A look at the second of four very contemporary issues (adultery, revenge, worry and obedience) that Jesus deals with in his Sermon on the Mount
Most are familiar with this part of the Sermon on the Mount with its optical, dental and facial images! Once again Jesus sticks to the same teaching pattern as used with earlier subjects in the sermon:-
“You have heard that it was said, “Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.” This idea of “tit for tat” was included in the teaching surrounding the Ten Commandments (Exodus 21 v 23 – 25 & Leviticus 24 v 20.) Such teaching was given as a guide to judges, so that when passing sentence they could limit vengeance. But then the religious authorities took it out of the court room and applied it to personal relationships in an attempt to justify retaliation.
So Jesus radically responded – “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person,” and he illustrated this by using four short cameos from everyday life regarding how to respond when an “evil person” seeks to injure you by either hitting you in the face; suing you in the court; commandeering your service or begging money from you.
The response is always to be that of none retaliation on the basis of obedience to Biblical teaching (Romans 12 v 17, 19 & 21); as well as the example of Jesus, particularly during his trial (Isaiah 53 v 7 & 1 Peter 2 v 21 – 23.)
Challenge – In obedience to the call of the Bible, and following the example of Jesus, will you follow the road of none retaliation?
It is however possible to refrain from retaliation without necessarily loving the person who has injured us; so using exactly the same template, Jesus now moves from teaching on passive resistance to teaching on active love:-
“You have heard that it was said, love your neighbour and hate your enemy;” this being a perversion of what the Old Testament really said (Leviticus 19 v 18) as a way of encouraging love for the Jew (neighbour) and hatred for the enemy (Gentile.)
Unhappy with this twisting of the truth, Jesus offers a radical alternative – “But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” These are the two hallmarks of the genuine child of God; they will love their enemies like for example the Good Samaritan (Luke 10 v 33); and they will pray for their enemies like for example Jesus and Stephen (Luke 23 v 34 & Acts 7 v 59 – 60.)
But why are we to love and pray for our enemies?
We are to reflect God’s indiscriminate love, who grants sun and rain to all.
We are to outstrip unbelievers, doing better than tax collectors and pagans.
We are to demonstrate God’s perfect love, thus becoming like our heavenly Father.
Challenge – Will you love and pray for your enemies, so as to reflect and demonstrate God’s indiscriminate love, as well as outstrip the unbeliever?
Theme: “Radical alternatives to revenge & hatred”
Reading: Matthew 5 v 38 – 48
Preacher: Chris Hughes
Led by: Marion Brenchley