June 25th, 2007

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On Being Perfect Matt. 5:48

Monday, June 25th, 2007

Mack Davis wrote a song that went like this, ” Oh, Lord, it’s hard to be humble when you are perfect in every way….. Perhaps you remember hearing it. It was good for laughs, but like many funny things, it carries a bit of truth about it as well as folly. The fact is that none of us is perfect in many ways, if any. And most all of us have plenty of reason to be humble.

When I think of God, I see him as great and good (the childhood pray contained good theology) also as loving and free. I hope that as I mature in the faith that these qualities will be mine as well. Perhaps, you and I need to begin with working on being loving. I. Corinthians 13 provides a pretty good description of love. And when we live the beatitude way–being a peace maker, being merciful, and having a pure heart–then some progress can be made toward loving others.

Jesus expressed freedom in his relationships. He was not constricted by culture. He saw needs and responded appropriately. Rules, about hygiene, race, gender, the Sabbath, did not stop him from doing what needed to be done. This threatened the rulers. And it contributed much to their desire to kill him.

Jesus was great. Matthew beginning in Chapter 8 tells story after story about how Jesus had power over disease, death, storms, natural processes, and even his enemies. After winning over Satan and refusing to use his great power for his own purposes, he continued to win victory after victory.

And Jesus was good. When he say needs he responded with compassion. Great, good, loving and free–these qualities desribe God, his son, and his spirit who dwells within his children. These should become descriptors in the lives of his children.

Love for Enemies. Matt. 5:43-47

Monday, June 25th, 2007

The concept of “turning the other cheek” must have been the most talked about theological topic on the playgrounds of my childhood. It was during World War II and this teaching of Jesus was not held with high regard in popular culture. It appears to continue to be one of the least appreciated teaching by Jesus.

It is obvious that he was trying to defuse conflict. But nine year old lay theologians, even, saw this as opening the door to abuse and domination of the bullies of the world.

As we grow older we continue to see this as risky. But, on many occasions when we have put this principle into practice, we have seen it work. While one must not come to see this as a wise practice for its own benefit, it indeed is. This is becuase is it so much nicer to walk through life seeing those around us as friends, not as enemies. Certainly, I have known some very bitter persons who see everyone as an enemy, or potentially one, out to get them and take advantage of them. It strikes me that this is a very unhappy way to live. I feel sorry for such folk. I have even taken them on as a project and loved them and demonstrated to them that there is at least one person in the world who is not out to get them. I think that in a few cases, I have at least gotten them to question their common opinion of human kind.

Reflecting, however, it seems that for many of us as we grow older we become less optimistic and more critical of others. We come into relationships expecting the worse, not the best. And, it seems that this results in us not being disappointed.

Retaliation. Matt. 5:38-42

Monday, June 25th, 2007

It bothers me when I hear Christians quote the popular culture phrase, “I do not get mad, I get even.” It seems to me that it is this attitude that was the focus of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. It is never a matter of “getting even.” Rather, it is a matter of having a pure heart, being merciful, and working for peace in relationships with others.

I suspect that we have all been guilty of retaliating when hurt by another, only to see the hurt escalate. Have you also had experience of “loving an enemy” and seeing a conflict come to a halt with the enemy now becoming a friend. In Peterson’s translation he encourages us to pray for our enemies, this bringing out the best in us. He calls for each of us to “live generously.” “Be gracious,” he continues.

Here we are encouraged to very actively seek to be peacemakers. Surely, this is something that all Christians should take seriously.