Do you have a doppleganger? A twin? A “mini-me?”
I think mine is named “Greyson.” But... to tell you the truth, it’s uncanny how much he reminds me of Michael. Greyson is a mini-Michael!
I’ve never thought that I favored either of my parents very much. But occasionally, someone who’s familiar with the Ledbetter side of my family will say... “Yep, definitely a Ledbetter!” I never know if that’s a compliment... or an insult.
Do you look like your parents? Maybe you have your mother’s nose... or your father’s ears.
Of course, it’s not just looks... but quirks... facial expressions... even attitudes often seem to be inherited. Sometimes our children do things that remind us so much of ourselves when we were that age we have to laugh... or cry.
Jesus said "be children of your Father in heaven." Not that’s a tall order. And he wasn’t talking about facial features, or body build... he was talking about attitudes and actions.
Jesus said, "if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you." (39-42) All of this is under the heading of "do not resist evildoers." Each example is one of compliance... of surrender of self. Each example calls us to do more than is expected; more than is ordinarily or reasonably required.
Of, course, some people believe Jesus’ way makes us doormats. I have known people who thought that Christians were supposed to do whatever they asked them to. And, at times, people do try to walk all over you... but in my experience, it’s other “Christians” that tend to do the most stomping.
I think the point here... is there’s a distinct contrast between the way of Christ... and the way of the world. The world says "Do unto others before they get a chance to do it unto you." The world says "Look out for number one." The world says "get even" with those who’ve wronged you.
But... is that how God acts toward us? Does God seek to get us back for all the things we’ve done... both to God and our brothers and sisters? No! Not only does God not try to get us back he actually gives us more grace than we deserve... more forgiveness and mercy than we could ever earn, or merit.
And we truly show that we’re Children of God, when we offer more grace, mercy and forgiveness, than we’re shown by others.
Of course, if Jesus had stopped right there, it’d be tough enough... but he didn’t. He pressed further... saying, "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you."
A pastor said, a few years ago he encouraged his church to intentionally "Pray for your enemies" - as God commands. And one parishioner came up to him and said, “I’ll pray for my enemies... but I am not sure how to pray. Should I pray for a quick death or a slow death?"
Somehow I don't think that’s the spirit in which Jesus intended this teaching.
Jesus said, "God makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." Sunshine & rain... are blessings. So God blesses both the good and the bad with sun and rain, both of which are necessary for life. If God blesses both the good and they bad, then we too should bless them by praying for them. Those prayers can include prayers that they straighten out their lives. But mainly they should be for their ultimate well being, physical and spiritual.
In contrast - the world says you should love your friends and hate others... but Jesus said, "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?" (46-47) Are we children of the world like the tax collectors and sinners who love only those who are part of their inner circle? Or are we children of God, called to love and pray for all? Our love should reach beyond our family and friends and even those who are nice to us, and agree with us. Then we can be children of our Father in heaven.
None of it’s easy. To turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. It is difficult to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Sure Jesus did it - but I’m not Jesus (far from it!). He had that whole Messiah, Son of God thing going for him. It is a little harder for us ordinary folks.
But what Jesus says next is harder still. He said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Wait just a minute here! Nobody's perfect - well, except God and Jesus. How can we be perfect?
Let’s face it... none of us are perfect. But... when you and I deliberately, intentionally, faithfully allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us... we can project or reflect, the perfect image of Christ that’s within us.
We have to work at it... it surely doesn’t come natural, to most of us. But when we do... God’s love, and grace, and mercy, and forgiveness... begin to shine and flow from our lives. And we’re blessed to participate in a “mini me” kinda way... in the perfection of God.
So, who do you and I “look like?” Do you reflect God’s love and grace? Do we pray for those who do wrong? Do you turn the other cheek like Jesus did?
Do you love your enemies? Will you pray for their salvation? Will you go out of your way to love them?
Do you want to be like your Father? God is perfect in love. Sure you are limited by your own humanness. But are you ready to love in the way that you are capable of as an immature child of your Heavenly Father.
But if you are not like your Father in Heaven, who are you like? Would you be mistaken for a child of the world? Could someone look at you and think you are the offspring of selfishness or greed or materialism. Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you. Then you will be truly children of your Father in Heaven!