This is one of the most important verses in the entire New Testament. Matthew 5:44 is the 44th verse of the 5th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew in the New Testament and is part of the Sermon on the Mount.
This is the second verse of the final antithesis, that on the commandment to Love thy neighbour as thyself. Jesus has just stated that some had taught that one should ‘hate your enemies’ and in this verse he rejects this view.
In the King James Version of the Bible the text reads:
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.
The World English Bible translates the passage as:
But I tell you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you.
On November 17, 1957 in Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King gave a sermon entitled ‘Loving Your Enemies’, using as his text Matthew 5:43-45.
There is a little tree planted on a little hill and on that tree hangs the most influential character that ever came in this world. But never feel that that tree is a meaningless drama that took place on the stages of history. Oh no, it is a telescope through which we look out into the long vista of eternity, and see the love of God breaking forth into time. It is an eternal reminder to a power-drunk generation that love is the only way. It is an eternal reminder to a generation depending on nuclear and atomic energy, a generation depending on physical violence, that love is the only creative, redemptive, transforming power in the universe.
So this morning, as I look into your eyes and into the eyes of all my brothers in Alabama and all over America and over the world, I say to you,’I love you. I would rather die than hate you.
And I’m foolish enough to believe that through the power of this love somewhere, men of the most recalcitrant bent will be transformed. And then we will be in God’s kingdom. We will be able to matriculate into the university of eternal life because we had the power to love our enemies, to bless those persons that cursed us, to even decide to be good to those persons who hated us, and we even prayed for those persons who despitefully used us.
Oh God, help us in our lives and in all of our attitudes, to work out this controlling force of love, this controlling power that can solve every problem that we confront in all areas. Let us join together in a great fellowship of love and bow down at the feet of Jesus. Give us this strong determination. In the name and spirit of this Christ, we pray. Amen.