5 From Matthew 5
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 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. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (New International Version)
Parents have certain catchphrases. Among them are ‘if [insert annoying sibling’s name here] jumped off a cliff, would you?’ and ‘just ignore them’. The second one, I personally found more difficult, because sometimes people can just be so infuriating, that all you want to do is react.
However, not reacting, not giving someone a taste of their own medicine can be so important.
By not reacting, you avoid goading them on, you don’t bring yourself down to their level. That is not to say it is at all easy, but here, Jesus says to us ‘do not resist an evil person’. Instead, God wishes us all to love one another (John 13:34), and this is not a small thing. It takes effort, compassion, trust.
We can often feel compelled to revenge following a personal injustice. But we are being told to just lie there and take it, but rather, not to punish. Instead, we should forgive and love one another. This is why Jesus does not just stop at ‘turn the other cheek’, but foes on to tell us to give. ‘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.’
The art of giving is so significant to our lives as Christians. Instead of seeking revenge, love and forgive. If someone sues you, give them more. It is not only good for your spiritual wealth but sets you apart from the crowd. You are a witness for God, and, in the middle of a brawl, people may pay attention to the people spitting spite at each other, but they will remember the one who didn’t feel the need to pile up petty arguments and instead for gave.
We should be witnesses, reflecting the mighty grace of our Lord and count on his divine justice.
Forgive us for harbouring anger
Help us to forgive
Be with us in the heat of the moment
Help us show your grace
Allow us to give all we can
Help us be the witnesses for your glory
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 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. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NIV)
Imagine a school, one much like in the American movies. You have cliques wondering around, gossiping, trading jokes. The popular clique takes the central table, they help each other with their bags, they are kind to one another and chat and laugh. They love one another, surely that’s enough?
They are rude to anyone from the outside. People who try to share the table get shooed away. If someone drops something, they don’t help, they laugh.
If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
The popular clique is not incapable of love. Of course, they love one another, they are friends. Much like a celebrity loves their fans, they give what they receive. This is not a mean feat, and it is not a bad thing to do. What is bad is only being good to those who are good to you.
Jesus said, ‘love your neighbour’, aka everyone. This means that we must not only love our friends, and not only love the people around us, but also love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
By loving, we bear witness. By praying help bring God’s influence on someone’s life. It is difficult, but it helps us build the world to a better place. Bringing human kindness can bring light to a dull life, and by bringing God’s influence, we bring hope to the darkness. And in some cases, doing this can turn lives around. We are asked to pray that we may be children of your Father in heaven together, and that is a prayer for redemption, for the evil to be saved so that they may share God’s kingdom of grace with us.
Lastly, Jesus says ‘Be perfect’. No pressure, right? Perfection, however, is impossible for we mere mortals. However, through God, anything is possible (Matthew 19:27). However hard it may be to love our enemies, through prayer and a relationship with God, we are unstoppable.
Help us to love one another
To love our friends and enemies alike
As we are all brothers and sisters
Help us to trust you and your plan
And to help make the world a better place bit by bit
Sharing kind words and forgiveness
11“God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. (NIV)
One thing I discovered in this study, is how different translations break up these verses into segments. In the message, this comes at the end of the section ‘you’re blessed’, and in the NLT and NIV, ‘the Beatitudes’, meaning ‘supreme blessedness’. And here, we see how supremely blessed we are.
We can so often be dragged down by pettiness, when we are “mocked”, when people “lie about you”. It can be so easy to be drawn into a web of retaliation, to become so fearful of this mortal mockery, of the gossip, the snide comments.
But, in reality, we are not tied down to this system of judgement. Personally, I get very self-conscious of what other people say, of jokes fooling people into thinking I am someone I am not. But God is not fazed by this, the gossip and drama doesn’t reach him – he looks into our hearts and sees the real us. How we feel, who we are.
But this is a significant message for us too. In our society, self-image can be considered very important – how you dress, who you know, what you say. This image is presented by you – no one else can do it for you – and so we often take advantage of this. It is not just other people who can change how people see us, its us too.
We can change the way we walk, the way we talk, we can manipulate how people see us, but just as he sees beyond how other people lie about us, he sees beyond our own lies too – he can see beyond our appearance and into our heart.
God, thank you that you love us
Thank you that the words of man cannot reach you
That they’re gossip does not sway you
That you see us for us
Please help us to remember that
And that we can’t lie to you
But that, whatever happens
You see the real us
And you love us all the same
3 “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. (New Living Translation)
“Isn’t this amazing?” Boris exclaimed “It says here that I can inherit the whole earth!”
Boris was running up to Dan, his old school mate who was now a solicitor. Dan looked up at him wearily, he was used to Boris’s antics, but this was taking it a step too far.
“Right then, what have we here? A new contract, someone promising you the world? Literally?” Dan looked down at the peace of paper thrown in front of him. He chuckled to himself, being careful not to be too mean to his friend. There was a whole list of things he had been promised: the Kingdom of Heaven, the whole earth, the Kingdom of heaven again.
He looked up at his friend, keeping a straight face but with a smile tugging at his lips. “I dunno Boris, you do realise that for this you have to be humble, have a ‘thirst for justice’, be merciful, have a pure heart and work for peace.”
This time it was Boris’s time to smile. “Don’t you realise? This deal is amazing! When I mourn, I shall be comforted – all I need to do is recognise I need help and it’ll be there!”
Dan shook his head, it was impossible. ‘Poor Boris’, he thought as he strolled away ‘always falling for those scams’.
That night Boris went home, he had expected such a response, of course. But since he’d accepted the contract, his life had been better. Sure it was hard work, but why wouldn’t it be? If it was easy, everyone would do it!
He poured a coffee and sat down and prayed. Dan was right, to do all of those things would be impossible, but with the help of God, he could do it, he would try. He prayed that God would help him, he prayed that his heart would be pure, and he prayed for his friend Dan, that he would realize God’s need for him.
God, thank you for blessing us so greatly, and for blessing not only our positive qualities, but our ability to reach out to you. Help us to spread this word among our friends and families and help us blossom in humbleness, justice, mercy, peace and pureness of heart.
23 “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, 24 leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.” (NLT)
Forgiveness is importance – and we are taught to reconcile with one another, rather than holding on to our tensions and anger. Often when we consider this, we think of how we must forgive other – go and reconcile with all those people who wound us up, but here, we are being told not just to reconcile with the people we have problems with, but also to go to those who might have problems with us. Whether we feel ourselves responsible or not for their upset is not the key point, it is that we make our peace, rather than becoming estranged from a brother or sister in Christ.
A significant part of this message is that it doesn’t stop with “go and be reconciled to that person” but goes back to finishing offering tour sacrifice to God. This is important in highlighting how we must not only follow God regarding the ways of the earth, but also go back to him at the end. Reconciliation is all well and good, but if you don’t bring it back to God, you are just another nice person.
Please help us to reconcile with people
With loved ones, friends and family
With enemies and strangers.
And when we do this
Let it not be for selfish gain
For our own pride or arrogance.
But let it be for you
For you commanded it
As you told us to love one another
Let us do so through reconciliation.
And most of all
Please help us not give reason
For others to have anything against us
Let us maintain your peace.
In your name,