Meanderings

The Father’s Standard – Matthew 5:43-48

Or “No One Is Perfect, So
Why Bother?”

According
to Marcus Buckingham the “prevailing wisdom” of the social
sciences is that good is the opposite of bad.  If this is true, then
to understand what is good, determine what is bad, and invert.  So,

  • Study
    depression and neurosis to understand joy.

  • Study
    children on drugs to figure out how to keep children off drugs.

  • Study
    truants to find out how to keep kids in school.

  • Study
    unhappy marriages in order to discern how to avoid divorce (see The
    One Thing You Need to Know
    , Free Press: 2005, pages 16-17).

A
funny thing happened when scientists began paying attention to the
positive rather than the negative.  The data did not always work out.
In one study 105 couples married an average of almost 11 years were
asked to score each other on qualities like “kind and
affectionate,” open and disclosing,” “patient,” “warm,”
and “sociable.”  They then also were asked to rate whether their
relationship was satisfying.

Do
you know what was the greatest predictor of how satisfying and
rewarding a relationship was?  How couples graded each other.
Couples that were in good relationships always scored their partner
higher on every quality than the partner scored them self.
Buckingham suggests the couples almost sound delusional – so wildly
in love they can ignore all evidence to the contrary.  What is the
one thing you need to know about marriage?  “Find the most generous
explanation for each other’s behavior and believe it.” (pages
18-22).

Today
we close our reading of A Wesleyan Spiritual Reader with Bishop Job
challenging us to go onto perfection.  I will be inviting us to consider paying attention to the best that God sees in us rather than where we rate ourselves.  Let’s listen to Jesus:

[Jesus
said,] "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your
neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies
and pray for those who persecute you, so 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.
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 5:43-48).

Jesus
says two things today that we would rather forget:  The first, “love
your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be
children of your Father in heaven.”  That challenge is followed by
“be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Can
any text contain two more challenging words from Jesus?

We
find ourselves asking questions like: with regard to love of enemy
Jesus (1) what kind of enemy did you have in mind? (2) What did you
mean by love? (3) What is the theological grounding for your command
that so cuts against the grain of normal human emotions?  And that
command to be perfect, well nobody’s perfect – why bother?

We
are to bother because God bothered.  We were created in the image of
God (Genesis 1:27).  We were created to fulfill God’s purpose for
our life (Colossians 1:16).  Being plugged into that purpose is
perfection, which is becoming a daughter or son of the Living God.

Because
God bothered, we are to bother.  To love requires an act of the will,
especially if we are to love those who do not love us.  It’s easy
to love those who reciprocate your love, but learning to love those
that despise you is exercise.  It requires character and humility and
grace … gifts from God. 

Our
visioning team has been working on our core values.  This is what we
have discerned from your initial comments and our reflections:

  • The
    faith community of Pinehurst UMC values:

  • FELLOWSHIP:
    Building relationships with God and others.

  • CHARACTER:
    Learning to become like Christ.

  • GRACE:
    Experiencing God’s gifts of faith, hope, and love.

  • HUMILITY:
    Valuing God and others before self.

  • MISSION:
    Serving others in our community and beyond.

  • We
    always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our
    prayers, constantly remembering before our God and Father your work
    of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord
    Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:2-3).

What
does perfection look like within the context of these key words?
Maybe it looks like this: “Worship plus two.”  Worship plus one
group that fills my bucket and another group where I fill another’s
bucket.  The movements of fellowship and character building are
activities that fill our buckets.  These full buckets are emptied
through personal humility into mission in the world.  And in the
emptying we are made full – grace abounds – and we give thanks to
God in worship.

Today
we pause to give God thanks for those members of the church who have
died in the past year.  We invite you into a season of prayer as we
light a candle in honor and memory of those who stand on another
shore and pray for us, even in this moment.

Fellowship
– character – grace – humility – mission.

Love
your enemies … be perfect as our Father is perfect.

Let
God work those things in your life this week.