Loving our enemies, near and far

While drafting an editorial on the theme of perfection recently (see “Is perfection our enemy or our friend?” January 8, 2024), I was brought up short by a Bible verse I was very familiar with. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “You must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, International Children’s Bible). Read in isolation, this can be understood as capturing the Science of being—the truth of the spiritual identity we each have as God’s image, as the Bible puts it, or the reflection of God in all His perfection. 

As I read it this time, though, the context in which the words appear stood out. They follow specific guidance Jesus gives on the Christian, or Christly, way to treat those we perceive as enemies. We’re to love them and pray for them—to be like God, who sends sun and rain on the good and bad. (This is said in the sense of both sun and rain being good!) Jesus rounds off this counsel by saying: “If you are nice only to your friends, then you are no better than other people. Even people without God are nice to their friends” (Matthew 5:47, ICB).

Right after this, he tells us to be as perfect as our heavenly Father. While this surely does convey who we are as God’s spiritual creation, what struck me was how specifically the demand is associated with how, and who, we love. The bottom line is that we’re not perfect in our love for others unless we love those we’re tempted to think of as enemies. As Mary Baker Eddy explained in an essay based on this demand of Jesus to love our foes, “We must love our enemies in all the manifestations wherein and whereby we love our friends; must even try not to expose their faults, but to do them good whenever opportunity occurs” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 11).

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It doesn’t depend on you
February 12, 2024

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