Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Holy Living is Relational Not Legal

If you've been around Christian circles long enough, you'll have probably come across Jesus' command to be perfect as the Lord your God is perfect. But what does that mean?

If you're like me, you start thinking in legal terms about things you should and shouldn't do, you think of yourself as a moral being in a vacuum seeking perfection independently of any external force, trying to drum it up from within.

The reason we do this is, I think, because we have a tendency to think of God, not as a person to be known, loved and imitated, but a list of impersonal and static attributes to be understood and blindly copied.

But the immediate context of what Jesus says impresses upon us a very different take.

The relationship in view here is one of Father and children.  True children bare the likeness of their Father, otherwise they are not true children.

Forget the idiosyncratic West for a moment, in the vast majority of cultures of the world for the vast majority of history, children take on the ways of their parents. Sons do what their fathers have done; daughters do what their mothers have done. In this passage, what we see the Father doing is spreading his goodness and extending love and grace not only to those like him, but to his enemies, to those who are not like him. If you want to be holy as your Father in Heaven is holy, then this is the greatest thing you can do, for in so doing, you display the image of God.

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