I read the story of two men that through the years had become enemies and had not spoken to each other in sometime. They were together at a new years party and one of the men was encouraged to go over and wish his enemy a happy new year. He walked over to the man and shook his hand and said, "happy new year" - he started to walk off but turned around and added, "but just one"!
In Matthew 5:46 Jesus asked a question that causes us re-think our normal way of doing business. Jesus asked, "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?" All through the sermon on the mount Jesus raises the standard of conduct for His disciples. Using the religious leaders of the day as a standard He already has said that His disciples must surpass their righteousness (Matthew 5:20). Not just an outward form but an inward change. Now Jesus turns His attention to what many would consider to be the other end of the ladder and speaks of not living on the level of the publicans (the despised tax collectors of the day). Jesus says that even the publicans can love those that love them. It's expected, its normal behavior and not really deserving of special attention if you love people who love you. People who are kind and considerate and benevolent to us are people that we find easy to respond to in like manner.
On the other hand, treating people right when they have behaved badly toward us, that's a different matter. That is special. It certainly exceeds what is expected in any society. Who among His disciples hasn't failed in this regard. Jesus is holding His disciples to a higher standard, the challenge is difficult, it's tough, but the darker the surroundings, the brighter the light. Jesus spoke in this chapter of going the second mile, of loving your enemy, and of praying for those who persecute you. Anyone can go the first mile, hate his enemy and cruse his persecutor. Jesus is calling upon us to re-think our normal way of doing business.
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