Jesus said to his disciples: “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, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”( Matthew 5:43-48)
In an article discussing the current state of the world, a magazine author recently wrote: “We are in a desert devoid of civility, searching the horizon for a path to moral rectitude.” As we review all that is happening in the world, many would nod their head in agreement.
Against this background of enmity and divisiveness, we hear the words of Jesus in today’s scripture telling us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
In today’s world?
Even more so in today’s world. The world is where it is because there are not enough who have become followers of Christ. There are many who wear that label. There are many who become members of an institution that defines itself as Christian. There are many who are so busy “doing things” in and for their Christian church that their activity spins your head. But doing is not living the faith. Being baptized as a Christian doesn’t do it either.
What does do it? What defines an authentic follower of Christ?
Authenticity as a Christian means that a person has gone through a radical transformation. The entire Sermon on the Mount depicts the behavior that Jesus expects of every citizen of the kingdom of God. To be “born again” means that you become a totally new person. We are not talking about a personality reform.
In today’s excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that the test comes in being able to love those who hurt us or even persecute us. Just as God does not discriminate in giving His love, so too must we.
God seeks our highest good and teaches us to seek the greatest good of others. Our love for others, even those who are ungrateful and selfish towards us, must be marked by the same kindness and mercy which God has shown to us. It is easier to show kindness and mercy when we can expect to benefit from doing so. How much harder when we can expect nothing in return. Our prayer for those who do us ill both breaks the power of revenge and releases the power of love to do good in the face of evil.
Becoming a Christian involves a transformation in which your way of thinking is utterly changed. Paul says the same thing in Romans 12:2. Be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You stand out in the world as someone different. You are so different because God’s transforming power has made you to be born again. You have been transformed into a new kind of person, with a new way of thinking, with God’s way of thinking. And so, you deliberately love as God loves. In loving even the unjust, you prove whose child you are. The love that you express proves that you are a child of God. God has empowered you to become His son or daughter.
If God is not working in us, we are preaching the gospel in vain because all that we are doing is simply to provide some nice philosophical ideas, ethical ideas, moral ideas, which are impossible to fulfill. God has to change our life so completely that we become a new person. And when people look at a godly Christian, they can immediately see that he is a son or daughter of God who is in heaven.
So, the question is : Are you ready to be a Christian?
Prayer of The Day
“Holy Spirit, please comfort all those who suffer today from hurts and insults of others. Pour the love of God into their hearts so that they can forgive and be healed.”
Love of those whom we hate is the very fulfillment of God’s law. Because when you love that which you hate, it ceases to be the object of hate. There are no haters in the kingdom of God. Jesus means for his disciples to be law-abiding citizens of the reign of God. To live the law of love fully, even when it may cause one suffering and persecution.