1. Today we’re covering one of the most counter-culture passages in all of the Bible. Really it’s the teaching that separates Christianity from everything else. In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus has the nerve, the audacity to command us to let go of our need for revenge and to love our enemies. I’ve got to confess as a Jesus-follower myself, I don’t like this one.
2. My name is Justin, which literally translates one who loves justice. I love Justice. Revenge; payback. My favorite movies are always movies where someone Dies Hard w/ a vengeance. I have Rambo memorized from childhood. B/c it’s always sweet to see the bad guy get what’s coming to him. It feels good. (Maybe I should’ve been born in the OT but I love justice.) Well for those of you like me, the teaching Jesus gives us in Matthew 5:38-48 challenges us to a whole new level of living.
3. You’ve all heard the eye for an eye / tooth for tooth thing, right? It’s in the OT Mosaic law. It’s most likely the oldest form of Lex Talionis, the principle of exact retribution. As you do it, it gets done to you; you get what you deserve. It’s about the closest thing to true justice you could possibly have on this planet. You take an eye, you lose an eye. This was God’s early legal code that He used to govern a rebellious and difficult people. It was sometimes harsh, yes, but clearly curbed a lot of crime. Not only would Lex Talionis keep people from getting away with crimes, but it helped keep people from being over-punished. It’s about justice, fairness.
4. For the Jews, this principle had become more than just a legal code, it was their moral and social code and they used it even in their relationships. Beyond the intention God had w/ an eye for an eye as a means to curb crime, the Pharisees and teachers of the law had pursued this kind of justice to the letter of the law. If you did anything to me, I would pursue you to the full extent of the law. Much like in our society, frivolous law suits were constantly being filed. If the coffee they served in the temple was too hot, and you spilled it on your lap, you could get a lot of drachma or denari.
5. The legal code that was intended to guide them had become a moral code that the people used to justify hatred and use revenge as a way of life. Jesus says, that’s what you’ve heard, that’s what you know, but I tell you that you can put an end to it by learning to let go and love. No matter what people do to you or what your rights are…to be truly free, you’ve got to learn to let go and love no matter what.
6. He gives 4 illustrations of this principle. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, let it go, let them strike the other cheek. Jesus is most likely referring to a back hand slap – a sign of major insult. If someone embarrasses you or insults you, let it go. If someone tries to take something from you legally, wants to sue you – let them have it. In other words, if you suffer injustice, let it go. Not that you never file a lawsuit or let the justice system do its job, there are times when it’s appropriate to use legal recourse, that’s Biblical, but in your heart, you let it go.
7. If someone forces you to walk one mile- (Roman soldiers could literally order people to carry their armor for exactly one mile. And the Jews had created mile markers on their roads so that they would only carry one mile, not a step more.) Jesus says instead of asserting your rights, if someone inconveniences you, let it go…go the extra mile. When people beg from you or want what’s yours, that’s not fair, but don’t turn away, give to them. He’s dealing with the inequities of life; he says, let it go. As my followers, when you deal with insult, injustice, inconvenience and inequity, let it go. But it’s so tough to do.
8. ILL. (During a family Bible time on this passage, one of my kids shared about a kid that bullies him. I was like, Give me the kid’s name. And I was pretty much ready to go start something with a 7 year old. I backed down; paid a neighbor kid to take care of it.)
9. As Humans, we naturally desire justice. It’s part of the Divine order. God made us to want it. What Jesus is calling for is not an end to justice, but the ability to trust God for it. He’s not telling us to be doormats or to never involve the law, but to have a heart that trusts God to repay, reward and reconcile all things.