Because God’s holiness dwells within us, we walk in the
way of the Lord. We do not have to achieve moral perfection
before God’s holiness will indwell our hearts, but we do strive
for perfection after the fact. God’s purifying presence will not
leave us as we are.
All this sounds good until we read today’s passage and
discover God’s actual expectations. God does not call us to a life
of ordinary good manners or being held in high regard in our
churches and civic communities. When God’s holiness invades
our lives, we become sons and daughters of God. And just as
earthly parents and guardians expect their children to live in
ways that reflect their commitments and values, God expects us
to live in ways that represent divine commitments and values.
So what are those commitments and values? What, precisely,
does God expect from us? We know that God in Jesus
Christ will stop at nothing to bring life, healing, and renewal to
God’s good creation.
Today’s passage suggests that God expects the same from us.
Empowered by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we
take the necessary steps to bring life and healing and renewal
to all those with whom we have contact, including our enemies
and those who would do us harm. Indeed, this passage presses
us to reject the demand for retaliation or revenge in favor of the
higher calling of forgiveness—a tall order to be sure. But with
God’s help, Christians will undertake this higher calling.
Gracious Lord, your call to perfection overwhelms us. On our own, we are not capable of living in the way that you call us to live. But we know that we are not alone. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we know that we can love as you love, that we can extend grace and mercy and loving-kindness to all people. Even so, come, Holy Spirit. Amen.
These texts evidence relentless concern with the moral requirements that belong to life with the God of the Bible. They assume the foundation of covenantal law in God’s rescuing acts. That foundation is implicit in undergirding these several treatments of God’s commands. The psalmist is aware that the commands of God constitute a radical counter-obedi- ence. The text from Leviticus brings us to the core claims of cov- enantal law. The rule of the God of Israel leads directly to focus on the neighbor. The neighbor is not just an inconvenience or an intrusion but is the stuff of moral awareness. Paul’s admonitions to the Corinthian Christians state the bold claim that Jesus Christ is the central focus of every Christian’s commitment. The Gospel reading invites the community to reflect on, imagine, and devise extra measures of neighbor love that reflect the character of God.
• Read Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18. What would be some signs that you are attaining the holiness God desires?
• Read Psalm 119:33-40. The writer states that “Jesus did not come to abolish the law but to perfect it.” How did/does Jesus do that?
• Read 1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23. Consider how these two statements relate to your life: “We do not have to be morally perfect before God will dwell within us” and “We can be morally impure after God comes to dwell with us.”
• Read Matthew 5:38-48. What instances in your life show that you “reject the call for retaliation or revenge in favor of the higher calling of forgiveness”?
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