GROWTH AND SUCCESS IN LIFE – Lessons Learned at the Feet of Jesus – Sermon on Mount (Part 18)

The High and True Standard of God and His Kingdom is now developed by Jesus.  Rather than listening to the phony teachers of the Law, the guardians of the Law who twisted Truth for their selfish interests, Jesus now lays out what standards are in harmony with a correct understanding of the Old Testament.  The greatest sequel to this instruction is that Jesus, in all he was and was to do, came not to set aside or annual the Law but to fulfill it.  In this following section of six antitheses, Jesus places his own authority over the misinterpretations of the religious norm of His Day…’It is said, but I say…’ (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38 and 43).  Separating the counterfeit from the Real – next with the prohibition against Adultery.

So far we have learned that the measure of God looks at the heart and not just outward actions.  Again, the scribes were following the artificial letter of the law without a heart obedience.  Now the bizarre – don’t retaliate against your enemies, love them instead!  A whole new ethic! Actually, it’s not a new ethic. It just sounds like one on the vernacular of Jesus’s day.

Eye for Eye Ethic
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’[a]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.

We will take this instruction from the Sermon on the Mount in two parts – in two weeks.  Here now is Part One.

Love for Enemies Ethic
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor[b] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

1.  Doing what comes naturally – Retaliate when we are wronged.  Again, the relligiious leader’s twist.  The law does not condone retaliation.  It instructs that in Israel the one wronged should rely on justice for recompense, for recovery.  Exod 21:24-25; Lev 24:20;  Lev 24:14 – Do not avenge yourself, let justice be administered (in this case, the court of Moses).Lev 19:18 – Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the Lord.  But nay nay.  The religious leaders were using a twixt on these OT passages to justify personal retribution!  Wrong!  Even the Law never advocated that.  But this was the instruction from the religious leders of Jesus’ day.

2.  Loving your enemy –Changing the ethical rules and price tags!  Actual this is less of a “change” and more of getting back to the true standard of the Law.  Even  in Israel, surrounded by her enemies and disputes within the camp, the Law gives instructions for relying on judicial solutions to disputes, resolving conflicts with love instead of retaliation, and reserving the capital punishment for crimes proven by the assembly and courts or leaders.  This would sound like a radical change to Jesus’ audience.  It was actually getting back to the Law and the instructions and character of God for people who go by His name.

Here is the ethic that Jesus both lived, taught and expected of his disciples: We have no right to hate the person who tries to deprive us of our possessions or personal security.  Love even toward those who are our enemies should issue from our heart which is commited to God’s purposes, and evidenced in our actions that follow our heart.  Like everything for a follower of Jesus, our thoughts and actions start in our mind and heart, as evidenced by the model and life of Jesus, and then is measured by the mercy and love, rather than justice, that follows with our speech and actions.  High standards but true to the biblical model and life of Him who we serve. 

Next week part two of this ethic of love rather than retaliation.  Stay tuned and stay well.

— John Moore

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