Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.
That’s a mouthful, is it not?
What is Jesus saying?
The word “perfect” means complete.
We might say, of a fine vacation in the High Sierras, or a cruise to Hawaii, “It was perfect.”
Jesus is confident that you and I can love well.
As God loves.
Not on such a grand scale, of course.
God loves the whole wide world and everything in it.
All creatures, great and small.
God loves them all.
I can’t do that.
And you probably can’t do it, either.
Our love is a little bit smaller than God’s love!
But size doesn’t matter.
Think of a Redwood forest.
The tallest trees reach high into the sky, some of them exceeding 350 feet, longer than a football field.
And then consider a Redwood seedling.
A foot high, and a year old.
Are they both Redwoods?
Sure they are.
It’s their DNA.
Small or large, they’re both Redwoods.
And such is love.
God’s love, big enough for the universe.
Our love a bit smaller.
But love it is.
And where there’s love, there’s God!
Because all love is of God [1 John 4:7]!
But wait a minute.
If we say, “I love pistachio ice cream,” is that a God-thing?
Yes, it is.
If we say, “I love driving along the Pacific Coast Highway,” is that a God-thing?
Yes, it is.
Where there’s love, there’s God.
Pistachio ice cream, or the love that lays its life down for the sake of a better world.
Great or small.
Mother Teresa who makes the headlines, or the faithful husband who visits his wife in the nursing home every morning, even though she hasn’t recognized him for five years.
It’s all love.
And it’s all God.
From our text this morning, several things.
The first is pretty basic: don’t retaliate!
Don’t pass the pain on.
Harry Truman had a sign on his desk, “The Buck Stops Here.”
Jesus invites us to let the junk stop here.
Don’t pass it on.
Jesus alludes to a number of situations that could quickly escalate into violence.
Heck, we’ve all been there, haven’t we?
Those moments in life when the fuse is lit and the powder is dry, and everything is ready to explode.
I think of the men and women who defuse bombs.
Everyone else backs away, but they go right to it.
With tools and with care.
And the bomb is defused.
Jesus says: If you can defuse a situation, do it.
Turn down the volume.
Be restrained and thoughtful and mature.
Walk away if you can.
And if you can’t walk away, turn the other cheek.
Give up the coat, and your shirt, too.
Go the extra mile.
Give, and give a lot, and keep on giving.
Are we supposed to be Patsys?
Play the doormat?
I don’t recall Jesus ever being a doormat.
Jesus spoke truth to power.
He challenge the status quo.
He turned over a few tables.
He refused to engage in conversation with Pilate.
On the cross, he says, “Father, forgive them.”
We are invited to speak the truth, but to do so in love.
Truth spoken without love is no truth at all.
But just a big mouth full of himself.
But even in love, truth will have a tough edge, now and then.
I’ll ask Donna in the morning “How do I look?”
And she’ll likely say, “Not very good. Go back upstairs and try it again.”
Love doesn’t shy away.
Love is no wallflower.
And to up the ante a little bit, Jesus speaks about enemies, as well.
Love them, too.
A Sunday School teacher was telling her students about love. She said to them, “What would you do if I offered you $1000 not to love your mother and father?”
There was silence.
Finally a small voice queried, “How much would you give me not to love my big sister?”
Much of the time, we love because someone is loveable.
That’s when love is easy.
And it’s still love, of course.
But Jesus pushes the envelope.
Love your enemies, too.
Do right by them, if you can.
Give to them as freely as God gives sunshine and rain.
Love in tough times and with tough people is a disciple of ethics, far and beyond mere feelings.
Love is as love does!
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends [1 Corinthians 13].
We’ve all gone to bed at night kicking ourselves for bad behavior.
If we could only rewind the day, and live it all over again.
We’d think before we speak.
We’d walk away and defuse the moment.
We’d give instead of take.
We’d be kind rather than harsh.
We’d forgive and not be rude.
Sometimes we have to learn the hard way.
But we learn, don’t we?
We learn to love!
From Romans [chapter 12]:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. … “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” [you will stir their conscience].
Yesterday, I watched fire trucks storm by, engines roaring and sirens blaring … “rushing into danger,” I thought.
And what with the recent death of an LA fire fighter, we know that danger is close at hand for all of them.
But such is love.
In tough times and with tough people.
From the Letter to the Philippians, chapter 2:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
It’s possible to love well.
To love as the Father loves.
To love completely.
We have to remind ourselves how important this is – to love as God loves.
We have to remember the results of love – most of the time, love given away heals and makes things better. Not always, but most of the time.
Even in the worst of moments, it’s better to love and lose than to withhold love and damage our own spirit.
Love withheld always hurts us.
Love given away always makes us a better human being.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Tomorrow morning, or even this afternoon, our love will be tested.
We may not do so well.
But at least we’ll know it.
And we’ll try again.
And who knows?
We might succeed.
Because we abide in Jesus.
And his word lives in our hearts.
To God be the glory.
And may our love of God, and our love of one another, abound all the more.
To make this a better world!
Amen and Amen!