The other day, I received a note from our health insurance company explaining one little change to our policy. The problem was, I couldn't understand what it was saying because it was so full of legal jargon. So, this note that comprised of two short paragraphs was obviously written by a lawyer who was used to reading such legalese. It was a note to tell me about whether or not prescription eye drops were going to continue being covered; however, I finished reading the note not really sure if they were part of the insurance coverage or not. Since I currently am not using prescription eye drops, I set the note aside. In a sense, that is what the religious leaders had done to the Mosiac law; they had filled it up and added their own interpretations and the average Jew could no longer understand the heart of what God was telling us through the law. Jesus had a way of challenging human perspective on the law. And we see in Matthew 5 how He was trying to reorganize our thoughts back to the original intention of the law. Please read Matthew 5:38-48.
Jesus had very different thoughts on our enemies and revenge in these verses. In fact, He said that we were not to retaliate and instead, we were to respond with love. That is not easy to do! In fact, I believe that we can accomplish that only with the change that God does on our hearts. But Jesus also shows us that we have to want that change - we have to actively choose to respond with love. In these verses, Jesus points out that this is what sets us apart from the world - when we love those who do not love us in return. I remember as a child, my mom explaining to me that when I am having difficulty with that I should pray. I should be praying for God to change my heart, and I should be praying for that person. My prayer focus shouldn't be that they would change into a nicer person or that God would change whatever was bugging me, but my prayer should be that they would experience God's love. That was such good advice and it has helped me in many difficult situations.
Notice verse 48 - Jesus tells us that we should be perfect just as God is perfect. There are so many things I could say about this verse; however, I'm just going to stick to one thing. The Greek word in this verse translated as perfect is teleios, which means complete, finished, full grown, mature, and perfect. It reminded me of James 1:3-4 (NLT), "For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing." The word teleios is used twice in James 1:4! "Fully developed," is the first time it is used and the second time it is translated as perfect. Do you think that Jesus was telling us that as we learn to love in adversity we are becoming complete - perfect? Isn't that amazing and encouraging? The law's purpose was to refine us; to make us complete and perfect. Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the law.
Do you find encouragement knowing that what God commands of us is only to bring us to completeness?
This post is linked with Word Filled Wednesday.