Summary: Part 8 of a 13 week series Hearing Jesus Again. In this last direct contrast between the old righteousness and the new righteousness, Jesus takes on the topic of how we respond to personal injury–how we act when someone has wronged us, or is intending to.
Jesus On Cheek-Turning
Part 8 in series Hearing Jesus Again
Wildwind Community Church
July 5, 2008
Let’s summarize where we’ve been. We started our series on Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount by discussing why it’s important to really give Jesus a new hearing. The following week we talked about who is well off, which is what Jesus dealt with in the Beatitudes. The next week we talked about Jesus’ focus on cultivating kingdom hearts – in other words, becoming the kinds of people who find it logical, natural, and easy to live the way God wants us to live. From there we moved into some illustrations Jesus gave that showed the difference between a rule-keeping, legalistic/rigid rightness, and a true rightness of the kingdom heart. The first was about anger – Jesus’ concern that we not only avoid killing people but that we tend to the anger and contempt that leads to violence. The second was about sexual attraction – that it’s not good enough to avoid committing adultery, but we must deal with the fantasized desire that leads to it. The third was about casual divorce –thinking it’s okay to divorce someone as long as we have followed the proper legal procedure. Jesus said we need to tend to the coldness in our hearts that often leads to divorce. Two weeks ago we look at oath-making. Jesus said, “Don’t make oaths – let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Jesus was concerned about the need we have to look right, and appear honest, and seem trustworthy, and present ourselves as genuine by pouring on more and more words that often manipulate people. Instead of trying to persuade people that we are trustworthy by guaranteeing, swearing, pledging, promising, etc., we should instead simply focus on being trustworthy and leave it at that. Last week I wandered off topic and we took a break from our series. Today we’re back at it, and we’ll deal with the last of Jesus’ contrasts between the old (and inadequate) righteousness and the new righteousness he was presenting – the righteousness of the heart. A righteousness that goes far beyond just whether or not we do bad things and gets down to why we do them, and addresses the evil hearts from which evil deeds inevitably flow. Before I get into the content of today’s message, I want to make sure we’ve understood and settled something. We will never ever become good people if we merely focus on our actions. Jesus understood way back then, and psychologists understand now, that our actions spring from our hearts (emotions, feelings, desires, leanings, affections, etc.). Of course we should not abandon doing right things, but we must pay attention to cultivating right hearts, because right actions easily, logically and naturally spring from right hearts. You can do right things from an unrighteous heart, but you will do them awkwardly, resentfully, and gritting your teeth all the way because you are acting against your own nature. It’s far easier to do right things from a right heart. Then you do what is right easily and with peace because your actions are in harmony with your basic nature. Make sense?
In this last direct contrast between the old righteousness (dikaiosune) and the new righteousness, Jesus takes on the topic of how we respond to personal injury – how we act when someone has wronged us, or is intending to. Perhaps nothing is more telling about the state of our heart than this. If you are curious about how you’re doing with cultivating a kingdom heart, ask yourself how you respond to people who are trying or intending to harm you. Nothing is more personal. Again, notice the progression in Jesus’ sermon. Let’s say you have already dealt with the anger and contempt in your heart. Let’s say you have confronted and dealt with fantasized desire (lust) and have determined to be long-suffering and patient in your marriage and to value marriage the way God does. Let’s say you have dealt in your heart with your need to persuade others of things against their will and you are comfortable simply leaving them in the hands of God. Do you think that if you have taken these things seriously and brought yourself to where you are able to do these things that it will affect how you respond to people who harm you? Of course. See, you have already committed yourself to cultivating a heart that is God-centered and God-directed – a heart that is free from anger and contempt, from lust, from selfishness and shallowness, from manipulation and the need to control others. Certainly from time to time you will still find yourself tested and tempted by these things, but for the most part you are uncontrolled by them. They do not master you. You have embarked on the journey to empty yourself of yourself! Your greatest concern is no longer for yourself. And so you are free to carry through with your sincere intentions to do what is good and avoid what is evil.