Summary: Would Jesus have hired a lawyer to defend Himself? Would Jesus have put “hot button issue” bumper stickers on the back of His donkey? Would He have gotten in a heated political debate? Jesus is our Savior; who cares about rights?
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN
We’ve seen this kind of thing a million times.
The headline says one word, in thick black letters right across the top of the front page: REVENGE.
Someone has hurt someone else, and as a result, there is an act of violence or murder in order to repay the wrong doing.
And the reason it made the front page was, perhaps, because deep down inside a lot of us know someone we would like, as we say, to “get even with.”
Someone has done something to us which we have allowed to fester.
Given the chance, we would love to get back at them.
More worrying still, is that at any moment there is probably someone who would like to take revenge on us.
The desire for revenge is like a deep itch somewhere deep down inside.
The newspapers know that if we can’t scratch that itch ourselves we like reading about someone else who could and did.
The two passages we have read for tonight declare that, as Christians, we must find radically different ways of dealing with this problem.
Revenge is ruled out, and this is a huge challenge…
…but here it is in black and white!!!
Now saying that we shouldn’t take revenge isn’t a way of saying that evil isn’t real, or that it didn’t hurt after all, or that it’s not important.
Evil is real; it often does hurt, sometimes very badly indeed, and sometimes with very lasting effects, and it does matter.
As Christians, we believe that everything that defaces and distorts, damages or spoils another person is evil.
The question is what are we going to do about it?
For Paul, the question begins with the question: what has God done about it?
And it boils down to this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
When human evil reached its climax, God came and took its full weight upon God’s Self.
And in doing so, God opened up the Way for a new world altogether!!!
Revenge keeps evil in circulation.
Unless its broken, its never ending.
Both sides will be able to “justify” more atrocities aimed at one another.
And in doing this, evil wins!
But when we refuse to take revenge, and deliberately rid ourselves even of the desire for it, we are taking responsibility, at least, for our own mental and emotional health.
We are refusing to allow our own future lives to be determined by the evil that someone else has done.
Don’t let evil conquer you.
Trust God to deal with it in God’s Own time and way.
It isn’t up to us!
And its within this kind of framework that Christians are known, liked and respected…
…it’s only within this framework that people will listen to us as we talk about the God we serve!!!
What if these words had been taken dead seriously by all the believers down through the ages of the church for 2,000 years?
Would we still be at war?
Would we still be dealing with extreme poverty, and hunger right in our own country?
Would we be truly seeing a burgeoning crime rate in our cities and the proliferation of gangs?
Or would the kingdom of God have already come to fruition on this earth?
How many souls would have been saved?
How many tragedies would have been averted?
How many, many, many, many Christians would there be?
In Romans and in Matthew we are offered a new kind of justice…
…it’s a healing, restoring justice.
The old justice found in the Old Testament was designed to stop revenge from running away with itself.
Better and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth than some escalating feud with each side going worse and worse on the other.
But Jesus goes much better still.
Jesus tells us to have no revenge at all.
And in doing this we will reflect God’s amazing patient love.
It will overflow to all the earth.
No other god or authority encourages people to live like this!!!
But living like this brings us true freedom, and nothing else will!!!
I think it is so easy for us to fall into the trap of following a false Christianity.
It’s almost idolatry.
It’s as if we worship the idea of heaven and its rewards without paying attention to what Jesus taught and how He lived…
…and how He has called us to live!!!
So, Jesus gives us three hints at what He has in mind.
To be struck on the right cheek in Jesus’ day, meant getting hit with the back of someone’s hand.
That isn’t just violence, but an insult, and we hate to be insulted!
It means the one doing the slapping considers you to be inferior, like a slave or a child, or even in that day, a woman.