Wholly Perfect and Perfectly Holy – Reflection for 19 FEB 2017
Our readings today start with God commanding Israel to “be holy for I the LORD your God am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2) Our Gospel lesson concludes with Jesus instructing the people gathered around Him to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) With these bookends, it would be easy for me to get discouraged for I am certainly neither holy nor perfect!
Seeking some degree of encouragement, I looked at the text between these statements. In this section of Leviticus, God first reminds Israel what it means to be ready for worship (vv 3-8) then describes the community that results from worship. A community that values generosity over selfishness, honesty and fairness over selfishness, and justice and reconciliation over oppression, hatred, and vengeance. Jesus then expands the scope of this benevolent community to include not only the oppressed but also the oppressor as he instructs us to respond to injury and insult with love instead of anger, to extend grace not only to those we like but also to those who hate us, to be grace filled not only to those who respond in grace but also to those who respond with vitriolic insults.
I’m not sure that I am any more encouraged as I read this. It seems so unnatural and against everything that the world would think justified. Why would anyone take what was his own and give it away generously to someone who probably wouldn’t even say thank you? Why would anyone pursue with love after someone who had turned their back on him? Why would anyone seek reconciliation through forgiveness rather than just restitution? Why would anyone respond in such a foolish manner? Wouldn’t they just be taken advantage of and tossed aside?
Perhaps the only reason to live this way is because God lives this way. Too often, I focus only on the command “Be holy” or “Be perfect” without even seeing the purpose or reason. We are called not to achieve holiness or perfection, instead we are called to live in and live into the Father’s love, to enter into His presence in worship and carry His holiness into the world, to enter into His Truth and live according to His wisdom instead of the “wisdom” of the world, to pray as in our collect that He will pour the Holy Spirit into our hearts that we may love with His love and live with His life. It is in Him, by Him, and through Him that you have been made and are being made wholly perfect and perfectly holy. Be loved because you are beloved by our heavenly Father!