Matthew 5:43-45 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 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; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
How does our loving of our enemies make us children of our Father in Heaven? In what sense does it do that?
I think a parallel passage opens up the meaning here:
1 John 3:10 In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.
Manifest means to make apparent, make evident, make clear. Our love or lack thereof makes it evident whom we are children of - whether of God or of the devil.
The world cannot see God, but they can see the love of God through His children that are living in love:
1 John 4:12 No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.
God's love is perfected (ie. completed) in the believer that is loving one another.
John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
We prove to the world that we are Christ's disciples by our love for the brethren, BUT WE PROVE WE ARE CHILDREN OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER BY OUR LOVE FOR THE LOST!
Notice again what it says in Matthew five:
Matthew 5:44-47 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; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
It is not surprising when we can love those who love us in return; it is not surprising that a Christian could love another Christian brother or sister who reciprocates that love - but it is commendable and Godlike to do good towards and love those who hate us, to pray for those who despitefully use and persecute us. The world will not do this - they are just out for number one, considering only themselves, turning away in hatred from those who hate them in return. But the child of God is to be different, he is to be Christlike and godly (like God Himself), by loving the unlovable. If we stop to think about that, we would realize that is exactly what the Lord has done towards us! He loved (and still loves) us when we were unlovable.
Romans 5:6-8 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
When we were at our worst, Christ loved us!! If we have then received that love by receiving that Saviour, should we not then reciprocate and be an example of that love to others - even to our enemies? Of course - that is what proves we are the children of God to the lost world. One of the testimonies that our church is most grateful for is the fact that in our community there are those that will say, "There is something different about that church. They are real - not hypocritical like so many of these other churches. They really care about others." This was spoken by a lost man who years before had no regard whatsoever for God or the things of God, or for His people. But he has noticed the difference in our church - and now that certain circumstances in his life are humbling him, he is now turning to those same Christians who loved him when he was at his worst (railing against them, being angry and hateful toward them, etc.). We are praying for his salvation, and do believe that given enough time, he will respond to the Gospel of Christ BECAUSE THE CHILDREN OF GOD AROUND HIM LOVE HIM LIKE GOD HIMSELF DOES!
Notice how that passage in Matthew five ends:
Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Many people explain away this passage because they have let the religious world define one word in it - the word "perfect." They say no one's perfect and therefore explain this verse away - yet the word does not mean "sinless" in Scripture. When referring to a person, it means "mature, of full age, complete." We show our maturity in Christ, we show our growth in our walks with the Lord, when we are most like God our Heavenly Father. In this context here, we are mature when we are loving the lost and showing mercy to them the way God Himself does. (P.S. God never asks of His children what He will not or cannot equip them to do! We need to quit making excuses, and just choose to trust and obey God's Word!)
How about you? Does the lost world know you are a child of your Heavenly Father? If not, then it is time to grow up spiritually and be more like Him - it is time for me to grow up and be more like Him. Lost souls, like that neighbour living next door to our church building, need to see the evidence that God is real by our love toward Him. Perhaps then they will realize that our salvation is real, and would desire to have that same love, joy, peace... But they need to see the evidence first!
In this the children of God are manifest...