There is the story of the man who appeared at the gate of heaven asking to be let in. St Peter asked him why he thought he should be let in. The man answered: “My hands are clean.” St. Peter answered, “Yes, but they are also empty!”
In the centuries before the birth of Jesus, philosophers and thinkers were prone to say, “Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you.” That is perhaps the basic law of manners and politeness. Jesus, characteristically, goes beyond this by saying, “Do to others….” The Christian ethic which He provides is positive. It goes beyond “Thou shalt not…” to “Do…” In this sense, it is activist. His ethic, then, always asks us to grow.
Many people are puzzled and confused because Christian moral guides are sometimes slow to lay down a clear minimum which people must achieve to be justified. But Jesus asks for more. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?” What is so special about that? Jesus asks for extra, above and beyond, for sacrifice. He told His first followers, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Yet with those who tried and failed He was full of sympathy and compassion. He never rejected anyone who had failed and had come back to Him.
Let us pray. “God of love and understanding, let your compassion rain down on your people and grant us your gracious help. Your Son has ‘set the bar’ pretty high and He expects so very much from us. Fill us with your Holy Spirit, for we trust that, by the Spirit’s guidance, all things are possible. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”