Love Like Your Heavenly Father

It’s undeniable that children resemble their parents. Whether it’s the color of their hair, their mannerisms, their temperaments or even something as simple as their smile. When we look at Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:43-48, He showed us the big idea of His exposition on the Law: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48 ESV) Jesus was declaring that the way we live, the way we interact with people, even the very way we treat people whom we should have no reason to care for, demonstrates who or what we serve.

The only question is: Do we supremely serve ourselves, or God?

The Jews of Jesus’ day assumed that by virtue of their families, circumcision and even synagogue attendance that they had already become heirs to heaven. The Jews declared, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have on Father- even God.” (John 8:41 ESV). Christ saw through their smoke screen of words and cut through the haze with one sentence, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came not of my own accord, but He sent me.” (John 8:42 ESV) Jesus explained that loving Him, by hearing and obeying His words demonstrates that they are belong to God.

Paul in Romans 9 would later unveil, “they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel…it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (vv.6, 8 NASB) Part of growing in wisdom means that we must learn from the foolishness and failures of those who have come before us. It is not merely our creed (what we believe) but our conduct which reveals to the whole world whom or what we love supremely; either God above in holiness, or Satan in self-worship and impiety.

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus gave His disciples two commands. In these two commands Jesus provided in summary two ways to demonstrate that His disciples actually have God as their Father: 1) Love your enemies, 2) Pray for those who persecute you.

Jesus’ reasoning behind this is clear. Love and pray for your enemies “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (v.45) Your identity, Jesus is saying, is the root of your behavior. It always is. How we treat people who have wronged us, reveals what we believe about God and His mercy. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are called to be sons of God our Father. And this identity will manifest itself in how we interact with our world.

The question remains though: How does our Father interact with the world? Jesus revealed that God actively bestows His blessings upon the whole world, believers and unbelievers alike. This is often termed God’s common grace. God’s generosity comes upon saint and sinner alike, Jesus says, “[God] makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (v.45) God shows His general love to the whole of humanity, and even restrains His righteous wrath from being poured out upon all that deserve it immediately.

Nevertheless, Scripture does speak of “the wrath to come” in God’s Day of Judgment against unbelievers. (cf. 1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9) God still allowing every non-Christian to experience the simple joy of a beautiful day or bountiful feast, but His gift of forgiveness and entrance into heaven comes to believers alone. Such redemptive love must transform how Christians interact with one another. If we say we belong to Jesus and are heaven bound, we should seek to bring heaven to earth. The most obvious starting point is loving our enemies. This is immensely difficult. But the Son of God entertained far more difficulties when He endured the cross so that we could be transformed from enemies into family. We should go do the same.

When do such things, we look more and more like our Father in Heaven. We must never lose sight of that central Christian belief: we were once the enemies of God, “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8 ESV) God forgave us when we were most unlovely and undesirable in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Therefore, you are called to go and do likewise. Who are your enemies? Name them. Then pray for them. Pray for their health, their families, their jobs, their own salvation and even your relationship with them. When you begin to do things like this, not only do you remove any root of bitterness from your own hearts, but you mirror the great love which your Father has bestowed upon you. You look more like Jesus, and that’s what our world needs today.

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