Love your enemies
Luke 6:27-36; Matthew 5:38-48
What does divine perfection look like?
Usually we think of God’s perfect nature as that which excludes. You know the sort of thing – “God is perfect, you are not. You’ve got a snowflakes chance in hell with a perfect God, etc, etc.”
When we think like this it shows that we don’t really like God very much. I mean, we hate the idea of a ‘perfect’ person don’t we? Because the person we imagine is someone who can’t tolerate imperfection. Perfection, to our way of thinking, is actually pretty unattractive. It’s austere and distant. Everything is in its right place but there’s no room for mess. No room, in other words, for us.
On this view perfection is the enemy of that which is broken, faulty, sinful. God’s perfection, we think, excludes.
But listen to how Jesus teaches on the perfection of God. He begins by speaking of our lives, but ends up speaking about God. Notice the logical connection…
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)
Did you notice what it is that makes our heavenly Father perfect? The word “therefore” in verse 48 is important. All the behaviour of verses 43-47 is meant to be our human equivalent to God’s perfection. And what do verses 43-47 describe?
Love for enemies, blessings for cursers, charity towards haters, prayer for persecutors. If we do these things we are “children of our Father” – chips off the old Block! Because here’s the point: In what does God’s perfection consist? Answer: His love for enemies. See how Luke records this same saying: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.” God’s perfection is His mercy.
Divine perfection is not exclusive – it’s inclusive. Jesus reveals the nature of God’s perfection. It is to have mercy on rotten sinners, bless the cursers, do good to the haters, pray for the persecutors. In short, God’s perfection is His love for enemies.
And if we ever doubted that we only need look to the cross where the divine majesty shines at full strength. There we see arms outstretched to a disobedient and obstinate people (Romans 10:21). The glory of God is His grace. The perfection of God is His love for enemies.
And when we get that through our thick skulls, then we’ll start being like our merciful God.