Justin Tucker, LHC Worship Pastor
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 sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 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, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Have you ever had someone in this world that you just couldn’t get along with? Someone that the very sight of them made you want to turn and walk in the opposite direction? I know that I have. Most of the time when something like that happens it’s because we are so far apart on things like morals, political differences or theological differences. When we get to that place we usually run into our own camps and start chucking rocks at the other one. Friends, that’s not the way that God intends for us to live. He actually wants us to lean into one another. I’m not saying to change or waver in our beliefs or convictions, I’m saying that we are to love one another in spite of our differences. It’s what He did for us!
We see this clearly in John 3:16: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” It was God’s love that moved Him to make a way to save us and for us to be in relationship with Him through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Paul says it this way in Romans 5:8: “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In this verse you can see clearly that, in spite of our opposition to God, He leaned in. He looked down on you and me and he said, “I love them and I have to go to them even though they don’t love me.”
The end of this passage calls for us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (vs.48).” The word perfect, teleios, often occurs in a relative sense in the New Testament, and translators sometimes render it “mature”. However it also means entirely perfect. In this context it refers to perfection regarding conforming to God’s requirements, which Jesus just clarified. He wanted His disciples to press on to perfect righteousness, a goal that no sinful human can attain but toward which we all should move. He was telling them, and us,that we should not view righteousness as simply external, as the scribes and Pharisees did, but we should pursue inner moral purity, integrity, and love. This is only appropriate since their heavenly Father is indeed perfect. The Greek idea of perfection is functional. Becoming perfect means realizing the purpose for which you were created and sent out into the world. That perfection is found in loving God and loving others.
How are we doing with that today? Are we loving God AND our neighbor? Or are we saying we love God while we cast stones at those who don’t agree with us? Let’s be more like Jesus and lean into the darkness, not away from it.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Jesus, teach us to love others like you did. Teach us to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly. Teach us to see people the way that You do, as people that You loved enough to die for. Fill us with your Spirit to love well when we don’t know how. Let us be perfect in the way that we love. Forgive us when we fail. In Jesus’ name, amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
Hosea 6:3- Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
as the spring rains that water the earth.”