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  • Writer's pictureThe Hermit of Antipolo

Challenged By Jesus – 2 (The Way Forward In Christ Part 218)

Gospel: Matthew 5:43-48

Today Jesus ups the challenge. What is his ultimate intent for us? “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (v.48). Obviously, we cannot be perfect as God is perfect. That would make us gods ourselves. On the other hand, we will ultimately become perfect, when we make it to heaven. We would not be God, but we would have nothing imperfect in us.

So while we will not become perfect while on earth, Jesus’ intent is for us to see the end goal, and to make life in this world a continuing effort to move forward towards that perfection. We need to know that we still fall short of the ultimate goal, and so should continue to strive.

Jesus then gives us a challenge we can take on. Still very hard and even impossible for many, but achievable. It is this: “love your enemies” (v.44a). What? It is hard enough to truly love the good guys, how much more that despicable person who did me great wrong?

One reason loving an enemy is so difficult is because we do not understand the word love. We equate it with emotions, with feeling good toward the other person. That certainly is part of it, but authentic Christian love is not about feelings but about a decision of the will, in spite of adverse feelings. Jesus does not expect us to suddenly feel good about our enemy. In fact, it would not be unchristian to still dislike one’s enemy, especially if there is no positive change in him that can be perceived.

But to love a person, whether a good guy or an enemy, is to desire the ultimate good of that person, as a child of God (v.45). It is wanting that person to change for the better. It is hoping for that person to experience conversion and ultimate salvation. Perhaps we would even be the instruments for that to happen. Thus Jesus tells us to “pray for those who persecute you” (v.44b). We are to desire the ultimate good of our enemy, even as we do not necessarily have to physically embrace him and invite him into our home.

Jesus says that if we love only those who love us, how are we different from tax collectors (v.46), who were considered enemies by the Jews? If we fraternize only with those who are our brethren, do not pagans do that too (v.47)? The Christian is one challenged to be someone other than what the ordinary person in the world is. In the world, an enemy is hated. In Christ an enemy is loved.

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