“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
This is a famous verse for us Wesleyans. Historically, those in the Wesleyan tradition have been known for their emphasis on holiness, both personal and social. This verse defines that understanding. Simply read, it means to yearn to be more like God. It echoes the Old Testament verse at Deut. 18 (“be perfect before the Lord your God”). Actually it is the same Greek word, tamim. However, tamim has a deeper meaning that gives our call to be like God more depth. The word implies wholeness in the sense of not being partial; being fully and utterly devoted to God and to serve God with our entire being. What I believe makes this verse even more important, is the fact that it is a summary of the entire 5th chapter (hint: whenever you see “therefore” in the Bible you know that it is a summation of some previous material). So how are we to “be perfect as our heavenly father is perfect,” look at the previous 47 verses! Jesus calls those who would follow him in a radical way to live that turns the kingdom of this world upside down. It is easy for us to love those who love us back – so love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Do not resist evildoers, if they slap you on one cheek, look them in the eye as you offer them the other cheek. If someone wants your coat, give to them also your cloak. Be honest, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” If she’s not your wife (or husband) don’t look! The greatest will be the least and the least will be the greatest. Be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Blessed are….(v. 3-12) Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect.
Blessings for the journey,