“Jesus said, You have heard it was said you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I say to you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father Who is in Heaven, for He makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good; He sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you what reward do you have? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).

In Leviticus 19:16, there’s a command to love one’s neighbors. But the Pharisees had redefined the word neighbor, reducing the concept, in essence, creating a social stratum of understanding how we’re supposed to love someone else. Jesus redefines that stance extending the requirement to love to our enemies. He calls us to love and pray for them.

Something happens in the core of our identity when we love and pray for our enemies. We become sons of God.

Jesus moves love from an outward behavior to the inward character of a person, where there’s a transformation of our identity. All this because of the way we interact with other people— not our neighbors but our enemies.

Since God has loved us, we need to extend that love to the unlovable.

We tend to place ourselves in the judgment seat over others. God’s sovereignty doesn’t leave room for that kind of thinking.

The moment we self-justify, we begin to objectify our love toward other people and cease to truly love.

For example, let’s suppose that once in a while my wife and I argue. Completely hypothetical. Perhaps in a heated discussion she brings something up and I feel she’s been unfair to me. In that one moment where I feel an injustice, something happens in my mind. I begin to self-justify and so objectify my love toward her. Then, I cease to be loving in my character.

When we objectify another, we withhold, dam up, reserve God’s resource of love that flowed through us in the past.

Every one of us does this. But God is the only one who justifies, the only One who judges from a completely pure, moral position.

When we self-justify, we play God.

By loving others with God’s strength, our righteousness expands.

What does this look like? At work, it means acting upright and loving when we’re overlooked, mistreated, disrespected, or overworked. In our families, we continue to love in unfair and unjust situations, even when we’re treated badly.

God calls us to continue to love.

Even when it hurts to love.

Even when you’re being treated unfairly.

Because when we do, our love expands, influencing the world, and bringing light into darkness.

Every time I run, I come to a juncture in the path where I can choose either three, five, or seven miles. Yesterday, I ran seven miles. My legs were killing me, I was in pain, everything was cramped up, and it was way too hot. But I kept going. I thought, well, I’m committed now.

That’s what Jesus requires of us, to stay the course of hard commitment. Even when it is a long, painful path. Because I can tell you, I experienced joy when I arrived home.