Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | June 25, 2015

June 25, 2015 “Five Outs Shy of Perfection”

 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5: 46-48)

Good Morning Blessed Friends!

Yesterday, complements of a good friend of our from the church I serve in Florida, we were treated to a day off at the ball park to watch a major league game between the home team Tampa Bay Rays and the Toronto Blue Jays.  For the first five innings, both pitchers were hurling no-hitters, which does not make for a particularly exciting game. The Rays pitcher had allowed only one base runner on a walk. The Jays pitcher was perfect, not allowing a single runner to reach base. As the game progressed, the Rays pitcher gave up a hit in the next inning while the Jays pitcher remained perfect, retiring eighteen consecutive batters. Now things were getting interesting. There was still no score in the game, but in the seventh inning, the pitcher for the Jays continued his mastery with the help of a team that was demonstrating even more determination defensively. The third baseman made an extraordinary catch of a foul ball hit several rows deep into the stands, leaping to make the grab. The right fielder made a similarly remarkable catch of a foul ball preserving perfection through the seventh inning. Now there were but six more to retire for a perfect game. The first batter succumbed to the pitcher’s mastery. The next batter hit a slow bouncer down the third base line. The third baseman barehanded it and threw a bullet to the first baseman, but a replay clearly showed that the runner had beaten his herculean effort by a step, and the possible perfect game was gone. He had come but five outs shy of perfection.

A few things impressed me about this game  and its relationship to Jesus’ directive. I was impressed as to how the pitcher’s effort at perfection was supported by his teammates as they stepped up their particular game to help him achieve that goal. It reminded me that as Christians, we are called to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Hebrews 10:14) It also reminded me of the rarity of achieving perfection and the seemingly impossible standard called for by Christ in Matthew 5:46-48. Surely he understood that my earthly perfection could never match that of my Heavenly Father! What could he mean? I think contextually we have the answer. Jesus has been addressing the importance of loving one another. Whereas loving people who love us in return is not a particularly difficult thing to do, it is another matter to love those who do not reciprocate, but that is the type of love demonstrated by our Heavenly Father towards everyone. Remember the words from John’s gospel: For God so LOVED THE WORLD”… To be perfect, then, in the sense of this directive, is to learn to love those who do not love us in return. That is a most godly quality to develop. It requires teamwork, determination, submission, and a clear understanding of God’s love for us as well. Though rarely achieved, it is not impossible. Jesus proved that.  Emulate him. Love one another. Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Let’s pray!

Heavenly Father; I want to learn to love as you love. I want to be perfect in that regard as you are perfect. Help me to put aside old resentments, prejudices, and bitterness, that I may learn to love with a magnanimous heart. This I pray in Jesus’ most precious name. Amen!

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