It is significant that when Jesus was painting that radical picture of a transformed life of loving our enemies in Matthew 5, he followed it by saying to love that way “so you may be sons of your Father in Heaven.” (Matt. 5:45) That phrase “so that you may be” is most accurately translated “so that you may show yourselves to be sons of your Father in Heaven.” What does that mean? How does loving your enemies and praying for those who persecute you show that you are a son or daughter of God? It is because when someone is secure as a son or daughter of God, they know that no enemy can hold sway over them. They know that nothing that anyone can do can separate them from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus. They know that if God is for them, who can be against them? And they are actually able to live that transformed life of wanting to pray for their enemies, hoping that their enemy will come to know the Father like they know the Father. That is transformation.
Jesus goes on to illustrate this truth of resurrectional transformation with the same kind of “compare and contrast” method that you hated to see appear on your English test in school. In Matthew 5:46-47, Jesus continues: “For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same?” In other words, if all you are capable of doing is being nice to those who are nice to you, being good to those who are good to you, what’s the big deal about that? Anyone can do that! Don’t expect God to reward you for doing what people without His presence can do. That is way too low a level of living to be normal for someone in whom the very Spirit of the resurrected Son of God has taken up residence! How can anyone see that you are a son or daughter of God if you can’t do something that they can’t do? If you can only love like they love and hate like they hate, where is the stamp of the supernatural on your life? Love is the not only the law of the new covenant and the currency of Heaven, it is the identifying mark of those who are born of the Spirit. People who do not yet know Jesus can’t love their enemies. Only those who have been transformed by the resurrection can do that.
In Luke 4:18, when Jesus stands to read in the synagogue, he reads from Isaiah 61 and announces that He is the Anointed One who will set the prisoner free, heal the broken-hearted, and lift up the downtrodden. That passage in Isaiah goes on to say that those people, the ones who have been so drastically transformed by the Anointed One, go on to fulfill a destiny themselves: “They will rebuild the ancient ruins; they will restore the former devastations; they will renew the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations.” (Isaiah 61:4)
You may have heard it said that “hurt people, hurt people.” In other words, people who have been wounded, inevitably cause wounds in others. It may be true that hurt people hurt people, but it is also true that “free people, free people.” Transformed people become agents of transformation. Forgiven people forgive people. They rebuild the ruins. They renew what was devastated by previous generations. They change the shape of the future branches of their family tree. They bring life where there once was death. They give out the anointing of the Anointed One who lives in them.
For such is the transforming power of the resurrection, in those who have been made alive again.