SCRIPTURE: New Living Testament

"You have heard that the law of Moses says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and on the unjust, too. If you love only those who love you, what good is that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Words of Jesus are in RED). Matthew 5:43-48

According to the paragraph above, the test of love is how we treat those who are NOT loving, NOT fair, NOT nice, NOT you fill in the blank . . . NOT . . .

This paragraph seems to be the words of Christ that are the most challenging to get our minds around as well as obey. I come from a history of abuse as possibly some of you. I think I have forgiven those ugly offenses but I would never have been in a room alone with him, nor in a car. How do we forgive those black and white memories? On our own, it is impossible. But Jesus said "all things are possible with God" (Matthew 19:26).

I saw a discussion once between Dallas Willard and a man in his class (if my memory serves me correctly) trying to discern what to do about a neighbor who borrows his tools, then does not bring them back . . large tools. The man was unhappy with Dallas's opinion. (I shouldn't make him pay for what he won't bring back but keep on loaning him stuff?!). I can relate though: God has to pry my fingers off every book I have given away.

If you cannot relate, answer this question: When have you found it difficult to forgive another person?

Answer: Pray for them as Jesus stated. It is hard to hate an enemy when you are sincerely praying for them. Why? Because when we are praying, we are in the presence of God.

When Jesus is talking about 'love', He means personal relationships - people in every day life. Again, this is only possible as a Christian. We need Jesus in our hearts in order to obey what Jesus says.

Now we come to the goodness of God over saint and sinner alike . . the sun on all of us . . the rain for all of us. Here is a story I found in William Barclay's

Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1:

There is a Rabbinic tale which tells of the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. When the Egyptians were drowned, so the tale runs, the angels began a song of praise, but God said sorrowfully: "The work of my hands are sunk in the sea, and you would sing before me?!" The love of God is such that He can never take pleasure in the destruction of any of the creatures whom His hands have made. In God there is this universal benevolence even towards men who have broken the law and broken His heart. p. 175

Finally, He tells us we must be perfect. Per Mr. Barclay, this word in Greek is teleios. The Greek idea of perfection is FUNCTIONAL. A thing is perfect if it fully realizes the purpose for which it was planned, and designed, and made.

So, a man or woman would be perfect if they fulfill the purpose for which they were created. For what purpose were we created?

In Genesis 1:26 God is saying, "Let us make man in our image and after our likeness". The characteristic of God is this universal* benevolence, this constant seeking of the highest good of every man. To put it at its simplest, the man who cares most for his fellow men and women is the most perfect man.

*Do not mistake this word for being a Universalist. A Universalist believes all men and women go to heaven because God could not bear for anyone to go to hell. That is not true. John 3:16 tells us For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.

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