What is the definition of perfect? Having all the required or desirable elements, qualities or characteristics; as good as it is possible to be; absolute; complete.” In the Gospel today, Jesus compares loving our enemies to perfect love. Christ places this selfless love as the model and example of what true love is.
I feel it can be easy to read this scripture passage and reflect on the importance of this type of love, but the true tests come while living it out. For me, it’s easier to love even in challenging situations when I’m mentally prepared for the challenge that I am to face. But we are caught off guard many times and these virtues are truly put to the test.
I’ve often struggled with how to handle being asked for money while out and about. I’ve been back and forth for years regarding the right way to handle this situation. I want to help others but always struggle and worry if the money will be used for the stated reason of needing food or something else.
I recently decided to purchase McDonald’s gift cards to have on hand while in these situations. McDonald’s isn’t necessarily my favorite place, but they are everywhere and reasonably accessible. So while out in Five Points Columbia recently, I was once again asked for money. Excited that I could help provide the gentlemen something but not in the form of money, I handed him a gift card. I was taken back by the gentlemen’s response and lack of “thank you” offered.
My initial response was surprise. I really had to catch myself from thinking negative thoughts about this gentlemen or the act of giving in general. This situation got me thinking about what true love is and what giving is really all about. I started to realize how much easier it is to love and give to those who are going to reciprocate the endeavors.
That perfect love that Christ is talking about is making the decision to give of ourselves especially when it doesn’t “feel” right or makes us uncomfortable. To love that perfect stranger who might not ever verbalize any appreciation or to love those around us who have caused hurt and pain in our lives. That is the love Christ is discussing.
It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the idea of perfection and to feel that it isn’t attainable. Christ is just asking us to take some steps. We are called to strive forward daily for change and growth so we are prepared to love the way God is calling us to. During this Lenten season, think and pray about that one virtue or bad habit that you are going to work on or that daily act of love that might feel a little uncomfortable. Approach each day in prayer and in mental preparation of the small ways God wants to help us grow in perfection and in love. When we grow in perfection and become the people God calls us to be, we are in a better place to share that perfect love with others.
Allison Seklecki is a traveling occupational therapist currently working in Columbia, SC.