Dear Church Family and Community,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:43-45a
For the last few weeks, we have focused on Following the Commands of Christ. Our teaching has rested on Jesus being our source, that is, Jesus is both our point of origin and the one to whom we turn for obtaining knowledge about how to live to glorify God. Jesus is God, and the most complete revelation and exact representation of God. We are called to follow the commands of Christ because Jesus is our Lord, and what he says we must do.
We have also been reminded that Jesus consistently teaches by beginning with what we can grasp and understand, before taking us to where he desires us to be. Jesus intentionally builds on what we already know to teach us a new thing. You can almost hear Jesus saying, “Oh, shepherds protect, provide, and work for the peace of their sheep? Well, I am your good Shepherd. Oh, you know how this little seed can grow into a mighty tree that houses other creatures? Well, that is exactly how God’s kingdom will grow.”
Another very challenging aspect of Jesus’ teaching is that he operates both in the here and now, and also in the not quite yet. God’s people know that the kingdom will be ultimately realized in Jesus’ return. Nevertheless, we follow Jesus who prays for on earth as it is in heaven and teaches us that the kingdom is at hand. We see both aspects of Jesus’ teaching in his commands. Jesus will begin with where we are, but where he calls us to is founded in values for the kingdom at hand and still to come.
In Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus begins with mosaic law (love your neighbor) and natural law (hate your enemy). His audience would have understood both of these laws clearly and lived by them personally and for generations. Yet, Jesus’ commands pull from his kingdom, and call his followers to heed his law. So, for Jesus, his followers are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. We are to move enemies to neighbors and to love everyone exactly the way God loves.
I would like to invite you to spend the next few days intentionally meditating on this passage. To help you reflect, I would like to ask you to focus on the following questions:
Who is my enemy? And why?
Are my actions towards others grounded in love?
Who do I need to pray for?
What do I need to confess and make right to reconcile?
How can I make my enemies my neighbors?
Jesus ends this passage with a seemingly impossible command – be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. It is important for us to remember that Jesus does not call us to do what we cannot do. With Jesus’ example and the Spirit’s guidance, we can follow God’s commands. It is also important to remember that the perfection Jesus calls for here is not our unblemished purity, but our unbridled love for God and one another. Be perfect in love, as your heavenly Father is perfect in love.
God bless you all, and take care.
Love in Christ,
P: (717) 561-2170, ext. 104
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