (along with whatever else might have been there - which is something I choose not to think about personally), had been barfed-out onto the beach (and I can't decide which is worse - being made to be in the stomach, or being made to come out of it) - and THAT onto the beach of the very place he least wanted to be! Then, to top it all off, he had the same command repeated to him, had to march into the heart of an enormous city three-days journey in order to preach it - with everyone staring at him like he was a walking corpse - and probably not feeling very well the whole time that he was doing it! Now just remember all THAT next time you think that YOU are having a bad week! And I'm not sure of this; but I suspect that the only consolation, in Jonah's mind, was the fact that he got to tell all these Nenivites that he had grown so much to hate, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!"

By the way; does that sound like a "loving" message to you? I'm sure that Jonah didn't delight in it as a message of love at all! But the fact is that it was a message of love. It was a very loving thing for God to tell the Ninevites that they had only forty days left before He would destroy them. After all, as a result of that message, the entire city believed in God and repented of their sin - from the king downward - and all in the hopes that God would turn away from His fierce anger and spare them. God's message of doom resulted in a great revival occurring in the midst of the most unlikely of nations. And we're told, "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it" (3:10). Indeed, telling them that they were about to be destroyed was the most loving thing God could have done for them! Because of it, He allowed them life for another 100 years! Do you realize, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that we will meet some of these Ninevites in heaven and spend eternity with them before the throne of Jesus Christ? Wasn't that a loving thing for God to do?

But Jonah was having a very hard time getting himself to 'feel the love' right then. And it's at this point that we read, "But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he became angry. So he prayed to the LORD, and said, 'Ah, LORD, was not this what I said when I was still in my country? Therefore I fled previously to Tarshish; for I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm. Therefore now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live!'" (4:1-3). Did you know that that's why Jonah fled? People have often mistakenly thought that Jonah fled because he was a 'cowardly prophet' who was afraid of the Ninevites. But that's not the case at all. His real reason for fleeing was because he hated the Ninevites. He knew that God was a loving God who had mercy on His enemies - and Jonah didn't want God to show mercy on the Ninevites! He wanted God to roast them! (And be honest: have you ever felt like that?)

But think carefully for a moment about the description Jonah gives of God. It's a very true description, isn't it? It teaches us what God's attitude is toward those we would rightly consider to be His enemies. He is "gracious" toward them - that is, He is pleased to give them the things that they don't deserve. He is "merciful" toward them - that is, He is pleased to refrain from giving them what they DO deserve, and is eager to forgive them of their sins instead if they will repent. He is "slow to anger" toward them - that is, He is longsuffering toward them and patient with them; willing to give them time and the opportunity to repent of their sins and cry out to Him. He is "abundant in lovingkindness" - that is, rich in compassion, love and grace toward those who plead with Him for His mercy. And He is "One who relents from doing harm." Indeed, as the Bible tells us elsewhere, He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9) - even His enemies.

Now; stop and think about someone you consider to be your 'enemy". Are you of the same spirit toward them that God is of toward those who are His 'enemies'? Jonah, sadly, was not like God toward his own enemies. He was very deeply angered over the way things turned out for the Ninevites. And God had to help Jonah become more like Himself in his attitude toward them.

As Jonah sat on the hillside overlooking Ninevah - still hoping that the fire and brimstone would begin to fall from heaven, and that he would have a good seat from which to watch the show - God caused a plant to grow up next to him. It was a miraculous plant - one that God Himself provided for Jonah. It grew over him, and gave him shade against the heat of the sun. And oh, how Jonah loved that plant! In the state of mind that he was in, I'm sure that he looked upon that plant as the only friend he had left in the world!

But in the middle of the night, God caused a worm to bite the plant and kill it. And when Jonah woke up in the morning, he found that his precious pet plant was withered up and dead on the ground. And this was too much. He broke out in a fit; and wept and mourned over the plant - wishing that he himself could wither up and die too!

And that's when God's great message to Jonah finally came. God said to him, "Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?" And I believe that what God meant by this question was, "Is it morally right, Jonah, for you to be angry over the fact of its death? Are you justified in mourning over a thing that was destroyed?" And Jonah's response was, "It is right for me to be angry, even to death!" This simply underscored that Jonah had pity over something that was precious to him; and that he was justifiably angry over its destruction.

And if you notice carefully, you see that God didn't argue with Jonah on that point. God didn't tell him, "Well that's just plain silly, Jonah! Who cares about a dumb little plant?" Instead, God takes Jonah's genuine emotions - emotions of sorrow and mourning that he justifiably felt - and uses them to teach Jonah how God Himself feels over the prospect of the destruction of even those who are considered His enemies. He argues 'from the lessor to the greater'; and tells him, "You have had pity on the plant for which you have not labored, nor made it grow, which came up in a night and perished in a night. And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which are more than one hundred and twenty thousand persons who cannot discern between their right hand and their left - " Here, I believe God was letting Jonah know how many tiny innocent children there were in the city of Nineveh - little ones who could not yet know the difference between their right hand or their left hand. Shouldn't God have mercy on them? And if that was not enough to convince Jonah, God adds, "and much livestock?" (4:9-11).

Now; I've spent a lot of time this morning reminding you of the old, familiar story of Jonah. And I hope you can appreciate why. It has much to teach us about God's attitude toward His enemies, doesn't it? And it also has much to correct in us with respect to our own attitude toward those who we consider to be our enemies.

With that in mind, please let me read our passage to you once more. I suspect that now, as I do so, you can appreciate even better just how much we need this exhortation from our Savior:

"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? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:43-48).

* * * * * * * * * *

I'd like for us to consider, very briefly, three things from this passage: (1) the command we are to keep, (2) the manner in which it is to be kept, and (3) the reasons why we are to keep it. First, let's consider . . .

1. THE COMMAND WE ARE TO KEEP (vv. 43-44a).

Jesus says, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'" And here - as in the other commands of the law that He explains in this larger passage - He is reminding the disciples of what they had been taught by the scribes and Pharisees from ancient times.

But it's very important to note that He isn't quoting what the scribes and Pharisees taught from Scripture. That's because only part of what they were saying was found in the Old Testament. The first phrase that He quoted - "You shall love your neighbor" - is taken directly from the Old Testament. Leviticus 19:18 says, "You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD" (Lev. 19:18). But the second phrase - "and hate your enemy" - is not a quote found in the Scripture.

You might remember that, throughout this larger passage, Jesus is dealing with the way in which the scribes and Pharisees mishandled the commandments of God. They were concentrating on a superficial, outward conformity to the "letter" of the law. They made sure that they conformed to what the strict letter of the law demanded; but if a strict obedience to the letter of the law allowed them to do something other than what God really intended by the law, they ignored the true "spirit" of the law,

And here's a great example of this tendency. A strict reading of the mere letter of the law said, "Love your neighbor." But the law, as the scribes and Pharisees had been interpreting it, didn't say what to do with those that you do not consider to be your neighbor. And so, a strict "letter-of-the-law" obedience allowed you to hate your enemy. Some of the Jewish people understood "neighbor" to mean the person living next to you; and so, you were obligated to love the one living next to you, but you were free to hate someone who was not living next to you. Others understood "neighbor" to be the equivalent of "a fellow Jew"; and so, you were obligated to love someone of your own people group, but were free to hate the Gentiles. Frankly - knowing human nature - there would, no doubt, be a tendency to define things in very convenient ways; so that you were able to justify yourself in calling anyone you wanted to love "neighbor", and anyone you wanted to hate "enemy".

And it's then that Jesus reveals the true intention of the law. "But I say to you, love your enemies . . ." He doesn't set the law aside in any way. Instead, He reveals the true spirit of it. And do you notice something unique? In other places, He simply corrects the misunderstanding of the law that the scribes and Pharisees passed on; but this is the only time that He flatly contradicts what the scribes and Pharisees taught. They said, "Hate your enemies"; but Jesus said, "Love your enemies." That's the command He gives us in this passage.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now, right away, a couple of very practical questions arise. One is, "What exactly does He mean by my 'enemies'?" Another is, "What does it mean to 'love' them?" And we can be grateful that our wonderful Savior doesn't leave us hanging when it comes to such questions. He goes on to tell us. This leads us to the next point about this command to love our enemies; that is . . .


Let me begin by reading this verse in the New International Version - which I suspect some of you are using. In that particular translation, the verse reads as follows: "But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you . . ." Many of your Bibles contain verse 44 in those words, or something very similar to them.

But now, let me read to you from the New King James Version (and if you're using the King James Version, it will be very similar to this): "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 . . ." As you can see, one translation has almost twice as much in it as another. This is because of a difference that exists between some of the oldest Greek manuscripts of Matthew's Gospel and some of the later copies. The later copies of Matthew's Gospel contain more material in verse 44 then do the older ones; and the New King James translation (the one that I'm using) has translated this verse on the bases of some of those later copies.

Now, I want to assure you that this doesn't mean that your Bible cannot be trusted. In fact, because of the advances that have been made in the field of New Testament textual criticism, I believe we can trust our Bibles even more. Because of the work of many scholars who compare the different Greek texts, we know better where the differences are and how they came to be. Rest assured that in no case do these different variations affect the doctrinal teaching of the Bible. But you can't help but notice this particular difference as I'm reading this verse to you; and I wanted to explain to you why it exists.

Many textual scholars believe that, when an ancient copiest was making a hand-written copy of the Gospel of Matthew, somewhere along the way, he wanted to correlate what it says in this verse with the way that Luke records Jesus' words in Luke 6:27. There, we read, ". . . But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you." Perhaps the copiest even wrote the words of Luke 6:27 off to the side. And as further copies of this particular copy were made, the addition of these words from Luke 6:27 began to be incorporated into the text as if Matthew had written them.

Whether these additional words actually belong in Matthew's Gospel or note, they clearly express what Jesus taught. We know this is true because of Luke's Gospel. And so, I suggest that we can safely take a cue from Luke's Gospel, and see these 'additional' words as genuinely teaching us how Jesus would have us keep the command to love our enemies.

First, who are our enemies? Our enemies are not just people we, for whatever reason, don't like or have a hard time getting along with. That's how we might define them; but that's not how our Lord defines them. Jesus gives us a sense of who they are when He says that they are those who would curse you - that is, they slander you, speak lies about you, or cuss you out to your face; most probably because of your association with Him. He also says that they are those who hate you - that is, who harbor resentment and bitterness toward you as His followers, or who wish you malice. He says that they are those who spitefully use you - that is, they take advantage of you, or capitalize on opportunities to exploit you and cause you loss in some way. And finally, they are those who persecute you; and again, I take this to mean that they seek to cause you harm in some way - or even to kill you - because of your relationship with Jesus Christ. They are our "enemies", as Jesus says in verse 11, "for My sake."

That's what Jesus means by our "enemies". They are the ones that He calls us to "love". And what does it mean to love them? Again, Jesus gives us a sense of this when He calls us to actively bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us. We show love to them with our words, our actions, and our prayers. That certainly gets our whole 'selves' involved in loving them, doesn't it?

And before we depart from this second point concerning how we are to obey this command, let me make two quick observations. First we can see from Jesus' command that we are never ultimately prisoners of what other people do to us. If we are called to love those who curse us, hate us, spitefully use us, and persecute us; then clearly, we are not products of what they do to us. We are products of what the indwelling Holy Spirit enables us to do, and of what our Lord and Master commands us to do. We should never try to justify our bad behavior toward someone on the basis of what they did to us; because Jesus, here, calls us to respond to them in a much higher way than they treated us.

And second, we see from Jesus' command that the love we're to show toward our enemies is, primarily, active. The word that Jesus uses is that noble word "agape" - which describes a self-sacrificing love that actively seeks the good of the one loved, and that loves that other person as we would love ourselves. This isn't dependent at all on how we feel about our enemy. We don't need to wait around until we passively "like" them before we are to actively "love" them. Jesus' command isn't a matter of feelings and emotions, but a matter of the will conformed to Him in obedience. And what's more, if we are actively, and habitually (as the present tense indicates) loving someone in the ways our Lord describes, it's hard to imagine that we wouldn't eventually also see our feelings toward them begin to change.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; we've seen what it is that Jesus commands us to do, and how it is that we are to do keep this command. And again, one of the wonderful things about our Master-Teacher Jesus is that He always lets us know why it is that we're to do what He commands us to do. And so, as a final point with respect to this command, let's consider . . .


I see three reasons given; and all of them are very wonderful and greatly encouraging. First, Jesus calls us to keep this command because doing so will reveal our true identity as God's children. In verse 45, He says that we are to love our enemies in this way, "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."

Now, we need to understand this carefully. Jesus isn't teaching us here that, if we love our enemies, we somehow "become" the sons of the heavenly Father. The Bible is clear that we become the children of God through faith in God's grace through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross - and completely apart from our good deeds. We never "earn" sonship. As John 1:12-13 says, "But as many as received Him [that is, Jesus], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God."

The intention of that phrase "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven" is not to tell us how to become one of His children; because Jesus already refers to Him as our Father in heaven. Rather, its a matter of becoming clearly identified as children of God by our actions. When we love our enemies, we become, as it were, "clearly marked out" in this world as those who are already the sons and daughters of God; and this is because we behave as He does.

Have you ever been in a crowd, and watched the behavior of a little child you didn't know? Sometimes, it's rather easy to see who that little child belongs to; because the child behaves just like his father. And in the same way, we are to love our enemies, that we 'may be sons' of our Father in heaven. Our heavenly Father shows love to all - even to those who declare themselves to be His enemies, or who deny His existence, or who shake their fists at Him in rebellion - in that, as Jesus says, "He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."

The Father doesn't ignore the difference between evil and good, or between being just and unjust. And in fact, you can see from this verse that even our Savior didn't hesitate to discriminate between those who are good and those who are evil. But the point is that, even upon those who are evil and unjust, our good Father graciously and mercifully provides sunshine and needed rain. He extends what theologians refer to as "common grace" to all2 But He gives good earthly gifts to those who are worthy, and to those who are not. And when we treat our enemies as He treats His, we prove to the world that we are truly His sons and daughters.

* * * * * * * * * *

A second reason we are to obey the command to love our enemies is, in doing so, we become distinct from the world. In verses 46-47, Jesus tells us, "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 [or, as it is in some of your translations, "the Gentiles"] do so?"

To be a tax collector, in the culture of Jesus' day, was to be someone who collected taxes from among the Jewish people for the Roman government. To be such a thing was to be a sell-out to one's own people - a traitor! A tax collector was considered the most reprobate kind of sinner that you could ever think of! And to be a Gentile was to be someone outside the circle of God's covenant promises - to be a stranger to the good laws of God, and to be an outsider looking in. And yet, Jesus is saying that even they love those who love them, and greet those who are within their own circle of relations. There's nothing remarkable about doing that! Someone doesn't deserve a medal for doing what comes naturally. Everyone in the world - even the most hardened sinner - loves someone who loves him back. Even a dog loves someone who is kind to him. (I have to be honest, though - I really have my doubts about cats.)

Frankly, what the Pharisees and scribes were saying was something that everyone in the world pretty much already did - that is, to love your neighbors and hate your enemies. But here, Jesus is calling us to do something higher and nobler than merely what comes naturally. He calls us to do something that the people of this world do not do - and even can't do. He calls us to do something that only He can do - and that only He can enable us to do. He calls us to love those who are our enemies. And when we do this, we show that we are clearly 'not of this world'. We show that we are indwelt by Jesus Himself; because the fruit of His Holy Spirit indwelling us is, among other things, "love" (Gal. 5:22).

* * * * * * * * * *

And finally, we are to obey this command to love our enemies because, in doing so, we live consistently with our glorious destiny. Jesus closes with these words, "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect" (v. 48).

The word that is used here is the Greek word teleios; and it means "to be brought to completion" or "to be fully accomplished". And I believe it's best to see it in its context. Jesus isn't saying that we can expect to be as "perfect" (in an absolute sense) as our Father while we are on this earth. Rather, He is saying that, with respect to the command to love, we are to be as complete in that love as our Father is. We are to love, as it were, without any limitations or boundaries. Elsewhere, Jesus tells us, ". . . Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful" (Luke 6:36). Elsewhere in the Bible, God tells us, "You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy" (Lev. 19:2). In all that we do in imitation of our Father, we are to be as complete in it and as full in it as He Himself is; and this means that we are to love in a way that is complete and full - even to the degree of loving our enemies, just as He also does.

I believe this is intended to be taken as a command. That's why the word "therefore" is there. But I can't help but notice that it is stated in the future tense; that is, that we "shall" be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect. It's not only a command, but a promise. Jesus not only commands us to love our enemies; but He also entices us with the promise that, one day, we will be perfected in love as our Father in heaven is Himself perfect in love. And that makes this a wonderful call to become increasingly now (though imperfectly so) what we will one day completely be in glory!

And so, we should love our enemies; because when we do so, we're simply acting in a manner that is consistent with our glorious destiny in Christ.

* * * * * * * * * *

It sounds humanly impossible, doesn't it? And of course it is. As someone has said, coming to terms with the last command in Matthew 5 - to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect - is the fastest way to drive us to the first promise in the chapter - "Blessed are the poor in spirit . . ."

But in all these commands of our Savior, I have noticed that it always comes back to the character of God. We are to be what Jesus calls us to be, because that's the way He Himself is; and He is what He is because He is "the image of the invisible God" (Col. 1:15). No one has seen God at any time, as the Bible tells us; but "The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him" (John 1:18). Even He loved His enemies while He hung on the cross; praying for them, and saying, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34). If we would be His followers, how could we seek to do less than He does?

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ; in His power and by His indwelling Holy Spirit, let's invite Him to teach us to love perfectly - even to the point of loving our enemies, because that's the way God our Father Himself loves. After all, isn't that how He first loved us?

1The story of Jonah was also intended to give a sign to the people of Israel; teaching that just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so the Son of Man would be three days in "the heart of the earth". Those who repented at the preaching of Jonah would rise up at the judgment in condemnation of those in Jesus' day who would not receive His message (Matthew 12:38-41; also Matthew 16:4 and Luke 11:29). But even though Jonah's story prophetically illustrates the sign of the suffering of Christ, and the condemnation of unrepentance, this could not be said to have been the main point intended in the Book of Jonah itself.

2Alan Hugh M'Neil, The Gospel According to St. Matthew (New York: MacMillan
& Co. Ltd., 1957) p. 71.

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