Matthew 5:46-48 “For if you love those who love you, what reward to you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
Being perfect seems pretty hard to obtain. There is certainly no way to reach perfection on our own, but we are called to be growing towards perfection and are reminded that we can only do so as we submit to God’s grace. Jesus offers us the only example of a life perfectly lived.
All of us fall short on this perfection thing. But the more time we spend studying the way that Jesus taught us by example, and the more that we seek and pray to be aligned with God’s will, the closer we will grow towards perfection.
Jesus spent time with people whose background was different than his. He spent time with outcasts, with those on the margins. As Jesus spent time with these people and learned from their stories, he extended His perfect love to him.
Father Elias Chacour generously hosted a group of us from the NC Conference in a recent visit to the Holy Land and he helped to broaden our perspective of the complicated challenges in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East. Father Chacour, a Palestinian Arab Christian who has a deep love for Palestinians and Israelis alike shared his story with us beginning in 1947 when he was a young boy when his idyllic lifestyle was swept away in a surge of violence. He shared how his family was encouraged to leave their small village in Palestine and upon the difficult and challenging return of his people, he has dedicated his life to being a person committed to living a challenging, non-violent alternative life as taught and witnessed by Jesus Christ. Father Chacour told us that nothing will ever change until a generation of children are brought up to understand and accept people different than themselves. He has built schools and has been able to accomplish having Christian, Jewish and Muslim children coming together to learn and play. He has also held summer camps, built libraries, community centers and youth clubs throughout Israel’s Galilee region. He has shown great persistence in what he has been able to accomplish. In many instances it has required his boldness in offering peaceful resistance to authorities, much like our savior Jesus Christ did, and it has not always been easy. But no one ever said that following Jesus was gonna be easy.
Father Chacour sent us forth asking us to be his friends. He made it clear that if we decide to be pro-Palestinian in a way that makes us anti-Jew, that he and his friends do not need our friendships. He encouraged us to question all of our convictions concerning Jews and Palestinians. I think we can extend this to taking the time to question our convictions about other groups of people as well.
Perfect Love is the kind of love that we are taught by example from Jesus. We are called to try to understand the stories and plight of others and to view all people through the lens of Jesus, recognizing their sacred worth.
If you would like to see a video of our visit with Father Elias Chacour, here’s a link: https://vimeo.com/203867583
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Claire – Love Perfectly – 03.14.2017
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