Yeah, there’s a lot of bad people out there that just might want to take advantage of you. That’s true. But let’s cut to the chase. Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect” - the Old Testament reading from Leviticus said holy, and Luke, in his account, uses the word merciful (Luke 6:36). The point is the same. Jesus said, “You therefore must be perfect (or holy or merciful), as your heavenly Father is perfect and holy and merciful.” There’s the answer: we’re not holy and perfect, because we don’t believe that our Father is holy and perfect and merciful.
Oh, we say it. We confess it. But we don’t believe it. Remember, belief isn’t just knowing something. Belief is trusting that knowledge and acting on it. Which is why we sin. We don’t trust that what our Father is doing or allowing to happen to us is perfect and right for us. And so we take matters into our own hands and treat others accordingly. We don’t believe He will really provide, and so we keep and hold back from others. We don’t believe He will protect, and so we strike out at others. We don’t believe He is leading and guiding and directing, that His Word is sufficient, and so we chase after the wisdom of the world. We hold on to our own guilt and so we make others feel guilty.
We don’t believe that everything our Father is doing - everything - is good. Some, yes. All? You’ve got to be kidding! Have you seen my life lately? Have you taken a look at the world lately? This is the very nature of sin, Luther rightly said. We don’t fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We believe what we see and trust what we feel instead of believing and trusting the words and promises of God. We need to believe that He has given me the spouse and family (or the singleness) that is perfect for me, and the house and job that is perfect for me, and has led me to the church and community that is perfect for me. We see the imperfections in these things and want better, not realizing (or believing) that our Father has given us what is not only good for us, but perfect for us. Exactly what you need. Maybe you don’t understand that all right now. I don’t either. That’s why we believe it.
Then also in those times of difficulty, we are given opportunities - not only to receive His mercy and forgiveness from others, but to give them to others. To be the blessing He would have us be for others. Like Father, like sons.
When we think this way, when we trust our heavenly Father’s mercy toward us, then we have no reason to retaliate in anger, strike out in bitterness, or touch someone with insensitivity. Because if I trust that my heavenly Father truly works to bless me in everything, then even when I’m treated poorly I will act in a way that shows that trust. I will reach out instead of resent. I will be merciful instead of severe, I will be gentle instead of harsh.
Our Father, who is merciful, always, and who knows a bit more than we do, is doing what is perfect for you and me. And He will continue to do so - not because we deserve it, because we don’t. But because that’s who He is. Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love (Psalm 103:8).
How lost would you be? How far away would you be? Where would your faith be? Your Father, in His love, wants you. More than you know. And so He is building you. And what is built by His Word and Spirit lasts not just for this life, but for eternal life.
And so today, your Savior has come, once again, to do what He always does - to mercy you, to forgive you, to give you His Spirit and life. The word He spoke from the cross - “It is finished” - that it be finished in you. That you be perfect. For those two words are, in fact, the same word. What Jesus completed on the cross, is your perfection. What you need He gives to you here. For God doesn’t just demand these things, He gives them: mercy, forgiveness, life, salvation.
In Christ, He is your Father, and you are His sons. Don’t be afraid to be like your heavenly Father.