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To Be Perfect As He Is Perfect – Br. Sean Glenn

Br. Sean Glenn

Deuteronomy 10:17-21
Matthew 5:43-48

Today, Jesus speaks to us, not as a people, a nation, a church, or as an internationally defined global community. Rather, He speaks to us as He always has: as creatures of His hand and people of His pasture. There is no room in this claim on us for the passing boundaries of earthly empires or the othering practices of an assumed cultural superiority. No one person and no one group are the center of the universe Jesus reveals to us, for we are each and all the center of the Divine attention, an attention that knows, searches, and sees all—for it is the attention of the Eternal One, the source and center of all reality. 

The Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, … who is not partial and takes no bribe. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. [1]

No creaturely title or pedigree, no national border or communal parameter undoes our dependence on this God for all good things. We are all, from birth to death, waking to sleeping, dependent moment to moment for our life and our pasture—our sustenance and security. They are not realities of our own making. Our sustenance and security can only ever be gifts of the Love that created us. No border can free or save us from the claims of such a dependence. It usurps every one of our identity claims.

Yet today, Jesus also speaks to us as bordered and boundaried people. As people who live in carefully marked communities, and who harbor a dangerously guarded dependence on national, political, religious, and ideological borders. 

You have heard it said, [in the culture around you, in your family life, in your inner life] ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
Jesus knows the bordered world we have built for ourselves. 

But I say to you, Love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do well to those who hate you, and pray on behalf of those who abuse and persecute you, as the Byzantine sources read.[2]

Jesus, I imagine, would not have had to tell us this is the reality of our self-constructed borders were not so. Jesus, I imagine, would not have needed to challenge our relationships with those we consider our enemies if such a reality had not stolen away our awareness of our real and enduring dependence on each Other—on every human being the Lord presents to our senses—a dependence grounded in God alone.

It is my suspicion that this command of Jesus challenges every one of us. A command given not in the future indicative[3] (you shall love your enemies) but in the imperative[4] (love your enemies). It challenges us to our core, for we know by our own experience that the dread and hatred we feel toward those we consider our enemies may feel as just as real for us as for those who might consider us their enemies. I know it is true because of the ways I can be my own enemy, and of those times when I am God’s enemy. We know the ways we can persecute and abuse our own self, the maledictions we speak of our own character. Jesus challenges us with this command because every wall of division we construct in the world is simply a projection of the divisions of our inner life and the false dependencies that would keep us from dependence on God and one another. 

In truth, Jesus tells us no human being is our enemy—not even our own self. Yet we cannot recognize this until we begin the long process of inner demolition—of tearing down the walls that would keep us from letting God love and form us. We cannot let Jesus in until we have begun to search out those places in ourselves where we are too big and God is too small, where our dependence wanders to any other but Him. 

Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. 

Love your enemies. 

For God, whom so many of us fear might only speak a curse into our life, desires nothing more than to overflow our barricades with blessing.

Love your enemies; and if you need to, begin with yourself. 


[1]Deuteronomy 10:17, 20-21

[2]Nestle-Aland (a standard western source) reads: ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·, while the Byzantine Majority Text reads: ἐγὼ δὲ λέγω ὑμῖν, Ἀγαπᾶτε τοὺς ἐχθροὺς ὑμῶν, εὐλογεῖτε τοὺς καταρωμένους ὑμᾶς, καλῶς ποιεῖτε τοῖς μισοῦσιν ὑμᾶς, καὶ προσεύχεσθε ὑπὲρ τῶν ἐπηρεαζόντων ὑμᾶς, καὶ διωκόντων ὑμᾶς·

[3]e.g. Ἀγαπήσειςin verse 43

[4]e.g. ἀγαπᾶτεin verse 44

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