February 19, 2017 Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Dear Friends in Christ,
I recently ran across an article from twenty years ago entitled “The Devil is One Radical Dude.” Here is a portion:
“…World Industries, a California skateboard manufacturer, includes an interesting brochure with the products it sends to customers. Titled ‘Let’s Make a Deal,’ the enclosure urges buyers to sell their souls to hell, according to Religious Rights Watch.
“On the brochure, a smiling devil explains what happened in heaven when he was banished from God’s presence, in words that might appeal to the young, who probably are the principal users of skateboards.
“First off,’ says the devil, ‘they set up a bunch of dumb rules, and then they imposed a really strict dress code. I’ll wager people must be quite bored up there, but hey, that’s what they get for being good.’”
Twenty years ago. The mockery of Christianity has been a constant drum beat since then and the sounds just keep getting louder and louder. The vulgarity of society just keeps growing. Everyone wants to demonize and destroy anything that gets in the way of their pursuits. As was discussed at my Pastor’s Conference this week, we all seem to be yelling at one another but is anything constructive coming from all the whining and hand wringing?
I am asked by the Lord to stand up in front of you today and preach on Jesus’ words in our Gospel lesson on retaliation and loving our enemies. Not an easy task in today’s culture. But then God’s Word is not always easily digested.
“HARD TRUTHS ABOUT GETTING EVEN”
So we get to the hard truths right away in this section of Matthew. If someone slaps us we are to turn the other cheek. If we are forced to go one mile we should go two. We shouldn’t refuse the one who wants to borrow from us.
Right away when you hear these words, many of you are thinking “But Pastor..” Then come your questions. “Do I just let others beat on me? Do I let them destroy my family? Should I support those who are lazy and steal?” The commentator R.C.H. Lenski writes, “The law of love is not intended to throw open the floodgates to unrestrained cruelty and crime…Love is not to foster crime in others or to expose our loved ones to disaster and perhaps death…Christ never told me to restrain the murderer’s hand, not to check the thief and robber, not to oppose the tyrant, or by my gifts to foster dishonesty, and greed…”
Remember, in this text we are dealing with retaliation. This is not a demand for “non-resistance”, but pictures a disciples mastery over his heart. This is not about defending oneself or loved ones. This is about getting even. We are to walk away from it because it fills the heart with hatred and anger. Aren’t there a lot of things we should be walking away from in today’s society?
Jesus then tells us another hard truth. He wants us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute you. Was that your first thought when you heard Madonna and some of the other speakers at the women’s march? When you watched the University of California being vandalized did you begin praying for those committing the destruction? When I ask someone to stop using God’s name in vain at a ballgame and they assault with more profanities, these are not my first thoughts brothers and sisters? What about you? Hard truths, don’t we know it?
Jesus wants us to love our enemies with agape love, the kind of love that God extended to us. Love for the unlovable. As Paul writes, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son…” (Rom. 5:8, 10a)
God took pity on us in spite of our separation from Him, and in some cases, hatred and denial of Him. Here we are with anger at God for those times he doesn’t do what we think he should be doing. But He loves us nonetheless. He is always there to forgive and claim us as His own through Faith in Christ.
That’s the kind of love we are to demonstrate to others. Again, from Lenski: “I can by the grace of Jesus Christ love them all, see what is wrong with them, desire and work to do them only good – to extend Christ’s love.”
We can never accept the evil the world loves and pursues. And we will always be looked upon as hateful by the world because we do not walk in its thinking and ways. So be it. But, regardless of what the world thinks and charges against us, we are to love them because “…God so loved the world…”
There was a day when the great lawyer Daniel Webster was on his way home from the courts when he decided to stop by and see his daughter who was terminally ill. As he entered the room, she looked up and said, “Father, why are you out on this cold day without your coat?” Webster left the room and cried out, “Dying, yet she thinks of me!”
That is what Jesus did on the Cross. Dying, He was thinking of us; thinking of the whole world of humanity. And we need to think about that. Such are the hard truths about getting even. God help us!