Prepare to Listen. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Prayerfully Read Matthew 5:43-48
43You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
To be honest, I wish Jesus had never demanded: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” All my life I’ve struggled with the problem of perfectionism. Before I recognized and owned my problem, perfectionism made me angry, discouraged, depressed. I wasn’t perfect and neither was the world. The harder I tried, the more discouraged I became. I wished Jesus had never demanded perfection!
Of course, I’d gotten perfection all wrong. I thought it was about me trying harder and harder to earn approval rather than accepting God’s free grace and giving myself grace when I slipped up. Mine was an oppressive way, but the way of Jesus is never oppressive. His way is always freeing and life-giving. Of course, I’ll never be perfect as God is perfect, at least not this side of heaven. Jesus’ demand isn’t to discourage us but set us free. I can daily choose to live his way, not Jackie Smallbones’ way, and experience his life-giving freedom not oppressive bondage.
Being perfect as God is perfect means loving our enemies, those who seek our harm, attack our country, disagree with our moral standards. It’s much easier to follow the old saying, as the scribes taught, “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” Trouble is, ‘hate your enemy’ was added by the scribes and Pharisees. ‘Love our neighbor’ is OT Law. ‘Hate our enemy’ isn’t. Jesus taught us to love both, neighbor and enemy. This is the perfection towards which he calls us, the perfection that makes us God-like.
What’s your git response to Jesus high demand to be perfect as God is perfect? It takes practice, lots of it, to live this way.
Respond in Prayer
When I fail, Lord, to live up to your demand to be perfect, help me pick myself up and try again, starting today by showing love towards my enemy, or someone I just don’t like, if I see them today. Amen.
Live Obediently. It takes practice to be perfect as God is perfect.
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Despite having frequently read and taught Matthew's Gospel, preparing these daily devotions, taking that second gaze, has surprised me with newness.