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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, that you may be children of your heavenly father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not tax collectors do the same? And if you great your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your father is perfect.
Our natural response to the failings of our fellow human beings ranges from mild irritation to soul-destroying hatred. Jesus’ startling reminder that God loves even those we despise is meant to serve as a spiritual wake-up call: we are to do the same. But how? His answer is both marvelously simply and utterly confounding. We are to be “perfect” in the way God is perfect. Somehow, we are to love others as God loves us. And the first step in this new direction is to relinquish our self-designated role as master of the universe.