Should I celebrate when a criminal is incarcerated? Am I supposed to share the same feeling that most people feel? I work with mentally ill people, and one of them just went to jail. Every person I know despises him because of his abusive behavior. Everyone hoped for this person to be put away for whatever reason. And today it “finally” happened. I have tried to have some hope for this individual. I really wanted him to succeed. But his actions brought him back to jail. The popular thought was that he deserved to be locked up. And this popular belief made me go along with the flow. I became paranoid because of the stories everyone shared about this person. Having him in the community caused everyone to be guarded and anxious. I was afraid of how violent he could have been. But now he is in jail. And for some reason, I feel sad. Am I not supposed to be happy? Am I not supposed to feel relieved that this criminal is behind bars? While he was still in the community, I remember thinking how would God want me to approach this person? What would Jesus do with a person like this? Certainly not what everyone else was doing. Certainly not how everyone else reacted to the news that he was put in jail.
In Mathew 5:48, Jesus commanded us to be perfect as God is perfect. What exactly did this mean? Being perfect is associated with completion, fullness, without any need, purity. What does it mean to be completed like God? Imitating God is extremely difficult, but not impossible. Reflecting the characteristics of God is challenging, but necessary in order to live the Kingdom of Heaven. “Normal” people usually find happiness and joy when they have possessions, are well fed, and things usually go their way. But for those who want to be perfect like God, happiness and joy usually happen for other reasons, like when they are needy, poor, and serving others who are undesirable. Being humble, forgiving, meek, and peaceful is what makes a person more like God. But of course, this is not popular nor encouraged in this world. We are supposed to hate our enemies, seek for our own well being, compete, and always do what is convenient and easy in order to be accepted in this world. But his world is full of darkness because of our selfishness. We are called to be light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We are called to love those who hate us (Matthew 5:43). We are called to bless those who curse us. We are called to forgive those who persecute us. We are called to help those who want to harm us. Crazy stuff, right? Well, if this is irrational and weird, then so be it. It is actually what we are called to be and do to manifest the Kingdom of Heaven. Please, don’t misunderstand me. I am not trying to brag about how “perfect” I am for feeling sad for this individual. This post is not about me, but about what God wants us to be. It is about how God can me magnified in our lives.
How do we then magnify God? By singing hymns? By loving those who love us? By being nice to some people and hold grudges against those we dislike? In order to glorify and actually magnify the love of God, we must suppress all those natural and popular characteristics that make us “normal”, like being excited that a criminal is put into jail, or being happy that our enemy is suffering. Living a joyful life because we are blessing those who persecute us is all about how God wants us to live. Being perfect is the way to glorify and magnify God.