Strongest among men in enmity to the believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant.
According to Maariful Quran,
Limits of Interpretation To recapitulate, it can be said that a particular group of the Christians has been praised in this verse, a group which was God-fearing and upright in matters of truth. It includes King Najashi, his officials and citizens – as well as other Christians who had these qualities, or would have in times to come. But, it does not mean – neither based on what the text says, nor could it possibly be – that the Christians have to be taken as friends of Muslims, no matter how astray they go and how aggressive in their anti-‘Islam hostility they become, and yet Muslims will have to extend their hand of friendship towards them. This interpretation, as obvious, is false and is absolutely against facts. Therefore, Imam Abu Bakr Al-Jassas has said in his Ahkam al-Qur’an: that the thinking of some people who take the praise of Christians in this verse in an absolute sense and consider them better than the Jews, again in an absolute sense, is open ignorance – because a comparison of the religious beliefs of the two groups will show that the Christians are more pronounced in being Mushriks (as ascribers of partners in the divinity of Allah); and as for their dealings with Muslims are concerned, common modern-day Christians have not been any less than Jews in their anti-Islam activities. However, it is correct that there have been a good many God-fearing and truth-loving people among them. That is why they had the Taufiq to accept Islam And become Muslims. It must be kept in mind that these verses were revealed to show this particular difference between the two groups. The Qur’an has itself pointed out to this fact at the end of this very verse: “That is because among them there are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant (which could make them unwilling to listen and think).” Comparison makes it clear that this was not the condition of Jews. They were not God-fearing and truth-loving. Their scholars and rabbis were far removed from renouncing the material pleasures of mortal life for the sake of knowledge and religion, instead of which, they had harnessed their knowledge and learning as a source of accumulating material benefits. This lust for the mundane had gripped them to the
extent that they did not care to make a distinction between the true and the false or the lawful and the unlawful.
Shafi, Muhammad (2008). Maariful Quran. (Vol .3 surah 5 verse 82). English-MaarifulQuran-MuftiShafiUsmaniRA-Vol-3.pdf (islamicweblibrary.com)