“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) Understand that by telling us to be perfect, Jesus is not telling us to be sinless. Basically speaking, to be “perfect” means to put off our old way of thinking and living and grow up by following the example of Jesus Himself. To be perfect means to mature in our walk with Jesus, and that is a lifelong process.
Matthew 5:43-48 are among the most “famous” passages in the Sermon on the Mount, and the most challenging. How Jesus is telling us to respond in these verses is not natural. Quite the opposite. “…Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, …” (Matthew 5:44) is not natural! We must remember that the teaching that had been handed down through the ages made it possible for the Jewish people to keep the law of God. Murder was only committed with a weapon, not hatred in the heart (Matthew 5:21,22). Adultery was only a physical act with someone who was not your spouse, not lusting after another person sexually (Matthew 5:27,28). Oaths or vows meant nothing as long as you avoided using the Name of Jehovah when you made them (Matthew 5:33-37).
The way the Jews got around obeying the command of God was done by adding to God’s Word. The Scripture does say in Leviticus 19:18 that we are to love our neighbor, but nowhere does it tell us to hate our enemies. That addition was assumed by the teaching rabbis. They supposed the unbelieving Gentiles were hated by God. Thus, they taught that hating the Gentiles was as pleasing to God as loving their fellow Jews. Jesus blows that error right out of the Sea of Galilee, and in doing so, He rocks our world as well! Love my enemies? Bless those who curse me? Do good to those who hate me? Pray for those who despitefully use me? Why?, you ask. “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:45)
The answer of Jesus is clear. God’s providential care extends to all of His creation, not just a select few (Psalm 104:10-30). God so loves the world (John 3:16), not just the Jewish people. Yes, God has a special love for His elect of both Jew and Gentile, who come to Him by grace through faith in The Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:2), but His common love is totally nondiscriminatory. To love our enemies is being like our heavenly Father (Romans 5:6-10). To be moved with compassion towards those who hate us or despise us is being like Jesus (Matthew 9:35,36). How can we live this way? “…‘Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ saith the LORD of hosts.” (Zechariah 4:6)