43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus finishes this first section of teaching with some of his most quotable sayings Our nature is to love those who love us, and dislike those who don’t like us. We want to reward those who love us, and get back at our detractors. But Jesus says, “What reward should you get for loving those who love you, even the tax collectors do that.” At the heart of the Christian message is this verse from Romans 5:8, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”. Jesus didn’t wait for us to become loveable to reach out with the greatest act of love and sacrifice the world has ever seen. If we love only those who will make us look good, we are no different than anyone in the world. But Jesus tells us to be perfect as His father is perfect. What is perfection? Jesus said. “Love God with your whole heart, and love your neighbor as yourselves.”
Jesus, while we were enemies of God, you loved us unconditionally and died for us. May we show this same love to our own enemies, showing us to be your children. Amen.