|inspired by Matthew 5:43-48|
This is a big one. It's beginning to look like the main focus of this year's Lenten readings. It is a call to perfection that turns everything that went before it upside down. "Love your enemies and pray for them that persecute you." Wait . . . What??
We humans love to hate. It's in our DNA. Even the Bible is full of callings upon the Lord to smite our enemies, lay them low, ravage their fields, knock down their cities, and so on almost infinitum. This is why it's so easy to use the Bible occasionally to beat up on the folks with whom we disagree. If we're going to support our positions with Scripture though, I think at a minimum we ought to use the Last Word in it - the final position uttered by the Jesus we proclaim as Lord and Savior. In the case of our enemies, that last word is right here in Matthew. I'll paste the whole verse here so you don't have to look it up.
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, 4so 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 have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you salute only your brethren, 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)
We all know that we can never be perfect because we are human. Knowing that we need to understand Christ's call to divine perfection as a call not to be but to become. The Father's perfection is the ideal we need to strive toward, to grow into, to embrace in a way that moves us ever closer to him until we are finally reconciled to the eternal in Him. We can't do this alone. We need Jesus to make it happen. But we do have to take the first steps. Lent is a good time to start.