“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:43–48 NLT)
One of the ongoing themes within the Sermon on the Mount is the contrast between the law and the heart, what is put into practice for all to see and what is actually going on in the deepest parts of our souls. Jesus repeatedly emphasizes it is the latter that is important. The law was only ever intended to be the starting place; it was never designed as the end goal. This is why he calls on us to be perfect even as our Father in heaven is perfect. R. C. Sproul writes in Now, That’s a Good Question! that the word “perfect” in this passage is better translated as “be complete.” In order for us to be made complete, we must first dismantle the false-self narratives we hold onto.
Within the second of three gatherings in Blue Ocean, the NAB’s yearlong introduction to mission and formation, the focus is primarily on our personal formation into the image of Christ. One of the difficult, yet joyful, aspects of this time is a significant period spent in prayer and reflection discerning the lies within the deepest parts of ourselves, lies we have held onto that have over time become core to how we view ourselves. These false-self narratives almost always grow out of a need for self-preservation; they were the tools through which we built a protective barrier for our hearts.
For example, the lie might be the belief that no one else can be trusted, that everyone will eventually fail us. This false narrative then manifests itself in how we interact with others, how we understand ourselves, and even how we follow Jesus. This lie becomes the driving factor behind our need to be in control, possibly even the impetus behind seeking leadership roles. The false-self narratives like this one are exactly what Jesus wants to help us unearth in our hearts so that he can dismantle them because he knows that without doing this we cannot be made complete.
Take time in prayer and reflection, asking the Holy Spirit to help you discern what false-self narratives you’ve held onto. Then, as you go about your week, make a point of asking yourself at various points in the day if the choices you are making are due to the influence of the Spirit in your life or the false-self narratives. Over time, through the continued work of the Spirit, you just might find that there is nothing left of the false-self narrative to dismantle.