• Matt Beaney

#340 – BE PERFECT (30/4/21)



On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at Jesus’ teaching regarding love.

“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)

During this section of The Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been teaching how Christians fulfil the teaching of the Old Testament (5:17). Jesus has given us six examples of how Christians do this: He has taught about a new approach to anger (5:21-26), to purity and marriage (5:31-32), to truthful language (5:33- 37), to non-retaliation (5:38-42) and he finishes with this all-encompassing principle of loving our enemies (5:43- 48). He concludes with this extraordinary phrase,

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

What does Jesus mean by this? Is Jesus telling us that only those who perfectly live this vision of the Christian life are true Christians? Surely perfection is beyond any of us!

When faced with any text, particularly a difficult one like this, it’s important to step back and look at the context; ask, is there is anything else around here that helps me to understand this?

It very informative to read that Jesus’ vision of the ‘perfect’ or ideal Christian is described thus,

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 6:6)

Secondly, It’s also interesting to note that just twelve verses later, we are taught to pray in a way that supposes on our deficiencies,

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Matthew 6:12)

When this context and the whole New Testament context is taken into account, perfection in the sense of sinlessness is clearly not what’s meant. The perfection that Jesus speaks of here is an authentic devotion to seeking to know God and do His will. Wholehearted pursuit would be a good way of putting it. It’s to prayerfully pursue these high standards and to humbly seek forgiveness when we fail.

This command to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” has a particular bearing on our pursuit of love. A Christian will vigorously pursue love.


RESPONSE

The pursuit of love will be expressed in our ‘seeking first’ attitude and practice. Those who pursue love will practice love. Like learning to play the guitar, love is not learnt in bed! Love grows as we act in obedience to Jesus’ command through faith. If we will seek to love others - seek the best for others - we will grow in our love. I love this quote from C.S. Lewis,

‘It would be quite wrong to think that the way to become "loving" is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings… The rule for us all is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you "love" your neighbour; act as if you did. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love them. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less…whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made like us by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less’ (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

COMMUNITY GROUP STUDY - LOVE WITHOUT BOUNDS

Notices

It might be good to begin with notices. Please share from this week’s Church News.


Suggested opener/Ice-breaker

When have you ever received undeserved love in your life?


Recap of Sunday's message - please share in your group

On Sunday we continued with our series on discipleship from The Sermon on the Mount. This week we are looking at Jesus’ teaching regarding love.

“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)

Jesus is correcting the stance of the Jewish teachers In His day. They had come to believe that it was right to ‘love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. Of course, this is an attitude to which every sinful human heart is prone. Sin distorts our capacity to love. We search for reasons not to love those ‘outside'. Our hearts are creative and find reasons not to love. We often have constrained love - love with boundaries.


We love through prayer

Jesus makes it clear that praying for people is a powerful way that we can love them. Praying for our ‘enemies’ is not praying for ourselves about our enemies - although this is good to do of course. Praying for our enemies is praying for them! It’s praying a blessing or forgiving people even through our pain.


We love through action

The Father continues to give good gifts to every human being on the planet. No matter how evil a person is, they are blessed with ‘common grace’- the sun, rain, breath and every good thing they have.

Christians take on the family-likeness. Loving people, particularly our enemies, reveals if we are God’s children. Those who have been born again of the Holy Spirit gain a new ability to love those who are difficult to love.

Like learning to play the guitar, love is not learnt in bed! Love grows as we act in obedience to Jesus’ command through faith. If we will seek to love others - seek the best for others - we will grow in our love for them.


Discussion questions

1. Did God speak to you about anything in particular from Sunday's message or the blogs this week?

2. How does or could you love through prayer?

3. We are called to have a 'seek first' attitude to growing in love. In what ways do you believe that the Spirit would want you to express love in the various contexts that He has put you?

4. How does a daily practice of meditating on the gospel - God's mercy to us in Christ - help one to remain loving to those who don't deserve it?


Serving, Investing and inviting

Our unconditional love shows the gospel and makes a way for it.

1) Who has God put into your life that we could pray for together?

2) Serving, investing and inviting is built on love. It's hard to do and we'll only do it if we love people! How are you planning to serve invest and invite?




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