Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Loving Like Jesus

Tuesday: 18 June, 2013 –– 11th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 5:43–48
Loving Like Jesus

We know that Jesus sometimes used hyperbole (e.g., if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off or hate father and mother, wife and children). Some would like to think Jesus is exaggerating his point here as well: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Yet the text and the witness of earliest Christianity only gives evidence that Jesus is being quite literal. We are to be like the heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust

There is a protest: That’s not normal! And of course, that is true –– anyone can retaliate. It does not take the grace of God to hit back. Again, Jesus is clear: if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Then he extends the contrast with what “normal” people (unbelievers) do. Yes, Jesus is being quite literal.

Then the protests really begin.... the “what if” questions: “What if someone has killed your family?” I remember a class lecture from seminary by the best professor I’ve ever sat under. He was addressing this passage under the category of the “ethics of the kingdom.”  He told the story of giving the same lecture on a mission trip to Africa and one of the students –– perhaps one who had been affected by inter-tribal violence –– asked that very question. I’ve never forgotten the answer....

The prof said he looked at that young man who had pain on his face and yet an obvious desire to be faithful to the gospel, and he didn’t know what to say. But then, in the way that the Spirit has of giving us deep truth in our desperate moments, he found himself replying, “Humanly, I do not know what I would do; I am a man like you. But let me tell you what I would want to do: I’d want to love the way that God loved me when I killed his Son.”

And we react: That’s not natural! This is too true. Christianity is a supernatural faith. It is based on the supernatural death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is lived out of the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is why Jesus says, So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. It doesn’t take the grace of God to hate or hit back. Christians are called to love.... like Jesus. (And no matter how much we fall short, we cannot lessen the standard –– Lord, help me grow in your love!)

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