“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48 (NLT)
Jesus’ words are something of a stinging reminder of what we’re not…most of the time. Indeed, the bar is set pretty high; who wants to return good for evil? Yet, that’s just what Christ did, and commands how His disciples must live. John Wesley called it being perfected in love. Not perfect, as without flaw, but acting in the love of God.
Not easy! But the life which impacts other lives for good is never an easy ride. It’s much easier to take pleasure in seeing the bad guy “get his”.
I watched a movie once where two characters were debating the act of retribution. One said to the other: I’m Old Testament; there’s nothing wrong with ‘an eye for an eye’. Well, of course that’s right; God is the author quoted there. Jesus, however, pointed out that only God is able to do that; we are not so equipped as to judge justly.
And so, if retribution and retaliation are not our purview, how now shall we live?
To what do we give ourselves?
Down through the centuries Christ’s Sermon on the Mount has pointed us to the higher road of opposites. We are not to live as slave to our natural impulses to anger, retaliation, confusion, unbelief, despair and sad darkness; our lives are to reflect the light which comes from above. We are to be, as Matthew the Tax Collector recorded Jesus’ words, true children of our Father in heaven.
That demands a life of polar opposites.
For You, Today…
I leave you, child of the Father in heaven, to chew on the magnificent prayer of the peacemaker; the prayer of one who would live in polar opposition to the low call:
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.