Matthew 5:44 Commentaries: "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 5:44
But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(44) Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you.—The latter words are omitted in so many of the most ancient MSS. that most recent editors hold that they were inserted in the fourth or fifth century, so as to bring the verse into verbal agreement with Luke 6:28. Taking it as it stands here, we note (1) the extension of the command to love our neighbour (Leviticus 19:18), so that it includes even those whom natural impulse prompts us to hate; (2) the stress laid on prayer as the highest utterance of that love. In such cases, circumstances may preclude acts which would be rejected, and words that would be met with scorn, but the prayer that they too may be delivered from the evil which has been their curse is always in our power, and in so praying we are drawing near to the mind of God, and asking that our wills may be as His.

5:43-48 The Jewish teachers by neighbour understood only those who were of their own country, nation, and religion, whom they were pleased to look upon as their friends. The Lord Jesus teaches that we must do all the real kindness we can to all, especially to their souls. We must pray for them. While many will render good for good, we must render good for evil; and this will speak a nobler principle than most men act by. Others salute their brethren, and embrace those of their own party, and way, and opinion, but we must not so confine our respect. It is the duty of Christians to desire, and aim at, and press towards perfection in grace and holiness. And therein we must study to conform ourselves to the example of our heavenly Father, 1Pe 1:15,16. Surely more is to be expected from the followers of Christ than from others; surely more will be found in them than in others. Let us beg of God to enable us to prove ourselves his children.Love your enemies - There are two kinds of love, involving the same general feeling, or springing from the same fountain of good-will to all mankind, but differing so far as to admit of separation in idea. The one is that feeling by which we approve of the conduct of another, commonly called the love of complacency; the other, that by which we wish well to the person of another, though we cannot approve his conduct. This is the love of benevolence, and this love we are to bear toward our enemies. It is impossible to love the conduct of a person who curses and reviles us, who injures our person or property, or who violates all the laws of God; but, though we may hate his conduct, and suffer keenly when we are affected by it, yet we may still wish well to the person; we may pity his madness and folly; we may speak kindly of him and to him; we may return good for evil; we may aid him in the time of trial; we may seek to do him good here and to promote his eternal welfare hereafter, Romans 12:17-20. This seems to be what is meant by loving our enemies; and this is a special law of Christianity, and the highest possible test of piety, and probably the most difficult of all duties to be performed.

Bless them that curse you - The word "bless" here means to "speak well of" or "speak well to:" - not to curse again or to slander, but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy; or, if there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about him. The word "bless," spoken of God, means to regard with favor or to confer benefits, as when God is said to bless his people. When we speak of our "blessing God," it means to praise Him or give thanks to Him. When we speak of blessing people, it "unites" the two meanings, and signifies to confer favor, to thank, or to speak well of.

Despitefully use you - The word thus translated means, first, to injure by prosecution in law; then, wantonly and unjustly to accuse, and to injure in any way. This seems to be its meaning here.

Persecute - See the notes at Matthew 5:10.

44. But I say unto you, Love your enemies—The word here used denotes moral love, as distinguished from the other word, which expresses personal affection. Usually, the former denotes "complacency in the character" of the person loved; but here it denotes the benignant, compassionate outgoings of desire for another's good.

bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you—The best commentary on these matchless counsels is the bright example of Him who gave them. (See 1Pe 2:21-24; and compare Ro 12:20, 21; 1Co 4:12; 1Pe 3:9). But though such precepts were never before expressed—perhaps not even conceived—with such breadth, precision, and sharpness as here, our Lord is here only the incomparable Interpreter of the law in force from the beginning; and this is the only satisfactory view of the entire strain of this discourse.

1. Of not seeking unlawful private revenge. Bless them that curse you: do not return revilinBut I say unto you, love your enemies,.... That is, as the Apostle Paul may be thought to interpret the words of Christ, Romans 12:20. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him: if he thirst, give him drink": unless our Lord should be supposed rather to regard the internal affection of the mind; since outward expressions of love, by words and works, are urged in the following exhortations: the actions of a man may be hated, and just indignation be expressed against them, and yet his person be loved, tenderness be used to him, and pity shown him: all men, even enemies, are to be loved with a natural love, as men; though they cannot be loved with a spiritual affection, as brethren in Christ: and in natural affection there are degrees, according to the relation and circumstances that persons stand in to one another.

Bless them that curse you: when wicked men curse you, as Shimei cursed David, do not "render evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise, blessing"; give good words, use kind language, mild and soft expressions; such as may either win upon them, or put them to shame and silence: "bless, and curse not"; the latter belongs to them, the former to you; "let them curse, but bless thou": curses better fit their mouths, and blessings thine. Blessing here, does not signify praising them, for that would be sinful, which is sometimes the sense of the word; nor wishing, or praying for a blessing on them, which is right and good; but this is mentioned afterwards, as distinct from blessing; wherefore, it is better to understand it of a sweet and engaging address unto, and behaviour and conduct towards such, whose mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.

Do good to them that hate you; such as hate you in their hearts, and discover their hatred by their actions; do not make returns in the same way, but on the contrary, do them all the good you can; perform all the kind offices that lie in your power; let them partake of your bounty and liberality; if poor, feed, clothe, and supply them, as you are able, with the necessaries of life; and give them wholesome advice for the good of their souls: by "so doing", you will "heap coals of fire on their heads"; of enemies, make them friends; engage their affections to you, and you may be happy instruments in doing them good, both in soul and body:

and pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you. What Christ here commands and advises to, he himself did; for as he hung upon the cross, he prayed for his crucifiers, who were then using him in the most despiteful, as well as cruel manner; saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do": and in this he has left us an example, that we should tread in his steps; and here in he was quickly followed by his holy martyr Stephen; who, whilst he was being stoned, prayed for his persecutors and murderers, saying, "Lord, lay not this sin to their charge". This breathes out the true spirit of Christianity, and is peculiar to it. The whole of this is directly opposite to the tenets of the Jews, particularly the Scribes and Pharisees; who allowed of revenge, and keeping anger against any person that had done them an injury, as has been observed: and which were also the sentiments of the Karaites, or Scripturarians, another sect among them who kept to the letter of the Scriptures, and rejected the traditions of the elders, which the Pharisees held: but in this they agreed with them,

"that it was right to do good to their friends, and to forgive them that asked pardon of them; but to such men who rendered evil, and did not return to do well, that they might receive forgiveness, , "it is not forbidden to revenge, and to keep anger against them" (s).''

It is indeed said (t) of their former holy men, "Hasideans", which some have thought to be the same with the "Essenes", and a sort of Christians; however, were a better sort of Jews; that these

"heard their reproach, but did not return it; and not only so, but they pardoned him that reproached them, and forgave him.''

And it is reported of these men, that they used to pray to God to pardon and forgive all that disturbed them. But the Pharisees, whom Christ had to do with, and against whom he inveighs, were men of another complexion.

(s) R. Eliahu in Adderet, c. 3. apud Trigland. de Sect. Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 166, 167. (t) Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora. c. 7. sect. 13.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 5:44. Observe the entire love which is here required: disposition, word, act, intercession; “primo fere continetur tertium, et secundum quarto” (Bengel). But it is as ἀγαπᾶν (to esteem highly), not as φιλεῖν (amare), that we are required to love our enemy. Comp. on John 11:5. It rests upon the clearness and strength of the moral will to separate between the person of the enemy and his hostile disposition towards us, so that the latter does not prevent us from esteeming the former, from blessing it, and applying to it acts of kindness and intercession. The Christian receives this moral clearness and strength, and the consecration of enthusiasm thereto, in his self-experience of the divine love of one’s enemy in Christ (Matthew 18:21 ff.; Ephesians 4:32; Php 2:1 f.; 1 John 4:10 f.).Matthew 5:44. ἐχθροὺς may be taken in all senses: national, private, religious. Jesus absolutely negatives hatred as inhuman. But the sequel shows that He has in view the enemies whom it is most difficult to love—διωκόντων: those who persecute on account of religion. The clauses imported into the T. R. from Luke have a more general reference to enmities arising from any cause, although they also receive a very emphatic meaning when the cause of alienation is religious differences. There are no hatreds so bitter and ruthless as those originating therein. How hard to love the persecutor who thinks he does God service by heaping upon you all manner of indignities. But the man who can rejoice in persecution (Matthew 5:12) can love and pray for the persecutor. The cleavage between Christians and unbelievers took the place of that between the chosen race and the Gentiles, and tempted to the same sin.44. Several editors, with high MS. authority, omit the words “bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you,” and “despitefully use you and.” The omission, however, breaks the gradation and balance of the paragraph. The contrast between love and hate is exhibited in four degrees, the antithesis widens, the deeper the hate the higher the love. (1) Feel love towards those who are enemies by position merely. (2) Say loving words in return for enmity that shews itself in curses. (3) Towards those who hate you do not only feel love, but prove love by charitable deeds. (4) To enemies whose hate is active, even to persecution, offer the highest act of love in prayer.

despitefully use you] A forcible word, meaning “to vex out of spite with the sole object of inflicting harm.” In 1 Peter 3:16 it is rendered “to accuse falsely.” The word occurs also in Luke 6:28.Matthew 5:44. Ἀγαπᾶτε, love yeεὐλογεῖτε, bless yeκαλῶς ποιεῖτε, do ye good toκαὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ, and pray ye for) Here are four clauses, the second and third of which are wanting in some of the ancients—the second in the Vulgate, the third in Tertullian,[231] De Patientia, ch. 6. Four clauses ought, therefore, to be read, although the third is almost contained in the first, and the second in the fourth by Chiasmus:[232] on which account St Luke transposes them.[233] In Matthew 5:46, the verb ἀγαπάω, to love, occurs again, and in Matthew 5:47, the word ἀσπάσησθε, salute, corresponds with εὐλογεῖτε in the present verse.—τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, them which despitefully use you) ἐπήρεια, [the substantive from which the verb ἐπηρεάζω is derived] signifies an injury inflicted, not for the benefit of the injurer, but for the damage of the injured party.—See my notes to Chrysostom on the Priesthood, p. 429. It is, therefore, a sign of extreme hatred. A striking contrast. Pray for such persons as these: obtain by your prayers blessings for those, who take blessings from you.

[231] Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, a native of Carthage, where he became a Presbyter, the earliest of the Latin fathers, flourished in the third century.—(I. B.)

[232] See explanation of technical terms in Appendix.—(I. B.)

[233] Vulg. Memph. Versions, Orig. 4,329c; 351a; Cypr. 248, 260, 319, Hil. 303 omit εὐλογεὶτε τ. καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς. Dcd Lucif. insert these words with Rec. Text (which, however, has τ. μισοῦντας.)—ED.Verse 44. - Parallel passage: Luke 6:27, 28. But I say unto you, Love your enemies. Of all kinds, whether personal or opponents of you as Christians. Bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you. Rightly omitted by the Revised Version as interpolated from Luke, (For the thought, cf. 1 Corinthians 4:12; Romans 12:14.) And pray. In fullest contrast to the continual ill-wishing of the enemy. "They who can pray for their enemies can accomplish the rest" (Weiss, 'Life,' 2:154). Thus to pray is to come very near to the spirit of Christ (cf. Luke 23:34; Acts 7:60). As a modern example: "Some persons had never had a particular place in my prayers, but for the injuries they have done to me" (Burkitt, ' Diary,' in Ford, on ver. 5). For them that despitefully use you, and persecute you. The words, "that despitefully use you and," are to be omitted, with the Revised Version, as in effect interpolated from Luke.
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