No Slap Back?

Matthew 5:38-48

February 19. 2017

 

 

38[Jesus said:] “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

39But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so 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. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

 

So what do we do with this? This represents the hardest of the hardcore teachings of Jesus and they seem to be unrealistic. That’s what some do with this actually, the label it as unrealistic or idealistic.

I mean really, in the real world, if someone slaps you in the right cheek and you offer them the left cheek they will slap it with gusto….and they’ll keep slapping you until you are unconscious.

And if you’re so quick to give away your coat, people will rob you blind and you’ll be left standing naked on the street.

And there’s an endless supply of beggars. If we started giving everything away, there would be a long line forming at our houses and by the end of the day there would be nothing left. Therefore Jesus can’t really be serious about this. It’s too unrealistic

That’s one thing that people do with this text, Another thing people do is take the cheap grace approach. this has four steps

 

A. Jesus tells us to love people and do them good.

B. We don’t do this, because we are poor miserable sinners.

C. God forgives you.

D. So you can disregard what Jesus says.

 

Both of these approaches are unsatisfactory! One deny’s it to be true, and another simply skates by it as if it were nothing.

There real question is this: does Jesus really mean what he says. Well, yeah how about if we start with that as our presupposition: Jesus doesn’t say things that he doesn’t mean. And that shouldn’t be too hard because that’s what we actually believe: Jesus means what he says. We couldn’t be Christians if we didn’t believe that. So let’s start at that point. And let’s do it without fear.

I’d like to focus in one verse that I think opens up the other verses for us. I’m talking about verse 45. He says we should love our enemies, “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.” He’s reminding us who we are. Children of our Father in heaven. That’s kind of the starting point.

And it has not always been the case with us. By birth we are born not to be children of the Father in heaven, but rather children of Adam; born with all the urges to do the opposite of what Jesus here describes. If we lived according to our sinful nature we would imagine that revenge is always our right. If someone slapped us…. we must slap back and slap them so hard that they’ll never forget it. If someone dared to ask us for money, we would proudly and angrily tell them to get a job without even inquiring about their circumstances. And if someone made us their enemy, we would nurture anger for them like there was no tomorrow and feel like we’re doing the proper thing.

This is what it’s like when the sinful nature is running the show. This is how he operates. The sinful nature imagines that it has all authority, and all power. The sinful nature believes that it deserves all respect as well as the right to punish those who don’t give it. The sinful nature believes it is the final authority in any given situation and that vengeance is his to administer. This sinful nature of man ultimately urges a person to think of himself as Lord.

But the real God, the God who created us broke through this nightmarish dream of the sinful nature and brought us into the light. We are not gods, we are creatures of God living in a false reality we have created for ourselves. We only imagine that we feed ourselves. We only imagine we are in charge of the our past and present and future; we only imagine that the meaning of our lives can be found in the shiny things we find on earth and hoard away for ourselves.

The one who is truly God, broke through this illusory world and helped us to see who we actually are: not gods, but fallen creatures in need of salvation. Through the power of his holy Spirit we begin to admit that we are indeed sinners who are in dire need of mercy. And in Christ we have mercy. In Christ's we are born again, born into the family of God. In Christ are eyes and our hearts turn to the Lord. We learn to praise him rather than ourselves. We learn to acknowledge him as the Only God. And as his Children, we begin to live and act like him in the way we treat others.

He begin live in such a way that sons of God would live. Like God, we begin to regard others in just the way that he does. The text says he still gives evil people sunshine and rain on the fields of those who are evil? Why? Because they’re still in the sinful dreamscape and he’s giving them a chance to come out of it, and to wake up by still providing for their needs. He understands the profound blindness that comes upon a person who is led through life by the urges of his sinful nature. So He mercifully does kind things to them, with the hopes that they will awake and begin to see things as they are.

With the words of this text, Jesus is merely offering a description of how people who are a awake to the realities of God are to act and look upon the people who are still asleep in their sins. In effect Jesus is saying to us and all believers: “Because you have experienced my grace and my mercy, forgiveness, I expect you to understand why I came here. I am here to save people, I am here to save people who are corrupted by their sin. No matter how far they have gone away into the darkness, I still value each of them. I value them despite how they act and think and do. See how I let them live. I give them Sunshine. I give them rain. I bless them in this life because I want to give them time to come to know me, even as you have come to know me. I look past their sins and remember what they were meant to be and what they could be again. You of all people should get this, because you are awake and alive in me. You are to reflect this by how you live. You are to be the light of the world. So don’t be darkness. Don’t take revenge. Don’t hate! Pray for those who persecute you! They don’t understand. They are in the dark. Pray that they might turn to me in faith even as my holy Spirit has caused you to turn.

Now of course, this is not easy to regard those who are mean to us in this way. It is the hardest thing that we will ever do. But if we live a life of repentance, that is if we go through life with Christ before us, we will gain understanding a patience with others. When we realize how much we have been forgiven in Christ, we will find it difficult to be judgmental and vengeful; When we realize how much love God has poured out on us, we will find it more difficult to hate. If we remember how far God has reached with his love for us, We will not imagine that any human being is beyond love. We will not be perfect, but we will have in our sights, Christ who is our perfection. AMEn

 

(Thanks to Pastor Charles Henrikson whose sermon on this text asked the question “Did Jesus Really Mean this?” Published on Steadfast Lutehrans, It pointed me in the right directio