Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you that you may be children of your heavenly Father. . . . Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus had a clear vision of how those who accepted his promise of God’s Future should act towards others. He taught it plainly. He didn’t offer new laws. He mined Jewish Law for its underlying goal and encouraged people to make that their guide. Many overlook the respect Jesus showed his followers. He treated them as adults and encouraged them to see themselves as such.
Too often we view God as a power we must serve rather than a lover whose gift we have a chance to accept and enjoy. As we would any other authority we study God to imagine what he wants then we give him as little as we can safely get away with to stay in his good graces. Yet, even while we are doing this, we have an intuition that the whole idea is childish and something inside us refuses to take this kind of relationship with God seriously. Too many of us then see ourselves left with a choice between denying God or denying religion.
When I was 17 my dad taught me how to drive. In preparation for the dreaded Highway Patrol driving exam he went over the speed limit laws. At the end of the discussion he said, now remember, regardless of what the signs say, the police can arrest you if they judge that you are driving too fast for road conditions. “That seems really unfair,” I responded. “Look,” my dad said, “ the point is to keep you and everyone around you alive and safe. It’s not a game of gotcha with the police. I hope you’re smart enough to see that. If not you’re not smart enough to be driving.”
Living a life of love and justice for every person in every circumstances isn’t a game of gotcha with God. It’s the essential condition for human promise, advancement and happiness. That is the foundation of Christian morality. We do our level best to live always with love and justice out of hope for God’s Future, not out of short term cost/benefit analysis. We will fail at times but God will not abandon us. And we get up and keep on trying.