But 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, (Mhm rwjnlw Mwqnl rwoa) (wnya) , "it is not forbidden to revenge, and to keep anger against them" F19.''It is indeed said F20 of their former holy men, (Mydyox) , "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.
F19 R. Eliahu in Adderet, c. 3. apud Trigland. de Sect. Karaeorum, c. 10. p. 166, 167.
F20 Maimon. Hilch. Talmud Tora. c. 7. sect. 13.