Summary: It is easy to love people of your own kind, but the Lord calls us beyond that.
Two men were on a cruise ship together and began to talk. Finally one of them asked,
“Do you believe in God?" He said, "Yes."
I asked, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too!
Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too!
What denomination?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too!
Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too!
Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Moderate Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too!
Are you of the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"
Are you of the Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912."
I said, "Die, you heretic!"
(by the way this joke by Comedian Emo Philips is called the funniest religious joke of all time! http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,3604,1580452,00.html )
It is easy to love people of your own kind, but the Lord calls us beyond that.
"You have heard that it was said, ’Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
To love our enemies we are going to have to turn the other check. Jesus discusses the eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth passage of Exodus 21:24. There is a verse that a lot of people like to quote. They want a Bible verse to go along with their retaliation. These are the people that say, I don’t get mad I just get even. Jesus takes the passage on revenge and turns it into forgiveness.
"You have heard that it was said, ’Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Jesus calls his followers to turn the other cheek. It has leaked out that Christians are supposed to act this way. A pro wrestler became a Christian; people knew it meant turning the other cheek. So they started tormenting him and told him as a Christian you must turn the other cheek. He responded yes that is true, but if I ever backslide you will be the first one I come looking for.
The Pharisees used the eye for an eye to justify retaliation. They ignored the context in which the scripture was given. The Scripture was there for the purpose of justice not revenge. In the Old Testament passage the person wronged was not to seek revenge, but let the justice system put a fair punishment for the crime.
The eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth law was a system of justice to protect people who did a wrong to have the angry people strike out in a harsh way. The law put the matter in the hands of someone who would act justly.
Jesus did not want or did not teach revenge. He taught to turn the other cheek. If they take your tunic give them your shirt. The cloak was all the poor people had to keep them warm. It was against the law to take someone’s cloak even if they owed you money. It was Jesus perspective give them the cloak.
Go a mile. Caesar’s army could demand a Jew to carry army gear one mile. It was humiliating, a degrading chore. Jesus calls to take it two miles. Go the extra mile. He calls to give and to lend and not turn away.
Even if someone wrongs us to the point of trying to swindle us of our possessions, respond in love to that person. We are called to generosity in our personal relationships. This is the high calling that Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount.