Jesus set a new precedent when he spoke these words. Never had a man uttered such words, words that would challenge not just the generation that he was living in but every generation that would follow. Until the time of Jesus people had operated on a standard that did not seek to challenge people's behavior. They love you, love them back. They hate you, you hate them. Nothing has changed in a world without Jesus. It is a natural human reaction; you only love someone who has shown you love.
But Jesus came to set a new standard, to challenge and turn upside down the way mankind thought and operated. Nor did Jesus set out in his teaching anything that he himself did not live out. He taught love, and he practiced love. "He had always loved those in the world who were his own, and he loved them to the very end." (John 13:1)
When we consider some of the world's most complex political or economic conflicts, we must quickly admit that it is difficult to find an answer, except in these powerful words of Jesus. Throughout Jesus' ministry he understood and demonstrated that he could not function unless he loved those who hated him.
We too must find love in our hearts for those who hate us, putting aside our own desires, feelings, and motivations. We must allow the overwhelming love of God, a love that transcends our human passions, to override these feelings. Bringing the love of God into desperate, hopeless and bitter situations will change not only our hearts but the hearts of others as well.
God so loved that he gave . . . and he has commanded us to love in the same way.