Passage: Matthew 5:38–5:48
†††In the Name of Jesus†††
Pastor Murray Keith
Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Date: February 19th, 2017; Epiphany 7; Series A
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
“An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Vengeance. This was the Law of the Old Testament.
In three separate places God gives this law to his people who were living in a very violent world (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21).
If someone took your sheep, you would take their sheep. If someone punched you in the face, you would punch them back. Tit for tat. Even-Steven. It seems fair!
But, once again, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter of what it means to love one’s neighbour.
He said, “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”
Jesus turns everything upside down! Give your other cheek. Give not only your spring coat but your winter parka too. Go the extra mile.
This teaching is one of the hardest pills to swallow.
If people have harmed us, our immediate reaction is to want revenge. We really want to make them pay. We want justice.
These days, we have the perspective that everything revolves around “my rights” and “what I am entitled to”.
If those rights have been infringed upon in any way - look out!
Lawyers are kept busy with lawsuit after lawsuit.
People have sued for assault after someone tried to save their life with the Heimlich maneuver. McDonald’s was sued for serving coffee that was too hot.
This is the culture we live in and it rubs off on us more than we are aware or like to admit.
We love it when we see people get revenge. When those who do wrong get what we think they deserve.
But this is not the way of Christ - and it is not our way either.
Evil can only be overcome with good.
What does revenge ever gain but to fuel the fire of hatred that exists within our sinful hearts and in the world?
Christ commands us, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is 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.”
Revenge comes easy for us. It is the natural inclination of our sinful hearts.
Forgiveness is foreign to us – it is so difficult for us to love our enemies and pray for those who have hurt us.
But this way of love, forgiveness, and mercy that Jesus preaches is the better way.
Why? Because good always overcomes evil. Light always overcomes darkness.
Harbouring hatred and bitterness inside only ends up harming us. It eats away at us.
It rots our minds with a sinful decay as we relive the bad things that have happened to us over and over again. The anger we hold onto poisons us and holds us captive.
The only remedy to hatred and revenge is love and forgiveness.
We pray for those who hurt us and ask God to bless them, to heal them of their sin. To bring about repentance and forgiveness.
This is how good overcomes evil. Anything less is to throw gas on an open flame and feed the fires of hatred and evil!
Loving our enemies, those who hurt us, is not something that we can do on our own.
God enables us to do this because he has first loved and forgiven us.
The Holy Spirit works in us bearing this fruit of love and forgiveness.
The way of Jesus is the way of peace and forgiveness - and as his people, it is also our way.
When Jesus was betrayed by Judas and Peter sliced off the ear of Malchus in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus does not respond by getting revenge.
Instead he prayed. He called Judas the betrayer a “friend” (Matthew 26:50). He told Peter to put away his sword and he even healed the servant’s severed ear (Luke 22:51).
Jesus willingly suffered and went to the cross to lay down his life for his friends and his enemies.
God so loved the world, even his enemies, that he sent his Son. Jesus was slapped and offered the other cheek. He was forced to go one mile and went the whole way to the cross.
He could have destroyed his enemies with a single word, but instead used his words to pray for his enemies, “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they do” (Luke 23:34).
How fortunate we are - because our sin makes us enemies of Christ. We are all natural born enemies of God.
With the exception of Jesus, every human being enters this world as God's enemy. In our sinful state, God terrifies us and we want nothing to do with him.
But because of God’s love - he sent Jesus into our flesh to rescue us. To restore our relationship with him.
Because of the intense and perfect love that God's Son, Jesus Christ, has for us - he took our sin to the cross and defeated it. He endured the punishment that we, his enemies, deserve so that we don’t have to.
Christ Jesus accomplished this for the world around two thousand years ago and he makes his gift of salvation personally yours today through his Word, through your baptism, and through the gift of his true body and blood.
Through these means of grace, your faith is stirred up and strengthened and you receive God’s love, forgiveness, and eternal life.
Through these means of grace, you are enabled to love your neighbour - even your enemies.
Through these means of grace you are able to forgive the trespasses of others as you have been forgiven for your trespasses.
Having received God’s love, mercy, and forgiveness - we can’t help but extend that same love, mercy, and forgiveness to the world around us - even to those who have hurt us deeply.
In Christ, this is who we are and this is what we do. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.