Summary: Jesus instructs his followers how to deal with anger, desire for revenge, and mistreatment from enemies. From a Sermon on the Mount series.

Games People Play: “Battleship”

Matthew 5:21-26, 38-48

INTRODUCTION: Do you remember the game "Battleship"? The object of the game is to insert pegs blindly on a game board until you "sink" your opponent’s "fleet."

Battleship is a game of hiding and attacking. So many of our relationships are just like this game. We hide our vulnerability rather than risk being attacked, and when attacked, we are quick to launch our torpedoes, especially when angry or when we’ve been mistreated. We think to ourselves, “if I can just take out their battleship before mine goes down, then I’ll be safe.”

Jesus says that righteousness is not about rule keeping--it is about our relationships. And a right relationship with God shows in the way we relate to people. Like all good preachers, Jesus used examples to drive home his point. He gave case studies to show that his kind of righteousness has nothing to do with rule keeping.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus affirmed God’s Old Testament law, but went on to say that it was being fulfilled in him! With astonishing authority, Jesus launches into what are known as “The Six Antitheses.” These antitheses each occur with the formula “You’ve heard it said … but I say …” All six address relationships, and today we’re going to look at three that help us understand how to relate to others.

[READ MATTHEW 5:21-26]


A. Jesus wants us to deal decisively with anger, and he makes this point with two examples.

1. First, he envisions a worshipper whom he calls to reconcile before offering a sacrifice. God is more interested in right relationships than right rituals.

2. Second, he pictures an out-of-court settlement between litigants. He says don’t go to court, settle up. Don’t get mad—get righteous.

3. ILLUSTRATION: One defining moment in John Grisham’s spiritual journey came several years after graduating from Mississippi State University, when one of his classmates in law school told John he was terminally ill. Grisham asked him: "What do you do when you realize you are about to die?" The friend replied, "It’s real simple. You get things right with God, and you spend as much time with those you love as you can. Then you settle up with everybody else."

B. Our responsibility under the commandment is not to murder anyone, but our responsibility under Jesus’ interpretation of the commandment is to love everyone. Don’t get mad—get righteous.


A. ILLUSTRATION: Donald Drusky took God to court. The one-time employee of USX Corporation blamed God for failing to rectify the wrong done to him when he was fired in 1968. Drusky waged a 30-year battle with the steelmaker, before deciding to take legal action against God. The suit reads:

“The defendant, God, is the sovereign ruler of the universe and took no corrective action against the leaders of his church and his nation for their extremely serious wrongs, which ruined the life of Donald S. Drusky.

For damages, Drusky asked for the return of his youth, the skill of a great guitarist, and the resurrections of his mother and pet pigeon.” Drusky hoped that God would fail to appear in court, allowing him to win the case by default. Drusky’s case was declared frivolous and thrown out by a Syracuse court.

B. The “eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth” law is found three times in the OT. Two things to remember about this law:

1. First, while prescriptive, it was also restrictive.

a. It was an excellent tool for eliminating blood feuds and inter-tribal warfare.

b. If someone puts out my brother’s eye, I’m not justified in cutting off that person’s head.

c. So violence doesn’t escalate, and matters are put to rest.

2. Second, the law was given to the Jewish people as a nation. It was not designed to be discharged by individuals on personal vendettas, but by the judicial authorities.

3. ILLUSTRATION: Ibn Saud, king of Saudi Arabia from 1932-1953, once had a woman come to him and demand the death of a man who had dilled her husband. The man had been picking dates from a palm tree when he accidentally fell, hitting the woman’s husband and fatally injuring him. Although the king tried to persuade the woman not to pursue her rights, she insisted on them. Finally, the king said, “It is your right to ask for this man’s life, but it is my right to decree how he shall die. You shall take this man with you immediately, and he shall be tied to the foot of a palm tree. Then you yourself shall climb to the top of the tree and cast yourself down upon him from that height. In that way you will take his life as he took your husband’s.” The woman quickly changed her mind, realizing that in following the letter of the law and demanding her rights, she might lose her life.

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