Like Father, Like Son (Matthew 5:43-48)
Dad preached at the Upper Spencer church of Christ when I was little. We would often go to Nannie and Papaw’s after worship; they had a round stool that I would push into the middle of the room. I’d get on that stool and I’d preach – normally about Jonah. Papaw even taught me a little rhyme: “I’m not the preacher, but I’m the preacher’s son. So, I’ll preach ‘till the preacher comes.”
Boys tend to strive to be like Daddy … Girls tend to strive to be like Mommy. You’ve probably seen your kids imitate you. Wil won’t wear a clip-on tie because Daddy doesn’t wear one!
In this text, Jesus takes that truth up several levels. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Many folks get caught up in the meaning of “perfect” – we’ll talk about that in a minute. I think many talk about meaning of “perfect” because that’s the easy part. It’s easy to talk about the meaning of a word; it’s hard to live like God!
Jesus’ point here is: Children of God must act like God. Jesus has shown how children of God must act like God in the Sermon on the Mount. He has talked about keeping your word—God keeps his word. He has talked about not retaliating against enemies—God doesn’t retaliate. He speaks in this text about loving our enemies—God loves his enemies.
Because children of God must act like God, we need to think seriously about how much like God we are. When our spouse really gets under our nerves, do we respond like God or out of our humanity? When our boss is being a real jerk, do we act like God or like everyone else at work? When we see someone suffering, do we reach out with God-like love or do we turn a blind eye like everyone else? When we make out the budget, do we look at all our wants and desires and have nothing left over, or do we make room to be givers like God?
If you are a child of God, how much are you like God this morning? We want to study this passage about loving our enemies. We want to hear this as a call to be like God in the way we deal with enemies.
Text (Matthew 5:43-48)
verse v 43:
“You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
The Old Testament taught love for the neighbor, but the Pharisees taught the implication was that you should hate your enemies! That would be a real easy way to live!
Jesus says to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us so that we might be sons of our Father.
The idea of being sons of our Father relates to idea of behaving like God. We’re to love our enemies, but how?
- It’s not just wishing that no harm falls on them. That’s often how I’ve heard this defined. No, that’s not the easiest thing in the world, but that’s not what Jesus has in mind.
- Jesus teaches us to act kindly toward our enemies. It’s not just the absence of revenge, but it’s actively doing good. God sends rain on just and unjust. Even Gentiles greet their brothers.
We’re to pray for those who persecute us. This is hard, but it’s easier (for me) because Jesus did this. He prayed for those who were crucifying him. Jesus didn’t expect us to do something he didn’t do.
I know you have someone who persecutes you—a boss, co-worker, neighbor, or in-law. Someone in your life is giving you grief.
Jesus teaches us that we dare not live like everyone else.
- Even tax collectors love those who love them. Tax collectors were considered most apostate Jews. Even those considered apostates loved those who loved them.
- Even Gentiles greeted those who greeted them. Gentiles were considered immoral idolaters (often they were). Even these immoral folks knew how to return a kindness.
Therefore, we must be perfect like our heavenly Father. Regardless of what “perfect” means, we can’t forget the point: Children of God must act like God.
In Greek, “perfect” could mean “goal.” Jesus obviously holds up his Father as the “goal” here.
The word also carried the nuance of “complete.” That’s likely the nuance here. In other words, need to rearrange our whole lives to live like God.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has talked about different ways we can be like our Father. We need to do all of them. We can’t love our neighbors and not keep our words. There can be no picking and choosing. We need to completely work at imitating the Father.
Jesus challenges us greatly in this text, and let’s put that challenge into action!
Pick the person in your life you simply cannot stand – I’m confident you have one!
Pray for that person.
Pray that God will richly bless him or her. Ask that God will bless him or her in a way that you desperately want to be blessed.
Love that person.
Remember that love is action. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (Jn 3:16). “If anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn 3:17-18).Find something you can do for that person this week. Perhaps you could alleviate some suffering. Maybe that person needs some kind word spoken. What could you do for your adversary this week?
Doing so will make you like God. If you desire to be a child of God, you need to remember Children of God must act like God.
Where would the church be if we really remember that Children of God must act like God? There would be no congregation where people didn’t treat one another right. We would be quick to get rid of our enemies and make them our friends.
How much do you act like God?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr..