Monday, September 20, 2010

Love your neighbor, can we define that please?

In college I used to use Oswald Chamber's "My Utmost for His Highest" for my bible study time. Chambers gives a verse and explanation/his thoughts for each day of the year. Today I decided to check out what scripture he had chosen for today. The scripture was Matthew 5:48 "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly father is perfect." Upon first glance I find this verse all kinds of overwhelming and confusing. If you could have read my thoughts earlier today when I reading this verse you would have heard something like..." Wait a minute, be perfect? Isn't only God perfect? A perfectionist at heart, I've been told it can be more of a bad quality then a good quality,,,,hmmm...." After thinking about it and checking out the good old ESV study bible notes I have different take on the meaning :) A pleasant switch in my thought process.

Here's what the ESV study bible notes have to say to confused readers like me:

"Scripture is a reflection of God himself as He has made his will and character known to his people. As Christians seek to live in conformity to scripture, they are in fact pursuing the very perfection of God."

Here's the breakdown: As we live our lives getting to know God through the Bible and learning how to live a life that honors God we are taking steps toward God-likeness. As Oswald puts it, "The expression of Christian character is not good doing, but God-likeness." This verse isn't about perfectionism as we typically see it, it's about pursuing an understanding of who God is, how he commands us to live and then obediently following his commands and putting the truths of the Bible into practice in a way that shows others a point of difference in your life. You're not just living to be "perfect" as our society defines perfection, the dream house, dream car, dream job, never making mistakes, being revered by everyone who meets you, having the perfect body, etc. You are living to be seen as perfect in your pursuit of knowing God (what he commands, who he is, his love for you, what he's done for you and promised you) and displaying who He is in your life so that when others see you they don't see you as having some movie-come-to-reality life, they see God making a difference in your life, they see God making you more like Him in the way you love others, the way you face hardship, etc.

God's love for us has never been based on how good or perfect we are, otherwise, who could ever approach him? He takes away our guilt, He doesn't want us to live in it! We all do things we know we shouldn't. No one is perfect. This is the beauty of the gospel/ God's love shown for us. We are not perfect and can't save ourselves from messing up, hurting others, etc. we will always mess up this side of heaven but God in his love sent Jesus to die for us and be raised to life so in our imperfection he could see us as perfect by the blood of Jesus. What does that mean? It means that when we repent (confess what we have done wrong, that we do wrong and need God's forgiveness and then turn our lives around seeking God instead of sin) God doesn't see our sin anymore, He sees Jesus who took our sin away on the cross. He sees us as His children. He sees us as perfect. Now does this mean we keep sinning and living a life that's not in obedience to the bible? NO! Paul says that in Romans 6:1. It means we now commit ourselves to striving to obey God's commands (created for our good, out of great love for us!) and showing his character through how we live with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us. We will mess up, trip up, etc. but we're forgiven for sin so we can walk in grace knowing He forgave whatever we did and we can keep staying the course with His help.

This was supposed to only be a side note, what I really wanted to blog about was what it means in Matthew 5 when it talks about loving your neighbor as yourself and loving your enemies. However, I am going to put that on pause and go for a run with the hubby... more later (and when I say later I mean hopefully before the end of the week :) )

Running time here we come :)