Matthew 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God’s people had tried following the commandments given to Moses, but the intended outcome – a people faithful to God and mindful of the poor – never really materialized. This is the issue Jesus is trying to address in our passage for today.
48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
To be “perfect” means to be fully mature. In other words, if God’s people are to fully produce the results God intended through the law, we wouldn’t just love those who love us. We would love all people – friend and enemy alike.
This is a difficult teaching.
I’ll be honest. I don’t tend to love people who attack me or those I love. My nature is to defend myself against them, not love them. Yet, Jesus’ teaching is to love our enemies. And by “love” (Greek verb “agape”) Jesus means we are to care for them, serve them, commend them to God. If there is justice to be meted out, it is God the Father who will do so, not you and me. Has me asking myself some questions this morning:
Who are the difficult people in my life?
How am I relating to them now?
What would it look like to “love” them instead?
Lord Jesus, you know how to challenge us that’s for sure. Loving our enemies is an extremely difficult thing to do. In fact, I’m certain there’s no way many of us can do this in our own strength. Transform our hearts, Lord, that we might be as “perfect” as you can make us. We ask this in your holy name. Amen.