This reading is typical of readings we must take with a grain of salt. “Today you have obtained this declaration from Yahweh: that he will be your God, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his customs, and listen to his voice” (Dt 26:17). The author is saying that God will not be their God if they disobey God’s statutes and commandments. God does want and expect us to respond to infinite love; however, God never writes us off if we miss the mark and fall short.
This is not the Abba God Jesus proclaimed. He reminded people that the sun shines on the good and evil alike, the rain falls on the good and evil, and God loves every person.
Jesus is teaching that love is the key characteristic of the Kin-dom. In the old dispensation, the command to love was sometimes restricted to love of one’s own people. Gentiles and tax collectors often do that much. Not so with Jesus. “But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike” (Mt 5:44-45).
Every person—regardless of race, color, creed, national origin, sexual orientation—is our neighbor. Jesus expects us to love all other people, including our enemies. He expects us to love as he has loved us.
The passage concludes with “be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Luke says, “Be compassionate as your heavenly father is compassionate.” God is love, compassion, and mercy. In Islam, there are ninety-nine names for God. The primary attribute of God for Muslims is mercy. Merton says God is mercy beyond mercy beyond mercy. God is LOVE. God is unconditional love.; therefore, God’s love is not conditioned upon our response or lack of response. God is always the Prodigal Father/Mother awaiting our return.