“Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”—Matthew 5.48Wow, Its good to be back!!! After being sick, then traveling to Southern Louisiana for a camp meeting, (which was the first time I have ever had to preach after losing my voice, – they turned up the mic and I did all my presentations in a whisper – what a blast!) I am finally getting the chance to return to a weekly writing schedule. After my last e-Sight, which I doubt anyone has a fresh recollection of, I received quite a few e-mails in response to what I shared. Some replies took issue with me saying that God loves us just the way we are, including all of our mistakes while others were concerned with me saying that love never leaves us the way it finds us, but immediately begins transforming us into its own very image. I have no doubt that what I am about to share this week will result in my inbox receiving a few more emails. However, I believe it is necessary. Yet, rather than reopening the age-old debate of whether or not we, as human beings, can really be restored into God’s image of love, let’s spend our time this week looking at what the Bible defines this transformation to be. Follow Jesus’ words closely.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5.38-48).
Now let us read Dr. Luke’s version:
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6.27-36).
Now let us read from Paul.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3.14-19).
Did you catch that? Filled with all the fullness of God? Really? What does that even mean? And after discerning its meaning, how is THAT ever going to happen for me?
I believe that Eugene Peterson, on this point, has some insight to share.
“Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that” Ephesians 5:1,2, The Message.
You see, being like God (Ephesians 5:1) is not something we accomplish by trying. Rather, it is quite the opposite. We can only love as God loves when we begin to see how deeply, how fully, how unequivocally, God loves us. All we can truly do is allow God to show us how much He loves us, and that love itself, once experienced, is so powerful that it will do all of the transforming that is needed. By love is love awakened.
“Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by trying to love others. What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within–when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance” (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 384).
It is incredibly good to be back.
I wish you God’s best this week.