“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you that you must not oppose those who want to hurt you. If people slap you on your right cheek, you must turn the left cheek to them as well. When they wish to haul you to court and take your shirt, let them have your coat too. When they force you to go one mile, go with them two. Give to those who ask, and don’t refuse those who wish to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who harass you so that you will be acting as children of your Father who is in heaven. He makes the sun rise on both the evil and the good and sends rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love only those who love you, what reward do you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore, just as your heavenly Father is complete in showing love to everyone, so also you must be complete” (Matthew 5:38-48, Common English Bible).
A few days ago I mentioned my book, The Hard Sayings of Jesus, because I am not sure where it is I haven’t looked any of these up to see if they are actually in the book. If this one is not, it should be! We live in an “eye for an eye” society. We can hear it when we watch the evening news. When we see a report of a person who took the life of another, the victim’s family often says, “An eye for an eye.” This person took the life of my loved one, as a result, this person should lose their own life.
What many of us do not understand is, “an eye for an eye” was a legal standard that was intended to limit punishment. Here is an example. Not too many years ago, the law of the West (as in wild west) said the penalty for being a horse thief, for cattle rustling and robbery was death by hanging. Though you might agree with such a crime and punishment view of society, I think we can all agree, it goes beyond “an eye for an eye.” By an “eye for an eye,” my horse or cattle or other personal property should be taken, not my life.
And, while we are an “eye for an eye” society, at this point we stop being a Jesus society. Jesus says (and we often want to quickly read past this) forget an eye for an eye and instead, turn the other cheek. If someone wants to take your shirt, give them your coat too.
This is some pretty tough stuff. But, this is also some important stuff because what we are seeing Jesus talk about in the last half of Matthew 5 is the Law of Love. I love my wife. I love my children. I love my grandchildren. I love my parents. It isn’t always easy to love these folks. Sometimes they can really frustrate me with some of the things they say and do. I am equally sure I frustrate them in the same ways too. I can be sure of that because my kids have told me before. The same thing can be said of my friends.
I love these people because they are important to me. And, for the most part at least, they support me and want the best for me and help me try to achieve what is best. That makes them easy to love.
But, there are also some folks out there who care absolutely nothing for me. They are not worried about what is best for me, they don’t support me and if what is best for them means walking over the top of me, they won’t hesitate.
Here is the scary thing, in this lesson, Jesus is saying I am supposed to love them too! That is some hard stuff friends. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to love the person who tries to take my favorite shirt and I sure don’t want to give them my coat!
But there is something Jesus knows far better than we. While I might bicker and argue with my friends and family, because of the love we share, all out war probably isn’t going to happen between us.
Jesus knows, if I can reach a point where I can treat my enemies with the same love I treat my family and friends, I have started to effect real change in the world. If I can respond to an enemy with love, that enemy probably will not remain an enemy for very much longer.
And remember this, no one ever said being a Christ follower was something that would be easy to do. But, what Jesus thought to be most important, along with loving God, can be summed up pretty easily, “Love Everybody.” It is easy to say. Doing it requires a great deal more effort on our part but I believe the end result is worth it.
What are you doing to demonstrate love to your enemies?
Have a blessed day in the Lord.
Joy and Peace,
Copyright 2017, J. Keith Broyles, All Rights Reserved