Jesus demands that we love as perfectly as God loves
By Glen Argan
The Jesus we meet in last week’s and this week’s (Matthew 5.38-48) Gospels is a no-nonsense fellow. The last line says it all: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Well, how is that possible? No mention is made of Jesus sending his Holy Spirit to help us along. Just do it; be perfect. Following Jesus is not a Sundays-only affair. It doesn’t end when you walk out the church door and start your engine. It demands all of you all the time.
Last Sunday, Jesus provided some guidance: Be reconciled; don’t get angry; don’t look at women with lustful eyes. This week, there is more. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other one for him to hit. If someone one wants your coat, give your cloak as well. Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.
Moreover, this week’s commands from the Lord are not negative laws; they are not something to avoid doing. They demand constant vigilance, constant readiness to respond in love. They demand action. Instead of coasting, we need to do as much as possible.
In the theological pull between whether one will be saved by faith or by works, this week’s excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount comes down foursquare on the side of works. Jesus calls us, calls everyone, to action. We must respond.
Interpretations abound as to what it might mean to turn the other cheek or to give your cloak as well as your coat. These are sometimes seen as ways of shaming your persecutor.
But don’t let theological interpretations cloud your view. Jesus is giving examples of ways to give our whole selves to building his kingdom. But the ways of following him are infinite in number; most are not inscribed in the Bible.
The first step in following Jesus is being attentive. Be attentive to the situations in your life. God injects himself everywhere. Be attentive to how you can put yourself third, the other person second and God first. There is no manual for this. Attentiveness and love are the only guides.
Don’t be a roadblock to love. Be the pathway; walk the path. Don’t look for excuses; look for creative ways to love.
God is love, so be like God. Love perfectly.
[Other readings: Leviticus 19.1-2, 17-18; Psalm 103; 1 Corinthians 3.16-23]