How do we treat those who are NOT our friends? If I was to think about it, I pour my favour on the people who are close to me, and on my family. Maybe, on a good day, I might extend myself for a stranger; or perhaps, if I’m especially moved by the Holy Spirit to be gracious to an enemy, I might make it. The truth is, almost anyone can be nice to people in their inner circle. That’s easy. You are motivated by the natural love and favour within you for those individuals.
Matthew 5:46-48, however, calls me to be moved beyond that.
Matthew 5: 46-48 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”
In Jesus’ day (especially since Jesus was addressing a Jewish audience), the tax collectors were considered the most corrupt professionals within the society, known for their thievery. The Gentiles were considered by Jews to be dogs. In other words, Jesus was saying “Even the lowest of the low can be nice to their own friends. You can do better”.
In verse 48, Jesus says ‘‘Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”.
The greek word for “perfect” is teleios, which is defined: mature (consummated) from going through the necessary stages to reach the end-goal, Strong’s Concordance.
Within context, I understand this verse to mean that the ability to love those in our outer circle comes through submitting ourselves to a spiritual process. A process by which our hearts are changed from the inside out through the power of the Holy Spirit, and through which Godly virtues are added one to the other.
2 Peter 1 gives us an idea of how this transformation happens:
2 Peter 1:5-7 “Because you have these blessings, do all you can to add to your life these things: to your faith add goodness; to your goodness add knowledge; 6 to your knowledge add self-control; to your self-control add patience; to your patience add devotion to God; 7 to your devotion add kindness toward your brothers and sisters in Christ, and to this kindness add love.”
The word for “love” in 2 Peter 1: 7 is agape, which is that unconditional love that can be extended to all people, despite into which circle they happen to fall. Please note that agape is considered to be the pinnacle of spiritual maturity, so to speak.
Let us begin adding to our faith today, so that it can mature to the point where we impact the outer circle.