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Monday, January 20, 2014

Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:43–48
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (NRSV)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” In this context I have often thought of perfect according to the definition “entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings.” But who, then, is capable of being perfect?

Today we celebrate the memory and legacy of a man who set a standard against which anyone working for justice, freedom, peace, and human dignity will be measured. Martin Luther King Jr. did more to prod the United States toward realizing care and respect for all people than most—making real his faithfulness to Jesus, who did the same. Yet, as more recent struggles over defining his personal legacy have shown, we have trouble calling even a great man like him “perfect.”

We recently witnessed the death of another great leader who carried on King’s legacy—Nelson Mandela. At that time I read a republished article from the Guardian entitled, “Nelson Mandela is a hero, but not a saint.” It mentions many of Mandela’s shortcomings yet highlights the ways in which he was exactly the leader South Africa needed.

People like Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela had their flaws but were also persons “exactly fitting the need in a certain situation or for a certain purpose”—which is another definition of “perfect.”

Jesus called on his followers to bring peace to the world by being like a God who makes the sun rise on the evil and the good, who gives rain to the righteous and the unrighteous. Though none of us can be without flaw, defect, or shortcoming, we can still do our best to live in ways that fit the needs of a broken world and that are directed toward God’s plan to be reconciled with all peoples.

God of peace, free me from feeling like I am not strong enough, wise enough, or good enough to solve the problems of this present age. Fill me with your Spirit, which moved your prophets, empowered Jesus for his ministry, and inspired leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. Show me what I might be and do, so that I can play my part—for which I am perfectly suited—in your plan to save the world. Amen.

Written by Hardy H. Kim, Associate Pastor for Evangelism

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