June 25, 2009
Makarios Living – Loving Your Enemies
A slap, a suit, a mile and a loan, that’s what Jesus shares. Little steps to teach us the big step for all of us to keep his new commandment at the high point of the Sermon on the Mount. His goal? Making peacemakers, leading us to love our enemies.
Welcome to Haven Today where we tell the great story that’s all about Jesus. I’m Charles Morris. This is a program called “Makarios Living: Loving Your Enemies”. And in a few minutes we’re going to explore another part of the Sermon on the Mount, the part in Matthew 5 where Jesus talks about something you’ve no doubt heard before, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and then tells us we need to love our enemies. Our legal system was designed for the punishment to fit the crime but in this sermon Jesus turns that punishment upside down and makes even the big crimes fit all of us. Stay tuned. We need to learn from him and his word and not perhaps, our misconceptions. Now as we get started I want to mention that over the past several weeks we’ve been sharing stories of Christians you should know. My goal is for us to learn and find strength from Christians who’ve gone before us. Many of these stories we’ve shared are drawn from a brand new book by the speaker for many years on another Christian radio broadcast, “Back to the Bible”. Warren Weirsbe has a brand new book called “50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from spiritual giants of the faith”. You can read more about the book at haventoday.org. You can also call our toll free number, make your gift to this listener supported ministry and we’ll send you a copy of Warren’s new book right away. Just call 1-800-654-2836. I’ll give you all that contact information again later but the book is called “50 People Every Christian Should Know” by Warren Weirsbe. Now let’s get started with words taken from Matthew 5 by Casting Crowns.
Song: If We are the Body
Performed by: Casting Crowns
“If We Are the Body” by Casting Crowns here on a Haven Today called “Makarios Living: Loving Your Enemies”. A slap, a suit, a mile and a loan, that’s what Jesus shares. Little steps to teach us the big step for all of us to keep his new commandment at the high point of the Sermon on the Mount. His goal? Making us into peacemakers, leading us to love our enemies. I want to share the background but before that let’s listen to the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:38-42,
“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 anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
That’s Jesus speaking from Matthew 5. This excerpt is from the oral teaching of the rabbi’s which Jesus quoted coming straight out of the Mosaic Law. As we talk about this, we need to remember that the Law of Moses was a civil, as well as a moral code. Go back to Exodus 20, you’ll find the 10 Commandments. Exodus 21-23 on the other hand contains a series of ordinances in which the standards of the 10 Commandments are applied to the young nation’s life. Case laws are given with a particular emphasis on damage to persons and to property. That is where we find the little line that no doubt you’ve heard before, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” It’s clear when you read Exodus this was an instruction to the judges of Israel. They’re mentioned also in Deuteronomy. This prohibited the taking of the law into one’s own hands like you see in some old western movie or TV show where the wounded party seeks revenge by saying they have a right to do it, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” I should mention that in Islamic law the punishment mentioned is still allowable. For instance, Saudi Arabia doesn’t talk about it much but still holds regular times of carrying out this kind of justice, executions and the cutting off of limbs for even common thievery. It’s almost certain that by the time of Jesus literal retaliations for damage had been replaced in Jewish legal practice by money penalties or damages to be paid. There is evidence this might have been even earlier. In this sermon Jesus did not contradict the principle of retribution for it’s true, it’s a just principle. Later on in the sermon he says, “Judge not that you be not judged. Jesus affirmed the law courts and the judgment of God but then he turned the tables and also dealt with personal relationships and that’s where there has been confusion. These are to be based on love, not justice. Our duty to others who wrong us is not retaliation but the acceptance of injustice without revenge. He says, “Don’t resist one who is evil,” but what exactly is the meaning of this call to non-resistance? The Greek verb is plain enough. It means to resist, to oppose, to withstand or to set oneself against someone or something. So whom or what are we forbidden to resist? Well, of course we aren’t to resist God’s will, his truth or his authority. We’re constantly urged to resist the devil. So how is it possible that Jesus told us to resist evil? Well, we can’t possibly interpret this command as an invitation to compromise with sin or with Satan. The Greek here is in the masculine and not neuter. We are to resist one who is evil or, as one translation puts it, “the man who wrongs you.” Jesus does not deny that this person is evil. He asks us not to pretend like it nor to condone this evil behavior. What he does not allow is that we retaliate. And then he goes into these little illustrations of the slap, the suit, the mile and the loan. “Turn the other cheek,” “Give away your coat,” “Go the extra mile,” “Offer the money.” These are real life situations and we’ve all been there before haven’t we? Each introduces a person who seeks to do us injury, one by hitting us in the face, another by prosecuting us in law, a third by commandeering our service and a fourth by begging money from us. Doesn’t that have a modern ring in your life? I know it does mine. There are times when we cannot dodge this demand but we have to obey it literally. It may seem fantastic that we should be expected to offer our other cheek to someone who has already struck our right cheek especially when we know the striking on the right cheek, the blow with the back of the hand is still today in the Middle East an insulting blow and that Jesus probably had in mind not an ordinary insult but a specific insulting blow, the blow given to the disciples of Jesus as heretics. Yet this is the standard which Jesus asks and it is the standard which he himself fulfilled. It had been written about him in Old Testament scripture, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard. I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” That’s Isaiah 50 verse 6. All that happened leading up to the cross and Jesus, with the infinite dignity of self-control and love held his peace. He demonstrated his total refusal to retaliate by allowing them to continue their cruel mockery until they had finished. Today before we become too eager to evade the challenge of what he’s teaching us here in Matthew 5 we need to remember that Jesus called his disciples to what Dietrich Bonheoffer called a visible participation in his cross. This is how the Apostle Peter put it, “Christ suffered for you leaving you an example that you should follow in his steps. When he was reviled he did not revile in return. When he suffered he did not threaten but he trusted to him who judges justly.” But keep in mind, Jesus is not saying to just roll over and play dead. We are not to be weaklings who offer no resistance. Jesus himself challenged the high priest when questioned by him in court. What we have is Jesus as a strong man whose control of himself and love for others is so powerful that he rejects absolutely every conceivable form of retaliation. You can’t always take this literally just as you don’t take the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” teaching in the Old Testament literally. Here’s what you do from what Jesus is teaching with the Holy Spirit breathing strength and wisdom into your responses. You operate on the principle of love, the selfless love of a person who when injured refuses to satisfy himself by taking revenge. You look at the highest welfare of the other person as well as that of society. You certainly never hit back, returning evil for evil. Instead you seek to return good for evil. You are willing to give to the uttermost, your body, your clothing, your service even your money insofar as these gifts are required by love. The only limit to the Christian’s generosity is a limit which love itself may impose. Now this is a difficult passage and I certainly wish we had more time. Let me see if this helps. Listen to an overly literal translation of the original Greek by one theologian to give us a better idea of how Jesus was remarkably personalizing this message that most scholars think is the high point of the sermon. Listen up now,
“Whoever it is who is slapping you on the right cheek, you offer that person the other one as well. And the person who is trying to sue you and to take your shirt? Let that person have even the coat off your back. And whomever it is who will be forcing you to go one mile, go with that person 2 miles. Give to the person asking you and do not turn your back on the person who is trying to borrow from you.”
Do you hear how Jesus keeps speaking to you personally? Listen then to where he is leading in this teaching in Matthew 5 going on to verse 43 through verse 48,
“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 children 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 own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
This is Haven Today and a program called “Makarios Living: Loving Your Enemies”.
Put together following his death by some of his friends, Rich Mullens’ “Surely God is With Us” here on Haven Today. Jesus accused the Pharisees in his day of placing too serious restrictions on their love. Of course they believed in love. Everybody believes in love. Yes, but not love for those who had injured them, and not love for those Gentile outsiders either. But I’m afraid to say the spirit of Pharisee-ism is around today. It is the spirit of revenge, even racism. The first says, “I’ll love nice harmless people but I’ll get even with those who harm me.” The second says, “I’ll love my own kind but you can’t expect me to love people that have no claim on me.” In fact, Jesus does expect of his followers the very things that others think cannot reasonably be expected of anybody. He does call us to renounce all those convenient restrictions we like to put on love and instead to be all embracing and constructive in our love like God is. Christians are called to a greater righteousness because we have been made righteous. It is a deep, inward righteousness of the heart where the Holy Spirit has written God’s law. It is new fruit exhibiting the newness of the tree, new life burgeoning from a new nature. So we have no liberty to try to dodge or duck the lofty demands of the law. Law dodging, well that’s a hobby of Pharisees. True Christians show a keen appetite for righteousness, hungering and thirsting after it continually. And this righteousness whether it’s expressed in purity, honesty or charity will show to whom we belong. Our Christian calling is to imitate not the world but our Heavenly Father. And it’s by this imitation of him that we Christians show the love of Christ by loving our enemies. “Makarios Living – Loving Your Enemies”.
Earlier in the week we had on the program Steve Ragsdale who for many years was part of our music team here at Haven Today. Steve has out a brand new album “Simply Timeless: Classic hymns and songs of the church” where he takes us back to many of the songs that perhaps you remember, songs about Jesus.
Song: No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus/ Does Jesus Care? Medley
Performed by: Steve Ragsdale
From “Simply Timeless” a brand new project by Steve Ragsdale here on a Haven Today and a medley, “No One Ever Cared for Me Like Jesus” and another song “Does Jesus Care?” Thanks Steve. We have this brand new album “Simply Timeless: Classic hymns and songs of the church” that we would be pleased to send to you as our way of saying thank you for your financial support of the ministry that every day tells the great story of Jesus that never grows old. In fact it’s the one story that’s new every morning. You can go online and listen to samples of Steve’s new album. Just go to h.a.v.e.n.t.o.d.a.y, haventoday.org. There it is on our homepage, the album is called “Simply Timeless”. You can also call us and our toll free number in North America is 1-800-654-2836, that’s 1-800-654-2836. I also mentioned when we went on the program this wonderful book that has been encouraging so many people. We’ve had people getting multiple copies of it to give away besides to keep one keep for themselves. It’s by Warren Weirsbe who for many years was the speaker on the “Back to the Bible” broadcasts. He also was the pastor of the famous Moody Memorial Church in Chicago. Warren Weirsbe, “50 People Every Christian Should Know: Learning from spiritual giants of the faith”, you can read more about the book, make your gift to the ministry, get your copy on its way there at haventoday.org or you can just call that toll free number, 1-800-65-HAVEN. Let us know the station you’re listening to when you get in touch.
I’m Charles Morris. Won’t you come back again tomorrow when we end the week together speaking together from Matthew 6 on a program that’s all about Jesus together on Haven Today.
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