If the Bible were written in pencil, which verse would you erase? An area we struggle? A difficult to understand teaching or doctrine?
Oftentimes we Christians are guilty of erasing verses we do not favor. It may not be done literally in our Bibles with an eraser, but it happens in our hearts and minds when we choose to accept teachings that are advantageous to our lifestyle and disregard those we believe are not.
The Jewish leaders in Christ’s time lived by this principle, and specifically, they chose to reinterpret one crucial teaching from the Mosaic Law and taught it as truth. Unfortunately, many Christians do not heed the warnings Christ gave His contemporary religious leaders and apply this same passage in relatively the same way they did. Moreover, this teaching is a foundation for all others and consequently skews them when we interpret it with our own standards.
In the Book of Matthew Jesus gives what many deem as the most profound collection of teachings in Christianity, the Sermon on the Mount. Chapter 5 concludes with Jesus talking about our love for our enemies. This passage reads, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).
That is a hard teaching to swallow and would certainly be my choice verse to erase. Jesus did not advocate cold tolerance to those who are burdensome, but rather He commanded warm love, even saying to pray for those who actively persecute us. To further illustrate His statement, Jesus gives a contemporary parable widely known as the “Good Samaritan” to set the example for us in Luke 10:25-37. Probably not our ideal response to someone who has wronged us, but it is the proper one.
However difficult this may be, we do see it is the most profiting and fulfilling. Moreover, in Matthew 5:48 Jesus asserts, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Jesus is not using the word “perfect” in the way we do today to mean flawless, rather, He used it with the Aramaic understanding of being complete or whole. I really like the Holman Apologetics Bible and one commentator in it wrote, “The perfection that Jesus referred to is that of loving all people, both good and evil.” That is, for us to be “perfect,” we must show love to all people, most notably those who persecute us.
While perhaps a difficult command even for the most mature of Christians, we can be confident that God will always aid us in areas where we need spiritual strength. When Jesus was questioned about one’s salvation and pride of heart, He boldly replied, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). This same truth is applicable and accessible for us when we most need God. We may find it difficult, even impossible, to love our enemies. But with God all things are possible.