NEW Today’s Spiritual Food for Thought is provided by Pastor Yohan Lee, a friend of AMI who had served as a staff at several AMI churches. He is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania (BA) and Cairn University (MA).
Spiritual Food for Thought for the Weekend
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Do you have people in your life who make you feel inadequate because they are perfect? If you don’t, then I’m genuinely happy for you; but I’m going to guess that most of us have someone or perhaps dozens of people who make us feel a little insecure about ourselves. For me, it’s this guy who lives in my town named Jack (not his real name). I first met Jack about three years ago when our sons were on the same baseball team. At the time, I didn’t see Jack as the threat that he would eventually become, mostly because my son was better than his at baseball.
But as time went on and our paths crossed more, I began to find out some very wonderful things about Jack that made me like him less and less. First, Jack’s family is almost exactly like mine. We both have four kids, and his oldest son and daughter are the same ages and grades as my oldest son and daughter. And he, just like me, has boy-girl twins to round out the team. The only difference is that his twins are a year younger than mine. I also later found out that Jack lives in one of the nicest houses in our town, and not only is he way taller and way better looking than me (which I knew the first time we met), but the dude does crossfit, so he makes me feel like a scrawny teenager again. Oh, and to top it all off, last year our sons were on the same baseball team again, and guess what . . . his son became a better player than mine. Seriously, if I didn’t know Jack and scrolled through his Instagram account, I’d think he was one of those guys who makes up his life because no one could be that perfect.
I know that comparing yourself to others is generally not good practice, but there was always something different about the way Jesus did things. In today’s passage, Jesus made two key comparisons challenging the way the general population thought about love. First, he took the average person who generally thought, “I’m a loving and good person, I treat my family and friends well,” and whose general ethos was, “ If you respect me, I’ll respect you… but if you cross me, then I’ll have nothing to do with you” and compared that person to a tax collector, one of the more reviled groups in that society. To bring it to 2021 context, Jesus was essentially saying, “Your standard of love is no different than that of a mobster. Even mobsters love those who love them, so you can’t really think you’re that good.”
The second comparison Jesus used was that of the love of God. God was loving and kind to everyone; and in some ways (not all) treated everyone equally, by allowing the sun to shine on them and the rain to water their crops. In this sense, Jesus called God’s love perfect in vs. 48. (FYI, in the Greek the word ‘perfect’ conveys a sense of completeness and fullness; therefore, perfect love is whole, full, not lacking anything, or omitting anyone, etc.).
Now going back to the point I opened with regarding those feelings of inadequacy, the truth of the matter is that when we read today’s passage and compare ourselves to a God who loves humanity perfectly, we are supposed to feel a sense of inadequacy. We are also supposed to feel like our definitions of and abilities to love are lacking. But guess what, when we start to feel badly about ourselves, the beauty of the Good News kicks in. That sense of inadequacy that we feel is designed to bring us to Christ, because when we realize that we don’t have it put together, or aren’t perfect, or even as loving as we know we should be, it humbles us to look somewhere outside of ourselves and namely to God. We are supposed to look to Jesus whose life was perfect and whose death perfectly covers all of our shortcomings, and confess, “God my ability to love is poor and inadequate, but I trust in the Savior who loved me and the world, adequately.”
Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for accepting me as I am, in Christ. Thank You for loving me so unconditionally. Whenever I feel inadequate about myself for whatever reasons, may the Spirit of God remind me how good I have in God’s abundant grace. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: Revelation 21-22