Being a Friend of Mankind

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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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, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 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? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:43

Once again Jesus pushes the reset button on what we understand the good life to be. His formula, “You have heard it said … but I say to you,” makes it clear that the life he’s describing is not like any life we’ve seen or imagined. To emphasize how unnaturally we are to behave, Jesus says, “Don’t be like others,” and then he says, “Do be like God.” And then finally he adds, “Be perfect.” Now that adds up to a trifecta of differentness.

The world’s darkness is a test of discipleship. How do we behave toward those we are naturally inclined to hate, those who have brought injury and injustice into our lives? I am grateful that Jesus acknowledges the reality of darkness. Jesus teaches us to love, greet, and pray for our enemies.

What does that mean? These are deeply unnatural acts that require us to look for the Imago dei—the image of God—in every person. Like a detective at a crime scene or an archeologist at a dig, search out tiny trace elements of God’s image in everyone and especially those whose life-mirror seems so darkly stained it can’t possibly reflect even a single particle of God’s image. Search anyway until you find it. And then focus on the light.

Jesus does not want us to ignore the deceitful and dangerous traits we see in others but to search out anything good-natured, sociable, creative, honest, decent, and kind. And for the sake of these virtues, show warmth and compassion towared everyone—even going so far as to love our enemies and act toward them with good will. According to Jesus, this is what divine and human perfection look like—to love, greet, and pray for your enemies.

In the sun-drenched high desert town of Taos, New Mexico, there’s an old cemetery. To enter you pass under an ancient iron arch that reads, "The Cemetery of the Notables." The gravestones mark the remains of politicians and business and civic leaders. The most prominent gravesite marks the final resting place of the famous Wild West cowboy Kit Carson. Not far from there sits a much smaller gravestone almost lost in the grass. The name on the marker reads, "The Reverend F. F. Thomas," with this brief inscription, “A friend of mankind.”

As unnatural as it seems, in God’s eyes this is notable perfection—to be a friend of humankind.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Consider the life Jesus calls you to live. What about such a life is challenging to you? Do you think if you really follow him and live his way that you’ll be disappointed? So what is holding you back from greater obedience?

PRAYER: Lord God, I do strive for perfection, but the perfection I strive for is not like yours. I strive for perfect comfort, perfect control, perfect accomplishment, and perfect social acceptance. I confess that I do not strive to love, greet, and pray for my enemies. Forgive me. In light of your stunning kindness to me, I promise to seek more of your perfection today. Amen.


Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren. Send a note to Dave.

On Earth As It Is in Heaven

When we pray, do we say, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven,” and then sit back and wait for someone to show up on the scene and make things happen? As people of faith—at work, in our community, in our home, in our relationships—how do we partner with God to usher in the kingdom of God, right where we are? How can we live the gospel in such a way that we welcome the kingdom of God wherever we show up? What is the impact of doing good work in the places God has called us? What does it mean to do good work, and why does it matter? Does my good work every day make a difference for eternity? After we pray, On Earth As It Is in Heaven, what are practical ways to partner with God in seeing that come to pass, right in the place where we are?

Featured image by Mary Anne Morgan. Used with Permission. Source via Flickr.