Summary: A sermon about being Jesus' radical church.
“I Was Hoping Jesus Didn’t Mean It”
A pastor tells the story of stumbling into his kitchen after a long day of work.
He put down his groceries and pressed the voice-mail button.
It was one of his church members: “Pastor, I’m doing the Scripture reading for Sunday, and I have that passage where Jesus says, ‘Turn the other cheek.’ You know that passage, right?
Do the other Gospels have that same passage?
Is it different in the other Gospels?
Could you let me know, because…no offense, but I think Jesus is wrong.”
It’s been said that the history of Christian interpretation reveals something we would rather not say out loud: many of us are, perhaps, suspicious that Jesus may have been wrong or misquoted in this section of the “Sermon on the Mount.”
And so, many people have gone to great lengths to try and explain away Jesus’ words in all kinds of ways.
And when this is done suddenly the commands seem historically distant and irrelevant to us.
And then, people in the pews sit back and exhale saying: “Whew, I was hoping Jesus didn’t mean it.”
“I mean this is crazy talk.
“We want to be Christians at covered-dish dinners.
We really enjoy being Christians at Christmas and Easter.
We like to vote for politicians who say they are Christians.
We even like being Christians at a funeral—especially if the preacher questions the salvation of anyone who isn’t a Christian.
But this isn’t Christianity—what Jesus is talking about here!
It is way too extreme.
It’s not what we signed up for.”
Let’s face it, many of us don’t want to be Christians—which means to be like Christ—when it’s time to turn a cheek, give away our coat, go the second mile, give to a worthless beggar, or loan anything we have to anybody who wants it.
What kind of “Christ-like person” is that?
It sounds like foolishness, right?
The truth be told though, Matthew’s Gospel as a whole, and the Sermon on the Mount in particular, repeatedly insist that Jesus actually does indeed mean exactly what He says.
In a world that’s “all about me” Jesus offers an alternative that most of us find extremely difficult to imagine or live out.
It’s easier to be mean, hold grudges and ignore those in need.
There are certain t-v preachers and mega-church theologies that love to tickle our ears—boiling down the hard particulars of what Jesus says into a mushy, vaguely spiritual thing that would work really well on a Hallmark card.
But the Real Jesus will have none of this.
One ancient Christian teacher once said: “The Lord who accompanies us on our journey offers his own cheek to slaps and his shoulders to whips.”
And as Christ’s followers we are called—here in Matthew Chapter 5--to “love as God loves.”
Now, don’t get me wrong.
We can’t do this on our own.
It’s not like a ten-week muscle building-fat burning work-out.
It’s not a fad diet with guaranteed results.
It’s not some admonition to simply try harder.
If it was, it would certainly be a recipe for despair.
What it is is a plan of action rooted in the promise in verse 45 “that we may be children of our Father in heaven.”
Think about it.
What Jesus says here has us looking at the very heart of God Himself.
God loves the unlovable, comes and lives among us in Christ, suffers our worst, and rises to forgive.
Turn the other cheek, give your cloak, go another mile, lend, love your enemies—because that is how God loves.
If you want to follow God, fleshed out in Jesus, you will be adopted into a life in which you find yourself loving this way before you even know what you are doing!!!
How cool is that?
One note of caution here, though.
Remember, this is not a command in order to doom us to failure.
It’s not a word of judgment.
And it will seem that way if we try to do this on our own—without the power of the Holy Spirit and without a life lived in and through the Church.
We can’t do it if we are going to act like marathon runners and try to accomplish it through a lonely determination.
The world is too lost for that.
We are too easily prone to wander.
We are too easily tempted and led astray by the world’s bright and shiny objects.
You are blessed to be part of an incredible church.
This church is not a country club and doesn’t have that mentality.
It is more of a mission.
We are here to serve our community.
We don’t have a big, lavish building that makes others jealous or not feel good enough to enter.