Now there’s a challenge.
Jesus is calling us to nothing less than perfection.
Let’s take a look at what he means (and what he doesn’t mean) by perfection.
The scriptures are full of great reports of God’s interaction with people. These stories have all the drama, intrigue, sex and violence offered by any modern novel or TV mini-series. In the scriptures there are dramas and tragedies, comedies and romances for all ages with deep inspiration for those who are open to the voice of God.
The common theme through both the Old and New Testament is that God is moved more by the person with humble heart than by the one who manages to keep all the rules without wavering. The scriptures are full of accounts of sinners who come to see that while they may have hours and even days when they keep the letter of many laws, their hearts are usually astray.
We find happiness when we live with desire for God alone, discovering that when in this state-of-recovery that all our human desires are fulfilled as well, not by our effort but by God’s gift.
It’s really not too difficult to keep rules and to master penances. A well structured system of reward and punishment with some external enforcements and competition will bring a good degree of superficial obedience. But Jesus takes us deeper on a process of growing human and therefore spiritual maturation.
And it’s easy enough to be seen by others to keep the law, but what is Jesus getting at when he brings the heart and soul into the command? “This day the LORD, your God, commands you to observe these statutes and decrees. Be careful, then, to observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.”
This is where the helpful structures of healthy religion lead us into the life of faith. This is where the obedient child becomes the mature adult, able to live with the ambiguities of life with a gentleness and a passion that is love.
The perfection that we are created for (and which Jesus recalls us to) is found when we seek to live in love of all people, not just those we like, but especially our enemies.