Summary: God loves us with an unnatural love. Jesus calls his disciples to follow his example and to love others with the same unnatural love.
Matthew 5:38-48 “An Unnatural Love”
Times are changing. Two hundred and thirty years ago the American Revolution was announced by Paul Revere riding on horseback shouting, “The British are coming, the British are coming.” Now revolutions are choreographic using Facebook and Twitter.
Jesus’ words in our gospel text for today announce a new age, also. The status quo and the natural are not the standard operating procedures of his followers. Jesus invites his followers to live in his kingdom and to live graciously.
A NEW LIFE IN CHRIST
Our mission statement says that we intend to “Invite everyone to a new life in Christ.” In his words to his disciples, Jesus is telling them what this new life—a renewed relationship with God—looks like.
Loving unnaturally and living graciously is based on what God has already accomplished in our lives. God has loved us unnaturally and acted toward us in a gracious manner. Because God has acted this way toward us, the Lord invites us to act this way toward others.
I consider myself an excellent driver—what guy doesn’t. I’m far superior to 99% of the drivers that in the Valley of the Sun. Recently, however, I found myself guilty of what I call “golf cart driving.” I was stopped at a light and my mind wandered, and before I knew it, the light had turned green and I was still stopped. A little later, the street on which I needed to make a left hand turn came too quickly and I was in the right hand lane. Luckily traffic was light and I didn’t want to drive farther and turn around, so I swerved over three lanes and made my turn. It dawned on me later—when I was going to offer my opinion to drivers who did those exact same things that I needed to cut them a little slack and act graciously. We have ALL fallen short of the glory of God. We are ALL in need of forgiveness.
Because of the Cross of Christ—Jesus’ death and resurrection--God’s kingdom has come. We live in a world, now, where unnatural love has become natural, and where graciousness in the norm.
Jesus tells his followers to “be perfect.” Really, this is a poor translation of what Jesus was trying to convey. It is more accurate to say, “You are going to be perfect. When God’s kingdom comes in its fullness you will be molded completely into God’s image. So, live in the reality of what you will become.”
If we, the church—the body of Christ—are to prepare the world for Jesus’ return, then it is necessary for us to live as if heaven is already on earth.
POWER IN THE UNNATURAL
At first glance, these words appear to require Jesus’ followers to become wimps and doormats. Nothing could be further from the truth. Loving unnaturally unleashes great power—life transforming power.
By law a Roman soldier could ask anyone to carry his equipment for one mile—but no farther. By offering to go a second mile threatened to get the soldier in trouble because he would be breaking the law.
By law a Roman soldier could hit anyone once. For a person to turn the other cheek and invite another blow, defied the power of the soldier and opened him up to the possibility of being reprimanded.
We know the power of the unnatural in our lives. When we were attacked on 9/11 there were two reactions. Some people reacted in fear and would not fly for weeks, months, or even years. Others lived definitely and refused to allow the terrorists to control their lives.
A mother lived in a gang and drug infested part of town. Other people in the neighborhood hid behind locked doors and allowed the gangs free reign. This young mother acted unnaturally. She baked cookies and went out and engaged the drug dealers in conversation. It’s impossible to do a drug deal while a mother is present and talking with you. The mother also organized people in her neighborhood to surround crack houses and gang hangouts. Their presence and attention eventually drove the gangs and drugs out of their neighborhood.
THE UNNATURAL EVERYDAY
Jesus’ words can become a reality in our lives. Rather than carry grudges, we forgive. Forgiveness not only opens the possibility of healing of that relationship, it also relieves us of a heavy burden. Praying for our enemies can be life transforming—for us and for them. It does no good telling ourselves over and over again how much we hate certain people. It is much more positive to pray for them.
We live to serve others. The natural path is to live for ourselves and to put ourselves first. This path leads to a life of emptiness because it is limited in its relationships. Living and loving unnaturally allows us to experience a fullness of life—part of the abundant life that is ours because of the cross of Christ.