Have I become like the Pharisee?
Passing by the needy
While I'm speaking Jesus on my lips
Will I walk with You on raging seas?
Or will I turn away
When You want more than what I want to give
Meredith Andrews's song Show Me What It Means was in my head after reading Day 8 of the Sermon on the Mount study from SRT. I know the study itself focused more on praying for our personal enemies, which I was for sure convicted by, but God spoke more to me as I read Matthew 5:41-42, 46-48.
41-42: Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
46-47: For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48: Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Let me "break it down":
Verses 41-42 really spoke to me in regards to my family's calling here in Vienna. It's easy to get busy, falling into routine. And even though we haven't lost focus, I think sometimes our hearts forget what we were commissioned to do here in the first place. (That's when the Holy Spirit gives either one or both my husband and me a gentle reminder, confirming our calling and re-awakening our passions.) Even though we (all of us) are stretched thin, as long as we remember that our strength comes from the Lord, we can do anything. We can go that extra mile. Because it's God; it's not us.
Verses 46-47 kind of address some almost-elitist attitudes that we probably all face, within our own organizations, churches, families, etc. It's just that same old self-righteousness (sometimes even disguising itself as theology, I think), that a lot of us don't recognize in ourselves, especially when there's a band of people "on our side". I long to be accepted in the Christian community I live and work in, as do all of us, I'd assume. Are you singling any individual or group out because of where they worship on Sundays? Stop it. Are you singling any individual or group out because they prefer hymns over contemporary worship, or vice versa? Stop it. If you're only loving on and caring for the people in "your group" or at "your church" (which is just a building, you know...), stop it.
God needs us to be unified. The world needs us to be unified. If we're spending time and energy arguing with each other, that is time wasted, and non-believers will be completely turned off, maybe even disgusted.
Verse 48 in particular is frightening if you read it without understanding: you are to be perfect, just like God is perfect. Huh? Well... wait, didn't we just discuss how impossible a feat that was? It's true: sadly, no, you cannot be perfect, but hallelujah and amen, there is a solution. My study Bible says this about that particular verse:
The only way to be as perfect as the Father is to be clothed, through faith, with the righteousness of Christ (Is. 61:10; Gal. 3:26,27; Col. 3:9-17). This is necessary, for without holiness "no one will see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14).
-The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible
It's encouraging, yeah? The very first verse of Show Me What It Means reinforces this confirmation, too:
You don't want my perfection
All You ask of me
Is that I show up broken at Your feet
You don't want my religion
You are looking for devotion
That is more than just routine
God wants us to love our enemies, care for the needy, turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, give the shirts off our backs, etc. Yes. He does want this from us. And our hearts should yearn to please Him by following through and by meeting His desires. But we, as humans, fall short C-O-N-S-T-A-N-T-L-Y.
So, every day, "dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline... And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it." Wear this same outfit EVERY DAY. It's the only one you have that'll still look good day, after day, after day. God's mercies are new every morning, and your mercies toward others should be, also. So try, try again.