Matthew 5:43-48 - [Jesus said] "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect."
This devotion pairs with this weekend's Lutheran Hour message, a rebroadcast of a classic sermon by Dr. Oswald Hoffmann.
What our Lord saw, undoubtedly, during His lifetime on earth, is the same thing we witness every day: people warmly engaging some while flatly ignoring others. Our world's biggest hurt—its worst pain—is in a comment made so easily by any one of us: "These are not our kind of people." In this sentence we see how alienated we are toward one another, and the problem is, we're mostly good with that attitude, too.
This is not as it should be.
The hope of our world lies in dutiful sons and daughters, who know the love of God in Jesus Christ, which excludes no one. Our Father is patient and kind toward people who daily wear out His patience and who, we might think do not deserve His kindness, either. However, they are our Father's kind of people, for whom our Lord gave up His life. We may have not done things that way ourselves (most certainly, we would have not), but that's the way our Father in heaven does them.
And praise Him that He does!
God loves us as only a Father can. He not only blesses us with good things like the sunshine and the rain, but He comes to us. The Father sent His Son, His only and eternal Son, Jesus Christ, to be one of us, to share in our experience. Furthermore, the Father sent Jesus on a mission to die in the place of all mankind, to die for you and me. And Jesus' resurrection from the dead is God's stamp of certainty that we have been forgiven, washed clean by the blood of His own dear Son.
In Jesus, the Father has shown us that the dividing walls of hostility have been torn down (see Ephesians 2:14). Our Heavenly Father would have us all be colorblind when it comes to differences between individuals. Christ died for one; Christ died for all, without partiality or preference for one over the other. As Paul says in Galatians 3:28: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
May each of us grow in this kind of love for one another.
WE PRAY: Heavenly Father, open our eyes to see people as You see them. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
From "These Are Not Our Kind of People," a sermon excerpt from Rev. Dr. Oswald Hoffmann, former Speaker of The Lutheran Hour
1. Feeling you're "on the outside" of a group of people is no fun. How can we get better at making people feel welcome and accepted?
2. In the verse above, Jesus says something to each of us. What does He say to you that really rings out?
3. How is it going in your neighborhood? How do you act neighborly to those who live nearby?
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