Don’t Worry, Be Perfect (Matthew 5:38-48)

 Talk about expectations! Jesus did not hesitate to ask the moon of his followers, as in this passage:

“You have heard that it has been said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist evildoers; rather, whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn the other also. And if anyone sues with the law and takes away your coat, give him your cloak also. And whoever will compel you to go a mile, go two. Give to those who ask of you, and do not turn away from those who wish to borrow from you. “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who use you spitefully and persecute you, so that you may be the children of your Father who is in heaven, for the Father makes the sun rise on the bad and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the Roman collaborators do the same? And if you greet your family, what are you doing differently from others? Do not all people of the world do that? Therefore, be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect.”

All Jesus asks is perfection. The movement of this passage demonstrates why.

After listing some rather difficult actions—turning the other cheek; giving more than the law requires; going the extra mile—Jesus then points out that what his followers must do is ratchet up the love we share. After all, God shares the blessings of sun and rain with all human beings, no exceptions. How’s that for a model? Everyone can love and accept some people. Perfection lies in loving all. Just look at God!

But wait, Jesus: Don’t you know that some sunrises bring storms, and sometimes the rain doesn’t fall on anybody—just or unjust? If anyone has known that ugly fact, I think that a Jewish peasant living under totalitarian rule probably did. I suspect Jesus knew just how imperfect perfection in this world really is . . .

The point is to keep trying.


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