My family and I are going through the book of Matthew at the moment. When I get into the gospels, it seems as though I could almost recite them from memory. The birth of Jesus, the calling of the disciples, Jesus’ baptism, ect. – I know these stories by heart because I’ve been hearing them since I was little.
This morning, I plopped down on the couch for my daily reading and found that I was at the ever familiar sermon on the mount – a passage that I’ve read so many times before. I tend to look at passages such as this and imagine that I have it all down. After all, I’ve read that chapter lots of times; I should be an expert by now, right? Well, guess again. The thing about the Bible is that it is so full that we don’t really realize just how many lessons it contains, but that’s another post all in itself, so back to the sermon on the mount.
As I read through chapter five, I began to put the whole picture together. I had taken away bits and pieces on my previous readings, but today I stepped back and examined the whole point of what Jesus was saying.
In The World, Not Of It –
As He spoke, Jesus presented an idea that was rather foreign. I’m no expert on the culture of His time, but I know for sure that this is a strange idea to our present culture.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” -Matthew 5:38-44
Honestly, not many people hate me (that I know of, at least). At this young age and in the home that I’ve been reared in, I haven’t come across many enemies, so I don’t really know what it’s like to have someone hate or despise me. However, I often read about Christians in other places of the world who are being persecuted for their faith and it angers and frightens me. If I was being persecuted in that way, how would I respond? Would I be able to love my enemies, regardless? Would I pray for those persecuting me? Could I bless those who curse me and do good to those who hate me? Knowing this goes against my very nature, I find myself asking, “Why?”
“That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” -Matthew 5:45-47
In other words: God is still good to these people, so what right do I have not to be? Just as the rain falls on the just and the unjust, and just as the sun rises over the evil and the good, so I should care for the same, regardless of their actions. Why? Because if I don’t, how am I any different from every other person? We love those who love us and it’s no feat to care for those who care for us, but caring for the people who hate us is another story. You can’t do something like that on your own. The good news is, you don’t have to. God doesn’t tell us to do something and then walk away, expecting us to accomplish the task with our own limited abilities. You still have to work at this with diligence, but the strength behind that diligence must rest in Christ if you expect to have any results.
So, why are we doing this (besides that fact that Jesus said so)? What good will come of caring for our enemies? And what will we acquire by going the extra mile (besides sore feet)? Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:14-16
You see, when people observe this difference in us, they’ll be amazed. And because this isn’t something we can do on our own, but through the help of Christ, the glory will be His. Going the extra mile is hard, caring for our enemies conflicts with our nature, and loving those who hate us is beyond our own ability. But when people see this difference that Christ is making in us, the apparent contrast will amplify our testimony to the unsaved world.