March 27, 2012: The Thirtieth Day of Lent

March 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. ~ Matthew 5.46-48 ~

Matthew 5 concludes with this stunning command from the lips of Christ: “Be perfect.” Of all the challenging teachings that Christ has presented to his audience, this must be the most challenging of all! How can people ever hope to achieve the level of divine perfection that Christ speaks of here?

A closer study of the original language sheds a bit more light on this challenge. The Greek word teleios used here often gets translated with the English word “perfect;” unfortunately, this translation does not provide an accurate retelling of Christ’s message. The English word “perfect” causes us to think of such words as “faultless” or “infallible.” However, the Greek word teleios dealt with an idea of completeness or wholeness.

Shelton tells us why this knowledge of teleios aids our understanding of the passage: “Jesus intends this as a summary or  the goal of the previous passages. As children resemble their fathers so disciples are to resemble in miniature their loving heavenly Father. The issue is not infallible perfection but obeying and imitating the Father and thus fulfilling their reason for being.” (LinSNTC, pg. 161)

Christ’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount up to this point has been outlining what perfection within the Kingdom of Heaven looks like: the Beatitudes, the Law fulfilled, staying away from anger, honoring God’s intentions within marriage, keeping one’s word, and loving one’s enemies.

The Message interprets this passage nicely for us. Prayerfully consider what this passage means for you.

“If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you. ” ~ Matthew 5.46-48, The Message ~

Lord Christ, as you bring me further along this path of spiritual growth, please show me how you live toward me. Please help me to see your mercies that are new every day and help other see them as well. Help me to always allow you to live through me. Amen. 

Quote taken from Dr. James B. Shelton’s contribution on the Gospel of Matthew to The Life in the Spirit New Testament CommentaryEdited by French L. Arrington and Roger Stronstad. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.

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