Love your enemies - There are two kinds of love, involving the same general feeling, or springing from the same fountain of good-will to all mankind, but differing so far as to admit of separation in idea. The one is that feeling by which we approve of the conduct of another, commonly called the love of complacency; the other, that by which we wish well to the person of another, though we cannot approve his conduct. This is the love of benevolence, and this love we are to bear toward our enemies. It is impossible to love the conduct of a person who curses and reviles us, who injures our person or property, or who violates all the laws of God; but, though we may hate his conduct, and suffer keenly when we are affected by it, yet we may still wish well to the person; we may pity his madness and folly; we may speak kindly of him and to him; we may return good for evil; we may aid him in the time of trial; we may seek to do him good here and to promote his eternal welfare hereafter, Romans 12:17-20. This seems to be what is meant by loving our enemies; and this is a special law of Christianity, and the highest possible test of piety, and probably the most difficult of all duties to be performed.
Bless them that curse you - The word "bless" here means to "speak well of" or "speak well to:" - not to curse again or to slander, but to speak of those things which we can commend in an enemy; or, if there is nothing that we can commend, to say nothing about him. The word "bless," spoken of God, means to regard with favor or to confer benefits, as when God is said to bless his people. When we speak of our "blessing God," it means to praise Him or give thanks to Him. When we speak of blessing people, it "unites" the two meanings, and signifies to confer favor, to thank, or to speak well of.
Despitefully use you - The word thus translated means, first, to injure by prosecution in law; then, wantonly and unjustly to accuse, and to injure in any way. This seems to be its meaning here.
Persecute - See the notes at Matthew 5:10.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Matthew 5:44:
1 Corinthians 4:12
1 Thessalonians 5:15
1 Peter 3:9
1 Peter 3:9
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