The Good News for the day, February 24, 2018
Saturday of the First Week of Lent (229)
Jesus says to His followers: “You have always been told: you are to love your neighbor but hate your enemy. I am telling you, though—love your enemies—pray for anybody who hassles you—so that you’ll all be children of your Father in the Other Realm. He makes his sun rise on bad people and good ones; He causes rain to fall on people who are all right, as well as ones who are not. If, in fact, you love just people who like you, what benefit will there be for you? Don’t avaricious people, like tax collectors, do much the same thing? Yes—if you are attentive to just your own “brothers and sisters,” what is so different about that? Don’t people outside your community do the same thing? So, give it your all, just as your heavenly Father gives it his all.” (Matthew 5)
This fundamental appeal to love enemies draws a clear dividing line between a follower of Jesus and “outsiders,” people who act like everybody else—just behaving the same way instinct suggests. You are chosen—asked—to be different—to give your all. “Be perfect”—the Traditional Translation—is a harsher way of saying this but the “perfection” of God refers not to “perfection by obeying all the rules”—but by being patient, thorough, accepting of extremes, generous, forgiving, and so on.
This passage is pointing out that you are just different. You don’t act like everybody else. People—friends, strangers, family—will hassle you for your strange behavior. They might laugh. They might cuss you out. They might call you cowardly, reckless, dumb, stubborn—even corrupt.
But you can just walk through this shower of opposition. Hurt, yes, and perhaps lonely as a friend turns against you. But you go ahead—you forgive. You listen. You wait. You use soft words to turn away wrath. You express confidence in the sincerity of the ranter. You pray for the person attacking you—you may not say it, but you pray not that they change, but that their heart is at peace.
This behavior makes you a constantly new-born Child of God, a member of His family—always discovering new family members, always extending fresh affection towards a brother or sister. Not because you are better, but because you are family! He or she needs your respect, acceptance, patience and caring, and you give it.