“As a follower of Jesus, we should not assess the compatibility we have with others and whether they will become an object of our love. God’s love is indiscriminate, loving the whole. This is perfect love.”
White Jr., Dan. Love over Fear
I read this the other day and I couldn’t help but stop, look up, and then inward. This passage stopped me in my tracks. It’s implications are profound. Jesus calls us to a God-like, perfect love that “casts out” any kind of fear. Especially a fear of others.
Now, the excuse I used so often to combat this idea rather than submitting to it was, “God and Jesus are perfect, I’m not, so it doesn’t apply to me.”
The logic is sound. The misunderstanding surrounds the term “perfect.” We have an idea of what it means in our context, in our time, in our language. But the term used in the New Testament is a Greek word. It’s translated for us but there’s often a loss of actual meaning when things are translated.
In the Greek the word doesn’t mean sinless so much as it means whole or complete. It’s closer to the true meaning of integrity. The idea is what I say and what I do is one, whole, complete, perfect. In that case I can be like God. If I couldn’t then why would Jesus teach us to live this way in his most famous sermon…
“But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Okay…a little context. Jesus says this after he encourages a group of oppressed, occupied, overtaxed people to love their enemies. These weren’t social media enemies who argued worldviews in the comments section of inflammatory posts. These were literal, in-your-face people they encountered regularly. People who had come in and imposed their will on them as a nation. People who legally could use force against anything that smelled of an uprising.
Jesus was talking to people we struggle to relate with in modern day America. We are closer to the occupying Romans than the beaten down Jews. Jesus knew exactly who he was talking to and the radical new way of living in the world he was calling them to. It wasn’t an accident.
Following the way of Jesus means following the way of love. A love for enemies. And not a distant love. Not an “I’ll leave them be” love. An active love that was tangible, visible, and loud. The kind of love God has for people. The kind of love that transcends us and points to the Divine…
“In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16,48
Let’s examine our heart, our hate, our love, and perfection.
Where is your love partial, incomplete?
Be honest. Who would you shudder at to have at your table, in your home?
I bet it’s someone. Some group. Some tribe. Some other. Some Republican/Democrat. Some ethnic background, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation.
This seems to be the non-negotiable for followers of the person and practices of Jesus.When asked a very specific question about “who” was a neighbor to be loved Jesus shares a culturally relevant story which not only humanized the hated, but made the hated the hero. And this hero exercised costly, hands-on love. Love for the “other,” the enemy.
This is not something to be simply ruminated upon or discussed. It’s something to be done, impartially, by the followers of Jesus. People might still disagree with what we believe but they would be astounded at who and how we love. So, in every situation, ask yourself this simple question…
How should I love?
Not “who” should I love. That’s already been instructed. That’s been covered. The “who” is clear…friends and enemies. Everyone. The question then becomes “how?” How should I love (my neighbor, gay coworker, opposing political adherents, immigrant, etc.)? This is active. On purpose. Focused and friendly.
Who do struggle loving? How might you break down the walls that divide and build a bigger table that unites in perfect, whole, loud love?
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