Wednesday, September 23, 2020
In times of deepening division and increasingly heated conflict, it can be awkward to remember that Christ’s commandments centered on love — loving God, and the gritty, hard, often seemingly thankless work of loving one’s neighbors (even the obnoxious ones). It is a task well worth reflection, as it is a call all Christians share. We’ll wrestle with this call more deeply on Friday in our Online Conversation with Arthur Brooks on “Redeeming a Culture of Contempt.” In addition, one of my colleagues at the Trinity Forum, our Events Coordinator Hannah Smith, penned a short reflection on this difficult (but not impossible) task, which I commend to you, and is featured below.
Not an Impossible Task
The radical and subversive words of Christ at the end of the Sermon on the Mount are worth reflecting on always, but maybe especially now.
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” — Matthew 5:43-48
Even without those final words, the task of loving our enemies feels impossible. Add the exhortation to be perfect, and we might as well throw in the towel. Jesus is communicating that love for one’s enemies is characteristic of children of God because it is characteristic of God. God’s common grace provides sunrises and sunsets, rainstorms and renewed land for the evil and the good.
Our modern definition of perfection implies a person or thing being without fault. This definition has a place, but the ancient Hebrew conception of perfection may be closer to what is meant. It conveys completeness, wholeness, or maturity—a person or thing being all it was created to be, or accomplishing that which it was designed for. In this sense the exhortation feels empowering. Through our baptismal identity as God’s beloved children we are empowered to demonstrate mercy, forbearance, and kindness to others, even enemies.
This is not an impossible task, it’s what we were made for. As we brace for a contentious fall we trust these words of Christ will not return void in the lives of His people.
This Friday, September 25th we have the privilege of hosting best-selling author and Harvard Business and Kennedy School professor Arthur Brooks who will speak on “Redeeming a Culture of Contempt.”We hope you will join us for a wide-ranging discussion on the the impact and solution of hyper-polarization, an issue presented as a result of pervasive contempt.
Recommended Reading and Resources
As we navigate these uncertain times together, we recommend the related resources
below as both an encouragement and catalyst for reflection.