Summary: Love your enemies! Wow that is not such an easy command to obey. It is much easier to take revenge. But that is not what we are asked to do as believers. What is this loving my enemies all about?
This morning we will be looking at Matthew 5: 38-48 as we continue our series called RED: Examining the Teaching of Christ (that are often printed in red letters).
If you do not have a Bible you can find the Scriptures printed on the bulletin insert along with a place to take some notes if you wish.
READ MATTHEW 5:38-48
As I worked through these passages this week I have to admit they were pretty hard to swallow. After all, who wants to be nice to people who are cursing you or talking about you or even worse. There is just something in our nature that desires to take revenge on those who mistreat or misrepresent us.
I asked the Lord to examine my heart for any seeds of bitterness or anger that might prevent me from loving people for who they are and how He created them. I do not want to come to the end of my life and realize I spent it defining myself by what I am against or who I do not like. God’s purpose for my life is bigger than that.
When we think of those who have hurt us - physically, emotionally, sexually - often our first thought is to find a way to get revenge. For some the revenge comes in the form of self-destructive behavior (cutting, drinking, drugs, alternative lifestyles, etc). Others take revenge by abusing others. Some people use the legal system to exact revenge on others.
There are as many forms of revenge as their people with the imagination to dream about getting the other person back.
(TRANSITION) But what do the Scriptures teach us about revenge? What does Jesus teach us about the treatment of those we perceive as an enemy?
When we consider Matthew 5:38-48 we have to do so in light of Matthew 5:33-37 where Jesus teaches us that we should be people of integrity - honesty - of our word. We let our Yes mean yes and our No mean no.
Unfortunately, sometimes this does not happen. And because we sometimes do not keep our word or our integrity other people get hurt. When other people get hurt - they want revenge - an eye for an eye. That person hurt me so I have to find a way to hurt them back. Obviously some religious leaders were teaching that it was OK to take revenge - to get your just desserts against someone who may have caused you harm.
We also have to read these passage in light of the historical setting of this time. The Romans are in control of Palestine. Jerusalem is being governed by a Roman pagan who does not believe in the One God of Judaism. Roman soldiers are not known for their kindness and generosity toward the people who have been overthrown and whose land has been occupied.
When someone in this audience hears what Jesus says they hear it through the filter of a life lived under the oppression of a foreign occupier. They hear Jesus’ teaching after having been compelled by a Roman soldier has forced them to do something they did not want to do.
Nevertheless, Jesus is attempts to rectify a long history of wrong interpretation of the Scriptures by the religious leaders of His day. Look at Matthew 5:38-39
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’
The Scriptures do tell us in Exodus 21:24 - an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…
However, one has to read all the surrounding writings about how the eye and the tooth are to be taken. The context of Exodus 21 is about Civil Government. God intended for the civil authorities to be established who would handle issues of punishment for those who broke the Law.
In Jesus’ day the teaching had moved from being one about civil authority to PERSONAL AUTHORITY where people who had been wronged “took matters into their own hands.
39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
So, Jesus tells those in the audience not to resist an evil person. As a matter of fact Jesus goes on to say - If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.
For most of us this is a hard saying to swallow. Does that mean if someone punches me in the eye I should just give them pointers on how to hit me in the other one?
First off Jesus is using what is called a common expression of the day that described the act of someone hurling insults at another person. (Today we might say - Oooh burn…).