About Matthew 5:44-48
At the time of my lecture at Calvin Theological Seminary I offered to answer in writing any question for which time did not permit an oral answer. From a Christian Reformed minister who was present I received two questions, the fast of which is as follows: “How do you reconcile God’s commanding us to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44, 45, 48) in order that we may show, the attitude He does with your view that He has nothing but hatred for them?”
There is a fallacy in this question with respect to our view. The fallacy is not stated, but implied. And that fallacy is this: that God has nothing but hatred for all His enemies. This is really the same fallacy, but from the opposite point of view, which is implied in the Christian Reformed use of Matthew 5:44-48 and Luke 6:35, 36 in support of the First Point of 1924. The implied fallacy in that regard is that God loves all His enemies. And this really proves too much with respect to the First Point. For the First Point seeks to make a distinction in the favor of God between His favor toward the elect and His favor toward the reprobate. But Matthew 5 makes no such distinction in the love of God, but speaks of only one, perfect love of God. This one, perfect love of God is not revealed to all His enemies, is not revealed to the reprobate. But God’s love, as a love that is capable of being merciful and kind to His enemies, is revealed only to the elect. He loved us when we were yet enemies. The point, therefore, of this passage with respect to the love of God is not the scope of that love, but the nature of that love: it is a love that is capable of being merciful and kind to His enemies.
To sum up, this is our position with respect to Matthew 5:44-48:
1. God revealed His love and caused His people to know and to taste that love as a love that is capable of being merciful and kind to His enemies. And this is the only love of God that is mentioned in the context of both passages (Luke 6:35, 36 included).
2. The children’ of God, in whose hearts this love of God is poured out, and who experienced and tasted this love of God to His enemies, must manifest this same love in their life and walk in the world. Hence; they must love not only those that love them, but also their enemies, that revile and persecute them. They must do good to them, pray for them, and bless them. In doing this they manifest the image of their Father which is in heaven.
3. As a most general example of this they must look at God’s work in nature, where He causes His sun to rise on the veil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. The point of this example is not the commonness of God’s love, but the commonness of rain and sunshine, and that, too, as an example of the fact that we must manifest our love without distinction.
If I have missed the point of my questioner, he is certainly welcome to write again.
[Note: I have a few more questions on hand, both in connection with my lecture and of a general scope. I will try to furnish some more answers in the next issue. HCH]