Today you should read: Matthew 5:38-48
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, do not resist the evildoer. But whoever strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and to take your tunic, give him your coat also. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not reject the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they? 47 And if you only greet your brothers, what more do you do? Even the Gentiles do the same, don’t they? 48 So then, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Upping the ante
28 When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, 29 because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law. (Matthew 7:28–29, NET)
The Sermon on the Mount is a fascinating passage of Scripture, and today we are exploring some of the richest verses in the whole message. We are continuing to deal with “former” teachings (i.e. “You have heard it said…”) and Jesus teaching a higher standard (i.e. “But I say…”). Quoted above is the review from the people who heard this message who were astounded at the insight that this man had in interpreting and applying God’s Law.
Today, in this passage, we are dealing with the concept of those who would mistreat or take advantage of others. Let’s face it, given the world in which Jesus lived, the people to whom he was preaching knew something about this concept. For example, Judea was a small region that’s on the only land route to Egypt and for the last several hundred years, empires would often roll through on their way to Egypt and just “takeover” Judea along the way—Babylon, Medo-Persia, Alexander the Great and the Greeks, and finally Rome, just to name a few. Imperial taxes, military occupation, religious oppression (or at best tolerance), and a corrupt government (yes, I’m still referring to 1st century Judea) as well as many other normal facets of daily life makes Jesus’ words to these people just as unpleasant for them as they are for us today.
Without going into too much detail, verses 38–42 is not telling the people of God to be a doormat for anybody who wants to walk all over them. Instead, Jesus is asking people to trust God in their circumstances as they live in a corrupt world. Our goal should not be to balance every scale in our lives—that we right every wrong done to us or those we care about, instead it is to live out the heart of God, even when we suffer. Why?
To answer the question why, it is helpful to note that translators are not very creative. As we study the Bible one of the things we should look for is purpose or result to help us answer the question “why?”. When a translator sees something they feel is purpose or result driven, they will often provide a “so that,” (ESV, NASB, “that” NIV) to help the reader along. Thus, the reason you are to not only “Love your neighbor,” but also “love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you” is “so that you may be like your Father in heaven.”
What Jesus is referring to here is what theologians call “common grace,” basically that God dispenses some measure of grace to all people whether they are saved through Christ or not—the sun rises on us all. God gives grace to people because he loves them regardless of if they love him or acknowledge him. His love is our standard for loving others. I greatly appreciate what one scholar said in regards to the perfection of which Jesus speaks in verse 48, “While sinless perfection is impossible, godliness, in its biblical concept, is attainable.” (Walvoord, NAC)
No longer shall we live by our own power and reason, Jesus has upped the ante; we must now, through the sacrifice of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit, live perfectly within the provision God has made for our inadequacies—we are called to live godly.
By: Tyler Short