Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 6 2013 - Matthew 5:27-48 – Faithfulness and Love

Jesus calls us to live lives marked by complete faithfulness. We are to be people whose word can be trusted because we have a God whose word never fails. Jesus calls us to reflect the character of God in our relationships with one another.

In particular, those who are married should be faithful to their marriage partners. And not only outwardly faithful, affections and sexual passions are to be directed exclusively to the one to whom we have pledged our love. We need to take great care over what captures our attention and fills our eyes, guarding the life of our imagination so that it does not lead us away from exclusive devotion to our spouse. The sexual images that are prevalent in our culture and which many consider harmless can be a deadly drug that does not satisfy but leaves an incessant craving for more – a drug that will poison our relationships and lead to death.

Marriage is for life. It is not the chains of a life sentence but the bonds of a covenant faithfulness that never cease to embrace the beloved. It is a reflection of God's great love for us declared in every page of Scripture and displayed most clearly in the Lord Jesus Christ; a love that will not let us go. We are to love like that.

And as if that were not enough, kingdom people are called to love those who do not love us – love even those who are opposed to us or mistreat us. Such love breaks the endless cycle of bitterness, hatred and revenge; it is love that breaks the petty retaliations of tit-for-tat.

Love like this does not come naturally to fallen human beings. If we feel that we have been treated unjustly we want to strike back – or at least seek some redress. Nor is this entirely wrong: it is rooted in a desire for justice; a desire to see wrongs righted and for situations to be resolved equitably. But in a fallen world such desires easily become twisted; the desire for justice becomes a desire for revenge – a desire to hurt the one who has hurt us.

The Old Testament law sought to limit revenge and restore the principle of equitable justice with its rule of "Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth". Jesus lays a new foundation in his call, "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven". Justice seeks recompense; love seeks to reconcile and transform.

Such love is divine. In his grace, God has not treated us as our sins deserved. In his love he sent his Son into the world to save sinners. The love that has appeared in Jesus embraces the unlovely, loves the undeserving; it is love that draws the unholy into the embrace of a holy God. We cannot live without such love. We cannot live with God on the basis of justice but only through the loving embrace of his grace.

We who have known the love of God are called to show that same love to one another and to the world around us. We are even to love our enemies. This is how God has acted towards us. Such love can transform the world.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sadness, joy.

Father God, thank you that you are the ever-faithful God of love. Your affections never stray, neither do you cast us off despite our many failings. Help us by your Spirit to love as you have loved and to be faithful as you are faithful and in this way transform the world through the love of Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook