This is the fourth and final week of a series called “hearts revealed.” Jesus speaks often about what we do in our hearts convicts us. If we lust after someone in our heart we are guilty of adultery, if we are angry with our brother or sister we are liable for judgement as someone who has killed. In the kingdom of God what happens in our heart is very real and foreshadows what is possible without repentance. In this series we will look at how God wants us to protect and change our heart. We discuss places and events we should avoid engaging any thought and heart connection.
We are led other places in scripture to seeing the significance of the heart. “A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good, but an evil person out of a store of evil produces evil; for from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) “For from the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks. A good person brings forth good out of a store of goodness, but an evil person brings forth evil out of a store of evil.” (Matthew 12:34-35) The significance of the heart is leading us to good or as we see evil cannot be over ignored. Even Paul mentions the importance of guarding our hearts, “the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7) We must guard out hearts, truly we can only be pure if our hearts are pure. Our heart can convict us we we are wrong but it also is the way to freedom when we journey toward God.
Over the past weeks we have looked at several weekly themes that support the idea that what happens in our heart is so very important. We began with a discussion that we insure we have purity of heart. We must choose God and reveal our hearts, always working to keep our hearts pure. We recognized we partner with God and realize we reveal the glory of God, who reveals images in our hearts, teaching us to provide acts of mercy. How we behave when we stand before God, how as the salt and light of the world, we depend on God to lead our hearts, pointing our lives to God, who leads us to all good. We also looked at the idea that we need to be intentional we can’t accidentally go through life expecting our heart to do good, we must work to do good and have a good heart. We even are able to see God’s heart reveal through his plan for Jesus, who tells us let our yes mean yes and no mean no. When we lead with our heart, guarded by God and through the Word of God we can reveal hearts of love and truth.
The readings this week guide us to a message of being perfect. The readings challenge us to be holy, as we see God telling Moses to declare to the whole assembly of Israelites. Particularly they should love their neighbor as themselves. Paul challenges the reader to recognize they are an assembly where the Holy Spirit dwells, where the divine and human meet, where all belong to Christ who belongs to God. So the assembly should be perfect and reveal Christ. Jesus tells us in the gospel that we must be perfect like our heavenly Father is perfect. This means loving more than our neighbor, it means loving our enemy and praying for our oppressor. If we want to move toward God we must have hearts that reveal perfection; as God defines perfection. It is not impossible and it begins in our heart which can convict us or free us.
The readings this week are from the Lectionary for the Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time; Leviticus 19:1-2, 17-18; Psalms 103:1-2, 3-4, 8, 10, 12-13; 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 and Matthew 5:38-48. This week we see the message of being perfect. We can only be perfect when we imitate the Father who is perfect, first in our hearts.
The reading from Leviticus is a message God wants Moses to speak to the people, the whole Israelite community. He tells them to, “Be holy, for I, the Lord, your God am holy.” And then goes on to give some steps on how to be holy; bear no hatred, do not occur sin, take no revenge, hold no grudge, and the main message from God through all the time he has been speaking to people, “love your neighbor as yourself.” For God how we treat one another is paramount to being holy. Later Jesus will tell us to be perfect in the same manner, treating one another with love. This passage of this first reading sums up the entire ethic of the law that the Israelites are working to keep. Leviticus is a book of laws and it expands on the commands handed down by God on the tablets. God’s purpose in the law is to move people toward caring for and loving one another. Law can only provide information, true transformation comes when we are affected by our connection to others and have a true experience of God. The law can only guide us to a place where we can meet God. As God says he is holy and we cannot meet God in unholy places, we must first move toward holiness and then God will be before us. It requires a transformation of the heart, putting others first, loving our neighbor, and in doing so we come to love God, our holy creator.Law can only provide information, true transformation comes when we are affected by our connection to others and have a true experience of God. The law can only guide us to a place where we can meet God. Click To Tweet
In the second reading from the first letter Paul has written to the community at Corinth, he tells them they are the temple of God, that the spirit of God dwells in them. This is true as individuals but it is the assembly that represents the body of Christ. The word often used translated to church is ecclesia, it means assembly. The people are the assembly of God and they are the temple of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. God as Spirit is the divine presence of the assembly, Paul will later tell us Christ is the head of the assembly, and we are all part of the body of the assembly. Paul challenges the members to become wise in the assembly by understanding their wisdom comes from the divine, true wisdom is from God. If we think we are wise on our own we are only being foolish. We should not boast of things that we do on our own, thinking we have something wonderful in any individualistic creation. We are wonderful and wise when we create through the assembly, using the wisdom of God. Paul uses leaders as examples of ministers who serve the assembly. Those who serve in the assembly are members of the body of Christ, who belong to God. It is when we are linked to Christ that we become holy, or as he will challenge us later we become perfect. Through Christ all things in heaven and on earth were created through and for Christ (cf. Colossians 1:16) also our redeemer who draws all creation to himself (cf. John 12:32). Belonging to Christ gives the assembly a share in reigning and owning. So we share in Christ love, through our belonging, redemption and love for Christ. It makes us holy, drawing us into the assembly, all as belonging to Christ and all belongs to the assembly, through Christ, through God. We move toward become divine by being in the assembly that is Christ’s, making us holy and perfect.It is when we are linked to Christ that we become holy, or as he will challenge us later we become perfect. Click To Tweet
In the gospel message from Matthew, Jesus’ teaches on what it takes to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus teaches we shouldn’t offer resistance to evil, we should turn the other cheek, we should be a person if someone takes our tunic we offer more, if asked to serve a mile with another, serve two, give to anyone who asks, always helping those that need to borrow. Then Jesus takes a further step into the meaning of perfection. The law has said to love your neighbor as yourself, but Jesus declares we should love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. When we love our enemy and pray for persecutors, then we are acting like our Father in heaven. God loves the good and the bad, the sun shines on the just and unjust the rain needed for one falls for all good and all bad. Loving those who love us and greeting those we know is no different than anyone who does not belong to God, who does not claim to be part of the assembly. We can be agnostic, even atheist doing these things. Rather be perfect like our Father in heaven who looks out for those who love him or ignores him. In all things God treats everyone as his child and so should we. When God loves someone we should love them as well. It is when we act like God in whose image we have been created that we move towards perfection, or as Moses was told to say, move towards being holy. When we are perfect, or holy then we can see God.It is when we act like God in whose image we have been created that we move towards perfection, or as Moses was told to say, move towards being holy. When we are perfect, or holy then we can see God. Click To Tweet
These readings have a common theme of being holy or perfect. We are to live like God, which means we live loving those who seem unlovable to us, caring for those we have nothing in common with, and putting others before ourselves. This is the behavior of God and so we should behave like God, then we are made holy or perfect in God’s assembly. It is a matter of the heart, if we love in our heart we reveal God to others.It is a matter of the heart, if we love in our heart we reveal God to others. Click To Tweet
God knows our heart, Jesus teaches we should have hearts which are pure. Many times how we keep our hearts depends on how we treat our fellow human beings. We read we should love our enemies, which is God telling us to love everyone, even enemies. This is the kind of love that God provides, telling us that he shines the sun on the good or bad, as well as raining on the good or bad.
If we love those who love us, we are no different than someone who does not know God. God who is perfect loves impartially, and we should do the same. Then our Father who is perfect will help us become perfect as well.
Why do we want to be perfect? To be close to God we must be like God. God does not want to meet us in a place that is not perfect. If we are hanging out in places of sin and evil than we are tempted to become the same. God is not afraid of such places but God realizes if we are there we are not seeking good, or seeking God, but we are seeking something we think will bring us more personal satisfaction away from God’s partnership. So this is never a place to meet God.
If you love unconditionally then you love like the Father. Loving others demonstrates we are perfect in two ways. First, loving unconditionally is very much like the Father. He loves all people the same. Secondly we behave like God in a second way by loving God’s children. When we love those who God loves then we honor God and move closer to perfection. Nothing can make a parent more proud than to know their children are loved. So we become perfect like God several ways with unconditional, impartial love. God shares all with all, and so we see from God it is better to give than receive. It is this movement, behaving more and more like God, especially in love that leads us to holiness and perfection.
The journey of life is the movement toward God. We can only be near God when we are like God. We learn from Jesus and the other readings that God is holy, wise and perfect and so we must become the same to be near God. Of course we live in a world that believes nothing can be holy or perfect and thus believes the task of becoming holy or perfect are impossible. But we must recall nothing is impossible for God (cf. Luke 1:37.)
This brings us back to the heart, how we keep our heart, revealing who we really are is the true guide to how we will live our life. As we spoke about in week one we must make our heart pure, we must reject things that will harden our hearts and move more and more toward love which softens our heart. We also spoke about recognizing that all we do, we do not for ourselves but for the glory of God. We work with God to bring good and love in the world, through God’s help we make a difference. We also spoke about being intentional, we must actively pursue our life with God. We must work to be pure and we must work in partnership with God to bring glory to God. Once our hearts have become places of purity, places of God’s glory, and we are intentional about being perfect, we move toward God, who is always moving towards us.Once our hearts have become places of purity, places of God’s glory, and we are intentional about being perfect, we move toward God, who is always moving towards us. Click To Tweet
We can’t think of “being perfect as the Father is perfect” as something that is out of our reach. Jesus would never have suggested being perfect like the Father if it is was impossible to achieve. This perfection like the Father is not something that is judged by other people but it is judged by God, who is filled with love for us. In the movement toward God it is the first the step that is most important. It is the heart of the matter. If we in our heart desire perfection, desire holiness, with truth and clear thinking, God moves in to help us. God’s perfection is what God sees in our heart. We may have difficulty truly loving because of life situations, jobs, family, challenges of the environment, but when God sees our heart, that we truly seek perfection, God is able to declare perfection and remain close.
We should never expect to be judged by God as the world judges. The world is a place of non-forgiveness. The world is a place that holds grudges, gets jealous, has biases against us and quite frankly can be very selfish. This is not who God is at all. I much prefer the judgment of God over another’s judgement, even my own. So begin the changes we talked about in this series, work toward purity of heart, give the glory to God, be intentional and let God decide when you are perfect. In God you will find a truth that has a bias toward you.
We want a heart that demonstrates we are open to be like God. We want a heart that desires to love everyone even our enemies. We want a heart that puts others before ourselves. We want a heart that reaches out to those in need and helps. We want a heart that is kind and merciful. Mostly we want a heart that is open to forgiveness. We will be offended, we will be misjudged, and we will be hurt. We can hold this pain and turn our heart against others or we can live forgiveness. A heart that forgives is a heart moving toward the perfection of the Father. Reveal your heart and trust that God is perfect enough to protect you and lead you on a journey to your own perfection. What we do first in our heart is what can convict or free us. Have a heart ready for God, full of love and forgiveness.