Friday, February 1, 2019

EmmDev 2019-02-01 [Sermon on the Mount] Perfect?


Yesterday we considered the very challenging call to love. We saw that love may not discriminate, that it should be content to be unrequited and be offered to those who haven't earned it. It can be as simple as greeting a stranger and as challenging as praying earnestly for one who hurts us.

Love is to be offered to our enemies, those who persecute us and those who are strangers to us. In fact, we shouldn't ask "who" because the answer is always "anybody and everybody".

But it was the reason that was given for love that was most challenging: Not because it feels good or even because the need is great, but because it's in our spiritual genes: because we are children and heirs of God.

The passage ends with what many find to be a most discouraging phrase:
"Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
If you're anything like me, your response will be: "But that's just not fair! I'm not God and I'm not perfect. How can He expect this of me?" So what do we do with this difficult phrase?

Two important insights:

  1. The Greek word that Jesus uses for "perfect" is teleios. This is a fascinating word. When we looks at the nuances of its meaning and uses, we find that the word can mean "completion", "destination", "purpose", "maturity", "fulfilment", "whole" and "accomplish".
  2. The other thing that we must be sure to do is to consider this phrase in the context of what Jesus has just been speaking about, and that is love for others. If we take this phrase out of context we make it say something different.

It might be best to translate this last sentence like this: "The love you have for others, especially for enemies and strangers, should grow and mature and be fulfilled inside of you until you have reached the destination of loving people the way God does."

This sentence is not about moral or legal perfection - it is about love reaching the destination in us and that destination is that we are children of God - we love like He does.

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.      (Matthew5:43-48)

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