Monday, February 9, 2015

The Centrality of Love - Jesus' Ethics

43 f“You have heard that it was said, g‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, iLove your enemies and jpray for those who persecute you, 45 kso 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 lsends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 mFor if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers,9 what more are you doing than others? Do not even nthe Gentiles do the same? 48 oYou therefore must be pperfect, qas your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48

Recently I've been reading through Scot McKnight's Sermon on the Mount: The Story of God Bible Commentary. This is a book that I received for Christmas and have slowly been working my way through it passage by passage. It is one of the best books that I have read in the last year and one that I highly recommend.

This excerpt from the book shows the centrality of love as the ethic of Jesus.
Jesus forms an antithesis: first, he gives his prescribed behavior (5:44 - love your enemies, pray for your persecutors); second, he grounds the love-your-enemy command in the universal love of God for all humans (5:45). Third, Jesus interrogates his followers by pushing back against an ethnic-family-only kind of love. That sort of biased makes them no different than the tax collectors and Gentiles (5:46-47). Finally, he offers a summary statement: "Be perfect." But this summary makes sense only by perceiving the logic of 5:44-45: as God cares for all, so they are to love all; as God is perfect, so they are to be perfect (5:48).
Jesus' fundamental strategy for enemies was to make them our neighbors, and the concrete form of Jesus' enemy love was to invite them to his table - so that at the table of Jesus we find typical "enemies" like tax collectors and sinners.
(Scot McKnight, Sermon on the Mount: The Story of God Bible Commentary)

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