But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethen only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5.44-48 (KJV)
A modern parable: A young man, a university student, was assaulted on the campus of our shared alma mater. He nearly died, and his family arrived at the hospital expecting the worst. When Justice came to be served, his family argued for leniency and rehabilitation for the assailants – and called for the youngest to be tried as a child. I did not know this young man, but many years later I met his mother, a school teacher turned professor in the graduate program I attend- and she shared this story with me. Her family was hurt by the actions of these people, her son forever scarred from his injuries, and yet her faith led her to beg for those who had caused this pain, in the hopes that they could stop a cycle of violence and bring more love into the world.
We spend our time labeling ourselves and others, raising up the damages perpetuated upon us, and claiming our opinions as the as one and truly correct viewpoint. I live in a country with more divides and infighting than any living person remembers. This is without a doubt a time of deviousness- two weeks from now, my country will welcome a new leader, in what is perhaps the most unwelcoming environment for a modern incoming President.
But what if we did better? What if we put the energy we expend on condemning one another into the people around us? Matthew calls on us to love our neighbor, but also our enemies, for they are also the children of God. We are called to reach across boundaries, to welcome those of other faiths, to serve those in need regardless of their orientations, mental status, addictions and all the other barriers we claim.
We as Christians are called to respond in love, even to those who have harmed us, for we are called to be better than the labels man has created. We as Christians are called to live in the image of Christ, and serve as he did. We as Christians are called to be perfect – not the perfect of flawless and pristine television life – but perfect in practice of our service to one another.
We as Christians in a country this divided are called upon to be the Uniters. Matthew does not call on us to agree with others, he does not call on us to do evil works, or extol the benefits of that which we do not believe in- but he calls on us to love. So friends, I give you this homework: show love in the coming weeks. Let your Christian heart lead you to not to arguments of morality, but the act of it. Do your best to be perfect in God’s image as we move into this new season.