“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, honor those who mistreat you.” That quote is from Luke 6. Matthew 5 puts it this way: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” And he goes on to say that God sends his sun to shine and the rain to fall on both the just and the unjust. These passages of Jesus’ teachings in the Sermon on the Mount really challenge us, because we fail to do this all the time. We’d rather curse those who curse us. We’d rather fight with those who are different from us or who don’t believe what we believe.
For God sends his benefits to everyone whether they believe in him or not, whether they are evil or not. Every human being benefits from the sun and the rain, the richness of the earth. Every human being benefits from God’s love, if they will accept it. He does not discriminate even if he doesn’t like evil. He doesn’t withhold from his enemies these basic gifts.
We are far choosier about who we will bless and far less loving. We are stuck in our nation’s thinking, our own group’s thinking, our own ego’s thinking. We refuse to think of all human beings as suffering or benefiting in the same way we are. We put an anonymous face on our enemies, painting them with a broad brushstroke, not even seeing them as other human beings, also created by God.
The curious thing about both these passages is that they end with different commands to us. Matthew ends with, “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” And Luke writes that we are to be “merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
Isn’t that interesting? God is perfect in Matthew or God is merciful in Luke, reporting on the same sermon. The Greek word that is translated perfect, teleios, means perfect in the sense of wholeness or completeness.  So God is the totality of what is, the whole of creation and all that is, including the One who created it. So that means we are to be perfect, not in the sense of following all the rules or laws perfectly, but that we are to bring our whole selves to God. This echoes Jesus’ First Great Commandment to love God with all of ourselves. Don’t just be the good and acceptable in you, be all that you are. Be the human being that you are—warts and all. Bring your whole self to God.
In the Luke passage he uses the the Greek word for merciful, oiktirmon, which means mercy and compassion. So Luke is identifying God and his mercy as the standard for us. If we are whole or complete as Matthew suggests, doesn’t that also mean that we are merciful, compassionate. In both these passages it is Jesus speaking of the basics of how we are to be in the world—whole and merciful, fully present to others in their joys and pains. It certainly echoes who Jesus was in the world with enemies of the Jews—Roman and Canaanite and Samaritan—as well as with his own people.
The implications for us are huge—to bring our whole selves, to see others as whole, too, and to view them with compassion, with mercy, no matter what they have done or who they are to us. We are to see not just who they are today, but what made them what they are. We hold out the best for them. We treat them with compassion. We pray for them and bless them.
This is what it means to love. We don’t reject or judge. We don’t condemn. We don’t hate one part of the folks and love another. We accept all of who they are. Just as we bring our whole selves before God in love, we allow other people to be who they are. We love the person before us whether we agree with him or not. We are no longer looking at him or her with our own eyes, but now with God’s eyes, now blessing that whole person. We are loving him or her. We are seeing Christ in each person.
The bottom line of all this love is that we have to first love ourselves. That’s how Jesus puts it in the Second of the Great Commandments: “Love your neighbor as[you love] yourself.” The more we claim all that we are and have been, the more we’re able to love all that we are—the good, the bad and the ugly, as the old western movie title has it—the more we’ll be able to show that same love to others.
If we can’t love ourselves, we will not be able to love another who is different from us or God either. We will see God as we want him to be. We will always be coming from the ego’s point of view, praying for example to control those around us, rather than loving them. Love is who God is and that is who we are to model ourselves after. He embraces all human beings, he loves us all—warts and all, he wants all of us to turn back to him. He created us all; we are all his creatures, equally loved. And that is how he wants us to be in this world, love.
So when we can love ourselves, have compassion on all that we are, we will love everyone indiscriminately including ourselves, fully, mercifully. Like God does.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I see all that I am with love and mercy? Do I see God as he is rather than as I want him to be? Will I love myself, God and others? Will I bring my whole self before God and to others? Will I forgive myself for not being perfect? Will I forgive others, too?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who deal with everyone with wholeness and mercy. May we be humble before our God, humble before our fellow men and women. May we spread love and compassion wherever we go.
News from By the Waters:
All five of the videos about the Exodus story are up on YouTube, plus two more. Here are the url’s to access them:
Part I: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKfouN0PNH0
Part II: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyvRsnqYrdg
Part IIIa: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZU32Y09UN8
Part IIIb: www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHqKay89kjE
Part IV: www.youtube.com/watch?v=84z7KF_uv7Q
God’s Invitation, www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOkp_-wDKFo
The Heart of the Gospel, www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJJbPKSOACc
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!”, is up on Amazon in both paperback and kindle versions. Look under Patricia Said Adams.
If you want to read the entire post for this week, check it out at bythewaters.net/blog.html.