Tuesday, November 20
Give love a chance!
Scripture: Matthew 5-7
Matthew 5:38-48 You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount is some of the most counter-intuitive and revolutionary in history! When we read it, we react with, “But…” and pile up our objections. This is especially true in this passage. “Don’t resist an evildoer.” Immediately I react, “But…”, and pile up my objections and exceptions.
In verses 38-41, Jesus supersedes the old law of measured retaliation: tit for tat, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. But Jesus goes way beyond non-retaliation. It’s not enough to simply withhold payback; one must offer something good.
Jesus illustrates: if someone slaps you, the law of retaliation says slap back; non-retaliation says don’t slap back; love says to offer the other cheek. If someone sues to take your shirt, retaliation says fight back; non-retaliation says don’t fight back; loves says to offer your coat as well. If a Roman soldier conscripts you to carry his pack for the obligatory mile, retaliation says strike back (get even); non-retaliation says passive resistance or do what’s required and no more; love says carry the pack an extra mile.
Jesus follows this with “love your enemy” and makes clear that is not an emotion, but action. We are to pray for our enemy, speak well of them and do good to them. (see also Luke 6:27-28) This takes love to a whole new level. Love is not reserved only for friends, family and those with whom we agree. Love is offered to our enemies too.
As I said, I respond to this with a boatload of objections and exceptions. Are there exceptions to this? Yes, of course. (For example, I’m glad that we resisted Hitler.) But in my personal relationships, before I get to the exceptions, I should at least give Jesus’ love a chance! Too often I object first and never try. I’m afraid that I’ll be taken advantage of or abused or mistreated, so out of self-preservation I don’t even try Jesus’ way. I just fight back!
My challenge is to take Jesus’ words seriously and try to live them with His help. Give love a chance!
Prayer: Lord, this is so hard for me. I want to fight back! I want to resist! Give me the courage and the will to try Your way instead of mine.