By Stephen Matthews

Love changes the story. This was the main idea of Riccardo Stewart’s message on Sunday. He went on to explain, as he walked through Matthew 5:21-48, that the heart of the law (the Old Testament commands – 613, right?) is the love of God, but our obedience and our righteousness flows from love. Love changes why we do and what we do, because love is about other people instead of ourselves.

Instead of murder, there can be reconciliation.

Instead of lust, there can be accessibility to each other’s heart.

Instead of divorce, there can be sacrifice and service.

Instead of swearing, there can be integrity.

Instead of retaliation, there can be defiant self-offering.

Instated of hate for enemies, there can be honor for those not liked.

Instead of holier-than-thou attitudes, there can be renewal in maturity.

Live into the love of God. So, all of you must be into the love of God and his kingdom. There’s a contrast here that is begging to be heard.

What keeps us from hearing these words of Jesus, the Messiah? We do. We plug our ears with selfishness. “We are selfish” is what I kept hearing Ricardo say as he tried to relay this Scripture.

If we were not selfish, then

reconciliation, transparency, sacrifice and service,

integrity, self-offering,

honor of others, and renewed maturity

these, then, would all make sense.

Instead. The opposite makes sense to us.

But … (Ready to nerd out?) … when the Gospel of Matthew concludes this passage with “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” The word “perfect” is translated from the Greek word teleioi (τέλειοι) in our manuscripts. Teleioi means that something has reached its end; it’s perfect. The word is used as a future indicative suggesting that in God, it will be done on our behalf. Or to put it another way from a Lexicon, “pertaining to be fully developed in a moral sense …, i.e. God is a role model for unlimited display of beneficence … [r]estoration in a corrupt context ….”[1] Get it?

(Back to living it out.)

Thankfully, Jesus offers us new hearts that are soft for the love of God. And God loved the whole world.

We can live in the love of God.

The Kingdom of God can come.

In that effort, I will be unselfishly making time this week to hang out with a particular person whom I don’t really like very much. I’m even going to treat them when I see them. I hope it makes their week—but it will take me out of my comfort zone. And that’s a good thing.

That’s how I intend to aim toward perfection.

That’s one small step I can take toward maturity.

That’s how I hope to become closer to being “as your heavenly Father.”

[1] Danker, Frederick William. A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), 996.

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