Jesus says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48, HCSB)
He starts by acknowledging that the Law of Moses calls for ‘tit for tat’ — or “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” (Matthew 5:38). If someone strikes you, strike him back. If someone sues you, resist him in court. If someone steals from you, demand reparation. If your enemy hates you, hate him back.
But, Jesus turns the Law upside down.
He commands, “Do not resist an evildoer.” (Matthew 5:39)
I’ve read about our right to defend ourselves, how Jesus never means that we can’t take up the sword against our enemies — but I don’t see that here. I hear Jesus say, “Do not resist.” Under force? — submit; being sued? — settle; hit? — turn the other cheek; robbed? — give.
Why? Here’s the kicker. Jesus reminds us that even “the Gentiles” — i.e. those who do not have the Law of Moses “love those who love [them].” (Matthew 5:46) That’s easy! Anyone can do that! Anyone can greet the one who greets him! But God, our heavenly Father, is perfect. “For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)
“Therefore,” says Jesus, “be perfect.”
Father God, help us to love our enemies — those we consider ‘unlovable’. Remind us that You love all people, and send Your goodness out to the entire world. In Jesus’ Name, amen.