Summary: A sermon inspired by the book For the Glory by Duncan Hamilton.
Text: Matthew 5:48
Eric Liddell (1902–45) is best known to most people as the gold medalist in the quarter-mile run at the 1924 Olympics, as portrayed in the popular filmChariots of Fire. Later, though, he would go on to become a missionary in China during one of the most tumultuous times in that nation’s history. He spent the last two years of his life in an internment camp operated by Japanese troops who occupied China. The whole story is told in Duncan Hamilton’s biography of Liddell, For the Glory.
From the time when he held out against pressure to violate his conscience and race on a Sunday, to the time when he served his fellow prisoners from dawn till curfew even while he himself was malnourished and ill, Eric Liddell was a man of almost unbelievable character.
One person who knew him in the internment camp recalled later, “You came away from his meetings as if you’d been give a dose of goodness.”
Another said, “You knew you were in the presence of someone so thoroughly pure.”
A third said, “It is rare indeed when a person has the good fortune to meet a saint. He came as close to it as anyone I have ever known.”
What was the secret to Liddell’s character?
It lies in his favorite verse in the Bible: “You … must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48, esv).
I. DEVELOPING GODLY CHARACTER
The call to “be perfect” shouldn’t discourage us. Instead, it should motivate us. Because the emphasis in this call is not on achieving utter sinlessness. Instead, the emphasis is on being complete in our character, that is, striving toward the full measure of righteousness.
Our goal is not to emulate religious people or those who have a great reputation, not even someone as remarkable as Eric Liddell. Our goal, rather, is to be like God. (“Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”) This is a goal that, by God’s grace, we can pursue our whole lives and finally reach when we are glorified after death.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his listeners that they should have righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. These were the religious leaders who were looked up to in their day—but who weren’t nearly so godly as they seemed. Jesus gave some examples of what he meant (Matthew 5:17-47):
· Instead of getting angry at someone who has offended us, we should make the first move toward reconciliation.
· Instead of merely avoiding sexual affairs, we should do whatever it takes to root out lust from within us.
· Instead of taking advantage of divorce laws to get rid of a spouse we’re tired of, we should honor God’s original intent for marriage.
· Instead of using religious oaths to make ourselves sound reliable to others, we should speak the plain truth.
· Instead of wanting someone who has hurt us to get a punishment equivalent to their crime, we should do good to them.
· Instead of loving only our neighbors, we should love our enemies as well.