A Lesson in Perfect Love

Matthew 5:43-48
Dt 26:16-19 / Psa 119

… if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
(Matthew 5: 48)

We always tend to alienate
The people that we cannot trust;
Let’s learn to love, and not to hate
Those who are different from us.

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43-48)

Reflection

These lessons that Jesus taught must have grated on the nerves of the Pharisees and scribes, who regarded their enemies, like the Samaritans, Romans and other Gentile tribes as “outsiders” who were only worthy of being hated. Since these other people did not worship Yahweh their God, they were considered as damned, and any association with them would only defile one’s soul. Loving them was simply unthinkable. But our Lord here was teaching them that love is universal. Love knows no boundaries, because it is what God is. He taught this in His parable of the Good Samaritan, who was more of a neighbour than an enemy because of the love that he showed to the victim of robbers (Lk.10:30-37). Another “outsider” who practiced genuine love that our Lord was talking about was the Roman Centurion who came to Jesus to heal his slave (Lk.7:2-10).

The commandment of love that our Lord Jesus is teaching us is not one of emotion, but an act of will, a decision to set aside bitterness or resentment towards those who have hurt us for the sake of peace, or because we want to become better Christians. Easier said than done, of course, but invoking the grace of the Holy Spirit, it is not impossible. In most cases, those who offend us may not really know the gravity of their words or actions. They are not our enemies. The enemy is the devil who initiates the conflicts. He plants the seeds of discord, like envy, prejudice, anger, pride or even simple miscommunication. Even our good intentions can be misunderstood by other people who have been influenced by their biases or false information. More often, it is our prejudices that influence our negative attitude towards others who do not share our beliefs and values. Our differences with those who do not belong to our community, tribe or faith are what make them our enemies. But Jesus teaches us otherwise. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

Jesus wants us to understand that in the face of conflicts and contradictions, we have the opportunity as children of God to be peacemakers, even or especially if we face persecutions and unfair criticisms. If we do not love our enemies, we are refusing to be His channels of forgiveness and agents of peace. Jesus has shown us how much He suffered to be the Mediator between God and mankind. If we are to take up His cross and follow Him, loving our enemies isn’t that much of a burden if we believe it’s the way to achieve perfection.

Help us, dear God, to go beyond our capacity to love, so that we may fully understand Your true nature. Transform our prejudices and ill feelings to compassion and forgiveness, so that our perceived enemies may become our friends and brothers in Christ. Amen.

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