19 February 2017Matthew 5:38-48
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v. 48)
Psalm: Psalm 119:33-40
It's that simple… just be perfect like God.
The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) contains some of the most inspiring, and at the same time daunting, teachings of Jesus. Today's passage is probably one of the hardest as it challenges us to live by a very different code to that of the world, and finishes with a verse that implores us to be perfect like God.
The Old Testament law that had been given to the people sought to cap the retribution offered out when someone was seeking justice. The call of an eye for an eye (Exodus 21:24) was set to limit the punishment to the same measure of the crime instead of seeing it escalate. Jesus here in Matthew's Gospel revisits this and other teachings not to discredit the law but to expand it.
The calls to turn the other cheek, to give more than is demanded of you and to go the extra mile all subvert the way the powerful often act towards the powerless. This goes further than just loving your neighbour, to loving your enemy as well.
Jesus then commands us to pray for them so that we "may be children of our Father in heaven" (v. 45). This is a pivotal verse as it begins to reveal to us the core message of what Jesus is teaching. To be someone's child is to be like them and so by loving our enemies we become like our Father in heaven. It is God's nature to love all people and so it should be our nature too. The image from nature of the rain or sun falling on all people highlights this point as they do not discriminate and neither should we.
This all leads up to the most difficult of verses. How can we be perfect like God? From all that has gone before us, we see that this perfection to which we are called is the way we love others. The Greek word translated as'perfect'can also be rendered as mature or complete.But the meaning still stands the same. We are called to love as our Father in heaven loves, for both those we would call neighbour and those we would count as our enemy.
- Which 'enemy' do you find it most difficult to love? Why? What could you do to overcome it?