Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Perfection in Relationships
Matt. 5:43 ¶ “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Matt. 5:44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matt. 5:45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.
Matt. 5:46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
Matt. 5:47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Matt. 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
The entire Sermon on the Mount is about a new kingdom in which the love of God rules all things. Jesus sits down with his disciples and lays out for them the blueprint of his kingdom in which things operate on a completely different level than they do within earthly kingdoms. The final paragraph of this chapter is all about relationships. God's people were proud of the fact that they at least loved their neighbors, but kept their distance from their enemies. Jesus was going to change all of that. He told them to love their enemies. He told them that in his kingdom it was our responsibility to love those who don't love us. Why? Because we were to be perfect, or to complete the purpose (telos) for which we were created. That purpose was to become a reflection of the Image -- of the heavenly Father. If it is in God's nature to reach out and to love the unlovable, then that is to be our nature as well. Only in this way will we be partakers of the new kingdom together with him.
There is always a relational aspect to sin. When we sin, or when others sin, relationships are damaged. First of all, as a result of sin our relationship is damaged with God the Father. When we are in a right relationship with him, we are facing him and when we are facing him our lives become a reflection of him to the world around us. That is why he challenges us to be perfect. This isn't a word about human perfection in the way that we like to define this -- but rather the root of the Greek word here is "telos." The "telos" of something is the goal or completion -- so our goal here is to be what God created us to be -- which is to be a reflection of him. If God constantly reaches out to sinful humanity, always and forever trying to draw us back into a relationship with him, wouldn't this also be our response to a sinful world around us? That is, if we are in a right relationship with him! Therefore, for this to happen, we must repent of our sins, turn around and begin to move toward the goal of our lives, which is Christ. In doing so, we are in relationship with him, and we become a reflection of him and his nature to the world around us.
The second result of sin is broken relationships with others. Adam and Eve sinned and their relationship with God changed, but so did their relationship with one another. No longer were they equal partners working in the garden, but Eve was to serve Adam. This was not God's "telos" for humanity but was the result of sin and corrupted relationships. Jesus came to say that these relationships were again to be set right because of the new kingdom, the one in which we were to be perfect -- a perfect reflection of God. And if we are to be a reflection of the perfect relationships in God -- what would that look like? God, in the Holy Trinity -- is an incredible relationship of pure and holy love, where the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Holy Spirit, who loves the Son, who loves the Father -- etc. etc. This is what is to be reflected in each and every one of us!
If we have damaged relationships with those around us, it is our responsibility to reach out to them to bring healing to those relationships. This is just like God who, through his prevenient grace, is constantly reaching out to humanity in a desire to draw us back into relationship with him. Just as humanity has free will and can choose whether to respond to God's act of grace, those to whom we reach out may also choose whether to respond or not. However, the response of another is not our responsibility. We must simply continue to reach out and never give up! It's what Jesus would do.
Is the kingdom of God reflected in our relationships with others? This is the call of Christ to each and every single one of us. "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Lord, please help me to be a reflection of you and may there be healing to damaged relationships within my life. Amen.