“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (ESV)
The Word of God teaches us that if we love Christ, we will obey His commands. God did not command us to walk in ‘only human’ love. No, instead, He commands us to walk in perfection.
“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48 NIV)
That’s a serious command right there.
It stands in direct opposition to what the world teaches us about love’s strength, or it’s justice. Any cinema or literature fan can tell you about the joy experienced when the perfect couple finally finds each other, the hero receives his due reward, or the villain his comeuppance. But, grace and forgiveness offered to those deserving of death? Or love and mercy shown to the proud and hateful? Not once, nor twice, but seventy-seven times! Most of us don’t want to offer forgiveness to the same offender three times, and much less to those who exceed the “fool me three times” limit.
Such unfettered mercy certainly doesn’t seem like love’s strength or justice.
Yet, as Christ-followers, we are commanded to walk in a manner that reflects the perfect love we have received. And although love may be a pretty word to say, as Christ-seekers, we understand that
The road to perfect love is adorned with jewels of suffering.
While our imaginations create scenarios in which we find and settle into happily ever after with perfect relationships and perfect people, real life is full of twists and turns where those we love the most are often the source of our greatest hurts and disappointments.
Like Christ, if we are ever to ascend into the realm of perfect love, we must first be willing to descend into the pits of despair.
Following Christ will inevitably lead each of us to a place where we come face to face with betrayal and loss, and realize that this is where we must stop, honestly examine our situation, humbly set down our right to avenge and vindicate ourselves, and choose to love beyond our pain.
Matthew 5:43-48 is love in action.
I love these scriptures because it challenges me to be better than who I am. When everything in me is crying out “But, I’m only human!”, these scriptures say “So?”
When I’m ready to throw in the towel, and choose self-will over the humiliation of humility, Christ lays a hand on my shoulder, points to the wounds in His hands and asks “And?”
Yet, grace abounds more and more in this glorious process of surrender. The very nature of this incredible command requires that I submit my desires, and set my mind, fully to and on my Savior, so that He can enable me to successfully comply to His will. Because,
Perfectly loving those who have hurt me is impossible without the Spirit of Christ.
But through the power of Christ, I am transformed, and He enables me to accomplish the impossible. This is the goal of perfect love, that we might be able to be used to love like Christ. And that through love, the blind would receive their sight, the lame would walk, lepers would be cleansed, the deaf could hear, the dead would be raised up, and the poor in spirit would hear the good news. (Matthew 11:5 ESV)
For prayer on today’s topic please stop by Daily Hope & a Prayer.
For further study- Matthew 5:43-48
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