Sunday, 23 February 2014

Looking for Perfection

Matthew 5 is, in many ways, summed up in its final verse – be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  These words seem not just difficult, but impossible.  Surely we are only supposed to do the best that we can.  Well, maybe, though that doesn’t seem to be what Jesus says.  But maybe also, it is a matter of definition.  Why would Jesus demand an impossible thing of us?  This is certainly tough stuff.  But perhaps what we need, and what is happening here, is to be reminded of God’s extravagant giving – and how that should be our model.  As one commentator[1] says: “Perfection is less about getting things right and more about loving as God loves, and Jesus is God’s concrete example of that love.”  Another[2] suggests: “Jesus advocates an alternative system without exploitation, reciprocity, and self-aggrandizement.”  That is important.  So often we do stuff for what we might get back.  I invite you to dinner and, if you don’t invite me back, at the very least, I wonder why not, if I don’t start talking about you.  Things like that.  The Gospel message, the Kingdom message, is a message of giving.  This isn’t about reciprocal love or giving.  It’s about just giving.  That last commentator again – “Indiscriminate loving, part of the greater righteousness required of disciples, is a countercultural practice, undermining, not securing, social hierarchies and obligations.”
Turned cheeks, walked second miles, loved enemies and prayed-for persecutors are outside the experience of the way most would go – but that’s where God’s love takes us. 

[1] Barbara J Essex – Feasting on the Word
[2] Warren Carter - commentary on Matthew

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