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In some countries if a uniformed soldier is hitch-hiking on the side of the road, it is illegal to just keep going. A driver must stop and give him a ride. What if that soldier was from enemy occupation forces? Would we take offense at the imposition? Probably! In Roman occupied Palestine of Jesus’ day, there was a similar law. If a Roman soldier asked any Jew for help, they were required to come to their aid. Jesus alluded to just such a scenario in Matthew 5:41 where it was common for an enemy soldier to ask a Jew to carry arms for a distance. Jesus suggested helping out to double the amount asked. Jesus challenges us by teaching what is the exact opposite of our natural inclination. God is impartial and treats all people equally. Do we?

One of the central tenets of the Bible is love your neighbor. In Matthew 5:44 Jesus expanded the traditional understanding of neighbor to include everyone. We normally love our friends but discriminate against our foes. Jesus wants us to love even our enemies. How is that possible? How can that make any sense in a world where every generation has gone to war against one form of enemy or another? We all have personal, criminal, political and foreign enemies. Are we to love them all? We tend to follow the example of those decent folks around us who treat their friends with respect and dignity, but Jesus challenged us to live above the standard of our neighbors. We are to live by heavenly standards. Those standards are not defined by address, flag or national border, but by God alone.

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