Epiphany- Day 53
Psalm 142 (NLT)
I cry out to the LORD;
I plead for the LORD’s mercy.
I pour out my complaints before him
and tell him all my troubles.
When I am overwhelmed,
you alone know the way I should turn.
Wherever I go,
my enemies have set traps for me.
I look for someone to come and help me,
but no one gives me a passing thought!
No one will help me;
no one cares a bit what happens to me.
Then I pray to you, O LORD.
I say, “You are my place of refuge.
You are all I really want in life.
Hear my cry,
for I am very low.
Rescue me from my persecutors,
for they are too strong for me.
Bring me out of prison
so I can thank you.
The godly will crowd around me,
for you are good to me.”
Matthew 5:43-48 (NRSV)
“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 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. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
CONSIDER THIS. . .
Our youngest son, Sam, has a strong sense of justice– especially when it comes to himself. His natural and prevailing disposition is to avenge himself when he senses even the slightest injustice comes his way. If one of his siblings does something to him, he is going to repay them. I am constantly trying to redirect his “eye for an eye” impulses into alternative possibilities. Recently, in one of those, let’s just call them coaching sessions, he threw up his hands in honest exasperation and said, “Dad, you’ve got to understand, I’m just a ‘get-back’ kind of person!”
It’s a little bit funny, but if I’m honest, that “get-back kind of person spirit” is in me too.
Jesus knows the fundamental problem at the core of the core of our human nature and he speaks into it with the Sermon on the Mount. What is not saying is, “Try harder.” He is not saying, “Shame on you! You should know better!”
He says simply, “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
He is not introducing a new morality or worse, a better self-help program. Jesus seems to be saying, “In your present state of self and way of being, what I am teaching you is utterly impossible. You won’t get to the place I’m talking about through a change by order of degrees. This way I speak of is a change by order of magnitude. It is like being re-born into another dimension or realm of possibility; a place which cannot be characterized by utopian human idealism. Our language can’t even begin to capture it– so let’s just call it perfect.
Faith is not believing that if you try harder you will get better and if you keep on you will eventually hit the mark. Faith is the God given capacity to see a bigger picture, a longer timeline, and to glimpse with increasing clarity the compelling likelihood of an impossible reality. Be perfect. It is a complete and total shifting of ones center of gravity.
It is seeing and inhabiting a reality where it doesn’t make sense to be a “get-back” person.
That reality is right here, right now. Pray for eyes to see it.