“Emmanuel’s Ethics, Part 3” – Matthew 5:38-48

February 1st,  2015

Matthew 5:38-48  (Romans 12:17-13:5; Philippians 2:1-11)

“Emmanuel’s Ethics – Pt 3”

 

As to caring about the Sermon on the Mount, if caring for here means liking or enjoying, I suppose no one cares for it.  Who can like being knocked flat on his face by a sledge-hammer?  I can hardly imagine a more deadly spiritual condition than that of the man who can read that passage with tranquil pleasure.”   (C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock, 182)

 

Service Orientation: Our 21st century definition of love and our understanding of the heart of God is so shallow and superficial that we look at these words of Jesus to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, and love our enemies and think He can’t be serious.  Jesus has never been more serious.  In fact, Jesus died demonstrating His love for us even when we were His enemies.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  Matthew 16:24-25

 

Background Information:

  • In Mt 5:20-48, then, we find out precisely what fulfillment of the law would look like in daily life. In this crucial passage, where the rightness of the kingdom heart is most fully displayed, there is a sequence of contrasts between the older teaching about what the good person would do–for example, not murder–and Jesus’ picture of the kingdom heart.  That heart would live with full tenderness toward everyone it deals with.  This passage in Matthew 5 moves from the deepest roots of human evil, burning anger and obsessive desire, to the pinnacle of human fulfillment in agape, or divine love.  In this way the entire edifice of human corruption is undermined by eliminating its foundations in human personality.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 136-37)
  • The command is obviously not absolute, but refers to non-resistance to personal wrong. (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 34)
  • Probably no part of the Sermon on the Mount has been so misinterpreted and misapplied as 5:38-42. It has been interpreted to mean that Christians are to be sanctimonious doormats.  It has been used to promote pacifism, conscientious objection to military service, lawlessness, anarchy, and a host of other positions that it does not support.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 329)
  • There are people who are never tired of telling us that the real problem in the world today is that everybody is talking about his rights instead of his duties. It is with this tendency that our Lord is dealing here.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 250)
  • (v. 38) The earliest reference to Lex Talionis comes from the Code of Hammurabi in the second millennium B.C. Far from being savage legislation, it was intrinsically merciful because it limited vengeance.  The typical primitive blood feud knew nothing of equity.  A small infraction by one tribe against another–for instance, trespassing–was met with a beating, which was returned by homicide, which was then countered by genocide.  Lex Talionis did away with this–on paper at least.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 131)
  • (v. 38) The Jewish jurists argued rightly that to carry it out literally might in fact be the reverse of justice, because it obviously might involve the displacement of a good eye or a good tooth for a bad eye or a bad tooth. And very soon the injury done was assessed at a money value; and the Jewish law in the tractate Baba Kamma carefully lays down how the damage is to be assessed.  If a man has injured another, he is liable on five counts–for injury, for pain, for healing, for loss of time, for indignity suffered.  In regard to injury, the injured man is looked on as a slave to be sold in the market place.  His value before and after the injury was assessed, and the man responsible for the injury had to pay the difference.  He was responsible for the loss in value of the man injured.  In regard to pain, it was estimated how much money a man would accept to be willing to undergo the pain of the injury inflicted, and the man responsible for the injury had to pay that sum.  In regard to healing, the injurer had to pay the expenses of the necessary medical attention, until a complete cure had been effected.  In regard to loss of time, the injurer had to pay compensation for the wages lost while the injured man was unable to work, and he had also to pay compensation if the injured man had held a well paid position, and was now, in consequence of the injury, fit for less well rewarded work.  In regard to indignity, the injurer had to pay damages for the humiliation and indignity which the injury had inflicted.  In actual practice the type of compensation which the Lex Talionis laid down is strangely modern.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 164-5)
  • (v. 39) The word “resist” translates the word anthistemi, also used for “take legal action against.” (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 102)
  • (v. 39) Slapping the face was the Eastern equivalent of our spitting in the face–the ultimate in insult. The disciple must be willing to submit to a second insult rather than retaliate.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 34)
  • (v. 39) Among Jews, a slap or other striking in the face was among the most demeaning and contemptuous of acts (cf. Mt 26:67-68; Mk 14:65; Jn 18:22).  To strike someone elsewhere on the body might cause more physical harm, but a slap in the face was an attack on one’s honor and was considered to be a terrible indignity.  It was to be treated with disdain, as being less than a human.  Even a slave would rather have been struck across the back with a whip than be slapped in the face by his master’s hand.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 333)
  • (v. 39) Suppose a right-handed man is standing in front of another man, and suppose he wants to slap the other man on the right cheek, how must he do it? Unless he goes through the most complicated contortion, and unless he empties the blow of all force, he can hit the other man’s cheek only in one way–with the back of his hand.  Now according to Jewish Rabbinic law to hit a man with the back of the hand was twice as insulting as to hit him with the flat of the hand.  So, then, what Jesus is saying is this: “Even if a man should direct at you the most deadly and calculated insult, you must on no account retaliate, and you must on no account resent it.”  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 166)
  • (v. 39) The word translated “resist” is itself problematic; what translators have failed to note is how frequently anthistemi is used as a military term. Resistance implies “counteractive aggression,” a response to hostilities initiated by someone else.  Liddell-Scott defines anthistemi as to “set against esp. in battle, withstand.” Eph 6:13 is exemplary of its military usage:  “Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand [antistenai, literally, to draw up battle ranks against the enemy] in the evil day, and having done all, to stand [stenai, literally, to close ranks and continue to fight].”  The term is used in the LXX primarily for armed resistance in military encounters (44 out of 71 times).  Josephus uses anthistemi for violent struggle 15 out of 17 times, Philo 4 out of 10.  Jesus’ answer is set against the backdrop of the burning question of forcible resistance to Rome.  In that context, “resistance” could have only one meaning: lethal violence.  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)
  • (v. 40) None but a fool will stand upon the words, so as to maintain, that we must yield to our opponents what they demand, before coming into a court of law: for such compliance would more strongly inflame the minds of wicked men to robbery and extortion; and we know, that nothing was farther from the design of Christ.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 299)
  • (v. 41) At any moment a Jew might feel the touch of the flat of a Roman spear on his shoulder, and know that he was compelled to serve the Romans, it might be in the most menial way. That, in fact, is what happened to Simon of Cyrene, when he was compelled (aggareuein) to bear the Cross of Jesus.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 168)
  • (v. 41) One mile, the term for one thousand paces. (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 103)
  • (v. 41) The second mile is your choice. It’s your way of saying, “God is in control here.  He gives me energy, and a mere mile does not exhaust me.  That sword is nothing; God is everything.  Do you want to know where the real power lies?  Try to keep up with me and I’ll tell you.”  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 104)
  • (v. 43) In placing what He said above what tradition said, He placed His word on a par with Scripture–as His hearers well understood. Jesus not only placed emphasis on what was said but on who said it.  It was not just that His teaching was the standard of truth, but that He Himself was the standard of truth.  “Your great rabbis, scribes, and scholars have taught you to love only those of your own preference and to hate your enemies,” Jesus was saying.  “But by My own authority, I declare that they are false teachers and have perverted God’s revealed truth.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 344)
  • (v. 43) Omitted in the tradition was the phrase “as yourself,” which was a key part of the Leviticus text but could not possibly fit into their scheme of proud self-righteousness. It simply was inconceivable that they should care for any other person as much as they cared for themselves.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 340)
  • (v. 43) Along with that significant omission, tradition had narrowed the meaning of neighbor to include only those people they preferred and approved of–which amounted basically to their own kind. Such obviously profane people as tax-gatherers and ordinary sinners were despised as outcasts and as not being worthy even to be considered Jews.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 341)
  • (v. 43) It goes without saying that Gentiles were not considered neighbors. A saying of the Pharisees has been discovered that reads, “If a Jew sees a Gentile fallen into the sea, let him by no means lift him out, for it is written, ‘Thou shalt not rise up against the blood of thy neighbor,’ but this man is not thy neighbor.”  It is little wonder that the Romans charged Jews with hatred of the human race.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 341)
  • (v. 45) In a verse quoted more than any other from the NT during the church’s first four centuries, Jesus taught that God loves everyone, and values all, even those who make themselves God’s enemies. We are therefore to do likewise (Mt 5:45; cf. Lk 6:35).  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)
  • (v. 48) The sum of all that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount–in fact, the sum of all He teaches in Scripture–is in those words. The great purpose of salvation, the goal of the gospel, and the great yearning of the heart of God is for all men to become like Him.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 349-50)
  • (v. 48) The word translated “perfect” is teleios, a word that can also be translated “mature” or “full-grown” (as in Eph 4:13; Heb 5:14-6:1). (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 106)

 

The question to be answered is . . . Why is Jesus saying such hard things to the audience that heard His Sermon on the Mount as well as to us?

 

Answer:  Because Jesus knows that selfish unrighteousness is at the core of our natural being and that before we can begin to truly understand the purpose of the Law and life in the Spirit we need to comprehend the radically counter-intuitive nature of the Law of God whose fulfillment is love.

 

These verses teach that a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ has no right to retaliation, no right to things, no right to his own time, and no right to his money.  In other words, he holds all his possessions in trust from the Lord, and he is obliged to use them as Jesus did, to help others.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 134)

 

The world advocates getting even, looking out for oneself, and protecting one’s “personal rights.”  Jesus’ followers, however, were to hold loosely to their “personal rights,” preferring to forgo those rights for the sake of bearing witness to the gospel and the kingdom.  Being willing to set aside one’s personal rights does not mean that believers have to sit passively while evil goes unhindered (see how Paul dealt with this matter in Acts 16:37; 22:25; 25:8-12).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 102)

 

Resentment is when you let your hurt become hate.  Resentment is when you allow what is eating you to eat you up.  Resentment is when you poke, stoke, feed, and fan the fire, stirring the flames and reliving the pain.

Resentment is the deliberate decision to nurse the offense until it becomes a black, furry, growling grudge.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 100)

 

Resentment is the cocaine of the emotions.  It causes our blood to pump and our energy level to rise.

But, also like cocaine, it demands increasingly larger and more frequent dosages.  There is a dangerous point at which anger ceases to be an emotion and becomes a driving force.  A person bent on revenge moved unknowingly further and further away from being able to forgive, for to be without the anger is to be without a source of energy.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 102-03)

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Love

 

“When you make the choice to care, the price you pay is pain.”  —Steve Brown

 

What is Jesus trying to teach us about the true goal of the Law with this extremely unconventional wisdom?

I-  Love, not revenge is the goal of the Law. (Mt 5:17, 20; 22:36-40; see also: Dt 32:35; 1 Sm 24:3-7; 2 Sm 16:5-10; Rom 13:10 ; Gal 5:14; Ja 2:8)

 

You were not created to be a law follower.  You were created to love and the Law is simply a guide or a rule to assist you to know how to love and how to define love.  — Pastor Keith

 

To sum up the teaching of this antithesis, Jesus was not prohibiting the administration of justice, but rather forbidding us to take the law into our own hands.  “An eye for an eye” is a principle of justice belonging to courts of law.  In personal life we must be rid not only of all retaliation in word and deed, but of all animosity of spirit.  We can and must commit our cause to the good and righteous Judge, as Jesus himself did, but it is not for us to seek or to desire any personal revenge.  We must not repay injury but suffer it, and so overcome evil with good.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 113)

 

We are tempted to get more than just even.  Anger and resentment demand the sort of retaliation Lamech glorified.  Human vengeance is never satisfied with justice; it wants a pound of flesh for an ounce of offense.  That is one reason why God restricts vengeance to Himself.  “Vengeance is Mine, and retribution” (Dt 32:35; cf. Rom 12:19; Heb 10:30).

God’s command for the individual has always been, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink” (Prv 25:21; cf. Mt 5:44; Rom 12:20).  No individual has the right to say, “Thus I shall do to him as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work” (Prv 24:29).  In no instance did the OT allow an individual to take the law into his own hands and apply it personally.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 330)

 

Our main disagreement with Tolstoy and Gandhi, however, must not be that their views were unrealistic, but that they were unbiblical.  For we cannot take Jesus’ command, “Resist not evil,” as an absolute prohibition of the use of all force (including the police) unless we are prepared to say that the Bible contradicts itself and the apostles misunderstood Jesus.  For the NT teaches that the state is a divine institution, commissioned (through its executive office-bearers) both to punish the wrong-doer (i.e., to “resist one who is evil” to the point of making him bear the penalty of his evil) and to reward those who do good.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 110)

 

Jesus does not undercut civil justice, which belongs in the courtroom.  He undercuts personal selfishness (characteristic of the false religionists listening to Him on the mountain), which belongs nowhere and especially not in the hearts of His kingdom people.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 335)

 

One thing the Bible makes abundantly clear is that human beings with a stake in their self-centered lives are experts in fooling themselves. (D. James Kennedy; What Is God Like?, 73)

 

Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit.  For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 286)

 

In the words of Lewis Smedes:

Vengeance is a passion to get even.  It is a hot desire to give back as much pain as someone gave you. . . The problem with revenge is that it never gets what it wants; it never evens the score.   Fairness never comes.  The chain reaction set off by every act of vengeance always takes its unhindered course.  It tries both the injured and the injurer to an escalator of pain.  Both are stuck on the escalator as long as parity is demanded, and the escalator never stops, never lets anyone off.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 115)

 

Of course the grounds will never be personal retaliation.  And there will never, as I live in the kingdom, be room for “getting even.”  We do not “render evil for evil,” as the early Christians clearly understood and practiced (Rom 12:17; 1 Pt 3:9).  That is out of the question as far as our life is kingdom living.  That is the point Jesus is making here.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 180)

 

The main intent of the Mosaic legislation was to control excesses.  In this case in particular, it was to control anger and violence and the desire for revenge.  There is no need to elaborate on this, because we are all unfortunately familiar with it.  We are all guilty of it.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 239)

 

What the religious scholars did with this command, which was designed not for private revenge but legal justice and “not to justify retaliation but to limit it,” was twist it to say (I paraphrase), “Hey, if you toucha me, I breaka your face.”  They twisted God’s Word so as to condone the unloving attitude and action of “I’m gettin’ even.”  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 140)

 

From our very earliest days we have this desire for revenge; it is one of the most hideous and ugly results of the fall of man, and of original sin.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 239)

 

The object of that law was not to urge men to take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, and to insist upon it every time; it was simply meant to avoid this horrible excess, this terrible spirit of revenge and demand for retribution, and to check it and hold it within bounds.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 240)

 

They were turning a negative injunction into a positive one and, furthermore, were interpreting it and carrying it out themselves, and teaching others to do so, instead of seeing that it was something that was to be carried out only by the appointed judges who were responsible for law and order.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 241)

 

The OT checked vengeance.  Jesus forbade revenge.  His words were directed against the abuse of this law by the Pharisees, who exploited it for personal revenge.  It should be noted that this law related to the public administration of law by officers, not to private vengeance.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 34)

 

The Lex Talionis, the law of tit for tat, so far from being a savage and bloodthirsty law, is in fact the beginning of mercy.  Its original aim was definitely the limitation of vengeance.  In the very earliest days the vendetta and the blood feud were characteristic of tribal society.  If a man of one tribe injured a man of another tribe, then at once all the members of the tribe of the injured man were out to take vengeance on all the members of the tribe of the man who committed the injury; and the vengeance desired was nothing less then death.  This law deliberately limits vengeance.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 163-4)

 

This law was never intended to give the individual person the right to indulge even in the vengeance of tit for tat.  It was always intended as a guide for a judge in the assessment of the penalty which any violent or unjust deed must receive.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 164)

 

This was a law for the civil courts, laid down in order that the practice of seeking private revenge might be discouraged.  The OT passages do not mean, “Take personal revenge whenever you are wronged.”  They mean the exact opposite, “Do not avenge yourself but let justice be administered publicly.”  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 310)

 

Selfist theory emphasizes the isolated conscious self as the sole judge of what the self should value and how it should act.  Such an emphasis almost guarantees the breakdown of the higher ideals into a rationalization of selfishness permeated with narcissism.  Hostility toward tradition and any other authority tends to have similar effects.  It is no wonder that narcissism is the most rapidly increasing clinical syndrome and a lively theoretical issue in psychotherapy today.  (Paul C. Vitz; Psychology as Religion, 101)

 

II-  Love means you must be willing to turn the other cheek.  (Mt 5:38-39; see also: Lam 3:30;  Mt 16:24-25; 26:67-68; Mk 14:65; 15:17-20;   1 Cor 6:1-7; 1 Pt 2:23-24)

 

Why then does he counsel these already humiliated people to turn the other cheek?  Because this action robs the oppressor of the power to humiliate.  The person who turns the other cheek is saying, in effect, “Try again.  Your first blow failed to achieve its intended effect.  I deny you the power to humiliate me.  I am a human being just like you.  Your status does not alter that fact.  You cannot demean me.”  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

According to rabbinic law, to hit someone with the back of the hand was twice as insulting as hitting him with the flat of the hand.  The back of the hand meant calculated contempt, withering disdain.  It meant that you were scorned as inconsequential–a nothing.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 133)

 

Jesus is not encouraging submission to evil; that would run counter to everything he did and said.  He is, rather, warning against responding to evil in kind by letting the oppressor set the terms of our opposition.  Perhaps most importantly, he cautions us against being made over into the very evil we oppose by adopting its methods and spirit.  He is saying, in effect, Do not mirror evil; do not become the very thing you hate.  The best translation is the Scholars Version:  “Don’t react violently against the one who is evil.”  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

Our tormentors, no doubt, count on our resistance and anger to support their continuation of the evil that is in them.  If we respond as Jesus indicates, the force of their own actions pulls them off their stance and forces them to question what kind of people they are.  Of course they are acting from anger, and worse.  But now with our other cheek facing them, slapped already or soon to be slapped, the justification of their anger and evil that they were counting on has been removed.  As anger feeds on anger, so patient goodness will normally deflate it.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 180)

 

There is no revenge as complete as forgiveness.

 

If everyone followed the “eye for an eye” principle of justice, observed Gandhi, eventually the whole world would go blind.   (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 116)

 

Love is not love until you recognize how difficult it is to love.  And love without that recognition is not love but simply dribble.  — Steve Brown

 

If I owe money to a shopkeeper whose goods I have already consumed, I am not at liberty to give that money to “someone who asks of me”–unless, once again, there are very special factors involved.

If turning the other cheek means I will then be dead, or that others will suffer great harm, I have to consider this larger context.  Much more than my personal pain or humiliation is involved.  Does that mean I will “shoot first”?  Not necessarily, but it means I can’t just invoke a presumed “law of required vulnerability.”  I must decide before God what to do, and there may be grounds for some measure of resistance.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 179)

 

Let me give you two illustrations of men who, we must all agree, put this teaching into practice.  The first is about the famous Cornish evangelist, Billy Bray, who before his conversion was a pugilist, and a very good one.  Billy Bray was converted; but one day, down in the mine, another man who used to live in mortal dread and terror of Billy Bray before Bray’s conversion, knowing he was converted, thought he had at last found his opportunity.  Without any provocation at all he struck Billy Bray, who could very easily have revenged himself upon him and laid him down unconscious on the ground.  But instead of doing that Billy Bray looked at him and said, “May God forgive you, even as I forgive you,” and no more.  The result was that that man endured for several days an agony of mind and spirit which led directly to his conversion.  He knew what Billy Bray could do, and he knew what the natural man in Billy Bray wanted to do.  But Billy Bray did not do it; and that is how God used him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 248)

 

A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green.  — Francis Bacon

 

The Mishnaic tractate Baba Qamma specifies the various fines for striking an equal:  for slugging with a fist, 4 zuz (a zuz was a day’s wage); for slapping, 200 zuz; but “if [he struck him] with the back of his hand he must pay him 400 zuz.”  But damages for indignity were not paid to slaves who are struck (8:1-7).

A backhand slap was the usual way of admonishing inferiors.  Masters backhanded slaves; husbands, wives; parents, children; men, women; Romans, Jews. We have here a set of unequal relations, in each of which retaliation would be suicidal.  The only normal response would be cowering submission.  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

III-  Love means you must be willing to give up everything for the sake of another.  (Mt 5:40, 42; see also: Ex 22:25-27; Dt 15:7-11; Ps 37:26; 112:5; Prv 19:17; Ez 18:7; Mt 16:24-25; Lk 6:30; 2 Cor 8:8-9; 2 Thes 3:10; 1 Jn 3:16-20)

 

A love that will not bear all, care for all, share all, is not love at all.   (Croft M. Pentz, Zingers, 185)

 

The measure of our love is the measure of our sacrifice.  (Croft M. Pentz, Zingers, 183)

 

Jesus’ followers should have a generous spirit.  Because they loosely hold on to their personal rights and possessions, they can freely give when the need arises and won’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow.  While people should not blindly give away their possessions (the book of Proverbs makes recommendations about this, see Prv 11:15; 17:18; 22:26).  Jesus illustrated the heart attitude that he expected of his followers.  They must willingly put other’s needs before their own and other’s rights before their own.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 104)

 

This statement certainly forms the basis of all Christian charity and provides the proper social application of the message of the gospel to the physical needs of man as well as to his spiritual needs.  However, when we receive charity letters seeking donations, God expects us to use common sense, to evaluate the merits of the need, the needs of our family, and our ability to give.  The balance has to be that “if any one does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tm 5:8).  Paul also commanded, “If anyone will not work, neither let him eat” (2 Thes 3:10).  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 62)

 

Jesus is reminding his disciples in this figurative way that to stand on their “rights” and seek to have their dignity reaffirmed is not the Christian response to any insult.

“Let the insults come,” says Jesus, “and show by your response that you feel no need for retaliation, because you have your reputation secure with God, as his child.  Let your response to insult be gracious–just as your Father’s response to your insult of sin against him has been so gracious.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 100)

 

The Christian life is a broad road of happiness, joy, peace, blessing, success, significance, and contentment, which is ironically gained by choosing the narrow road of surrender, obedience, self-denial, self-sacrifice, truth, worship and service. (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 179)

 

Benevolence is the gauge of a righteous heart.  — Steve Brown

 

Let us realize that the words of the weakling and the coward, of the pacifist and the poltroon, are worthless to stop wrongdoing.  Wrongdoing will only be stopped by men who are brave as well as just, who put honor above safety, who are true to a lofty ideal of duty, and who shrink from no hazard, not even the great cause of righteousness.  (Theodore Roosevelt, Fear God and Take Your Own Part, 383)

 

Respect for law and for the welfare of others is always among the first and major casualties of self-assertion.  When self is in the foreground, everything else and everyone else is pushed to the background.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 328)

 

Within the human order, the presumption is that you return harm for harm (“resist evil”), that you do only what legal force requires you to, and that you give only to those who have some prior claim on you (those who are “family” or have done you a favor, etc.).

The presumption is precisely reversed once we stand within the kingdom.  There the presumption is that I will return good for evil and “resist” only for compelling reasons, that I will do more than I strictly must in order to help others, and that I give to people merely because they have asked me for something they need.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 178)

 

If I know people want to borrow something they need, I will not avoid them and their request, and I may, as appropriate, give to those who ask me for something even though they have no “claim” on me at all–no claim, that is, other than their need and their simple request.  That is how God does it, and he invites us to join him.

Of course in each case I must determine if the gift of my vulnerability, goods, time, and strength is, precisely, appropriate.  That is my responsibility before God.  As a child of the King, I always live in his presence.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 179)

 

Our treatment of others must never depend upon what they are, or upon what they do to us.  It must be entirely controlled and governed by our view of them and of their condition.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 268)

 

The scribes and Pharisees, by contrast, knew nothing either of righteous indignation or righteous love.  Their only indignation was that of personal hatred, and their only love was that of self-esteem.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 343)

 

The human tendency is to base love on the desirability of the object of our love.  We love people who are attractive, hobbies that are enjoyable, a house or a car because it looks nice and pleases us, and so on.  But true love is need-oriented.  The Good Samaritan demonstrated great love because he sacrificed his own convenience, safety, and resources to meet another’s desperate need.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 344-5)

 

In summary:  we have no right to hate the person who tries to deprive us of our possessions.  Love even toward him should fill our hearts and reveal itself in our actions.  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 310)

 

When he said, “I tell you, love your enemies,” he must have startled his audience, for he was saying something that probably never before had been said so succinctly, positively, and forcefully.  Thorough research of all the relevant sources resulted in the statement: “The conclusion remains that the first one who has taught mankind to see the neighbor in every human being, and therefore to encounter every human being in love was Jesus; see the parable of The Good (literally, the Compassionate) Samaritan.”  Without in any way denying that statement one might add, Jesus taught the people that one should not even ask, “And who is my neighbor?”  but should prove himself neighbor to the man in need, whoever that might be (see Lk 10:36).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 313)

 

Paul could “resist” (same Gr. word) Peter to his face (Gal 2) because love demanded it in light of the damage being done to the gospel and to fellow believers.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 157)

 

Why then does Jesus counsel them to give over their undergarments as well?  This would mean stripping off all their clothing and marching out of court stark naked!  Imagine the guffaws this saying must have evoked.  There stands the creditor, covered with shame, the poor debtor’s outer garment in the one hand, his undergarment in the other.  The tables have suddenly been turned on the creditor.  The debtor had no hope of winning the case; the law was entirely in the creditor’s favor.  But the poor man has transcended this attempt to humiliate him.  He has risen above shame.  At the same time he has registered a stunning protest against the system that created his debt.  He has said in effect, “You want my robe?  Here, take everything!  Now you’ve got all I have except my body.  Is that what you’ll take next?”

Nakedness was taboo in Judaism, and shame fell less on the naked party than on the person viewing or causing the nakedness (Gn 9:20-27).   By stripping, the debtor has brought the creditor under the same prohibition that led to the curse of Canaan. And much as Isaiah had “walked naked and barefoot for three years” as a prophetic sign (Isa 20:1-6), so the debtor parades his nakedness in prophetic protest against a system that has deliberately rendered him destitute.  Imagine him leaving the court, naked:  his friends and neighbors, aghast, inquire what happened.  He explains.  They join his growing procession, which now resembles a victory parade.  The entire system by which debtors are oppressed has been publicly unmasked.  The creditor is revealed to be not a legitimate moneylender but a party to the reduction of an entire social class to landlessness, destitution, and abasement.  This unmasking is not simply

punitive, therefore; it offers the creditor a chance to see, perhaps for the first time in his life, what his practices cause, and to repent.

The Powers That Be literally stand on their dignity.  Nothing depotentiates them faster than deft lampooning.  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

Jesus provides here a hint of how to take on the entire system by unmasking its essential cruelty and burlesquing its pretensions to justice.  Here is a poor man who will no longer be treated as a sponge to be squeezed dry by the rich.  He accepts the laws as they stand, pushes them to absurdity, and reveals them for what they have become.  He strips naked, walks out before his fellows, and leaves this creditor, and the whole economic edifice which he represents, stark naked.  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

Forgiveness is love.  It means letting go of anger, hostility, and resentment; letting go of hurt and sadness; letting go of the right to get even. (Doris Wild Helmering, The 7th Sense)

 

An act of justice closes the book on a misdeed; an act of vengeance writes one of its own. — Marilyn vos Savant

 

Jesus is putting forth a spirit of charity, a spirit of being willing to help those in need and those who ask you for support.  This does not mean, of course, that we are not to be discerning in its application.  If we were to give to everyone who asks us for absolutely anything, we would be completely depleted at the end of a week.  What Jesus is instructing is the willingness to give and to help.

In the early Christian writing called the Didache, or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, there is this aphorism: “Let your donation sweat in your hand.”  The principle enjoined there is to be wise in your giving.  We are not to give to just anything; rather, we must make sure that we give to worthwhile causes.  Such qualifications come from the overall teaching of Scripture about almsgiving.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 125-6)

 

Joseph’s brothers come shamefaced into Joseph’s presence with fear.  “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back for all the wrong that we did to him?”  They repent.  Joseph weeps.

Then, to these chastened brothers, these grown-up men so desperately afraid that their younger brother will not forgive them, Joseph says words we have to hear.  “Do not be afraid!”  He says.  “Am I in the place of God?”

God, you see, can withhold forgiveness.  We cannot. (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.; Assurances of the Heart, 253)

 

IV-  Love means you must be willing to go the extra mile of inconvenience to demonstrate that love is at the core of your being. (Mt 5:41; see also:  Mt 16:24-25; 27:32; Mk 15:21; 1 Cor 10:31; Col 3:17, 23; Heb 5:14)

 

The result will be that when you arrive this soldier will say:  “Who is this person?  What is it about him that makes him act like this?  He is doing it cheerfully, and is going beyond his duty.”  And they will be driven to this conclusion:  “This man is different, he seems to be unconcerned about his own interests.”  As Christians, our state of mind and spiritual condition should be such that no power can insult us.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 253)

 

As you approach the end of that mile, he’s expecting you to walk up to the mile marker and throw it down; but instead, he sees your feet keep right on going, and you walk the second mile.  Suddenly, that guy who did all the talking for the first mile shuts up and looks at you.  Now it’s your turn.  You’ve got him.  For one mile he had you, but for the next mile you have him.  (Bob Yandian, Salt & Light, The Sermon on the Mount, 61)

 

In each of the four situations, Jesus said, our Christian duty is so completely to forbear revenge that we even allow the “evil” person to double the injury.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 106)

 

The high-minded man does not bear grudges, for it is not the mark of a great soul to remember injuries, but to forget them. — Aristotle

 

The natural man always thinks of sin in terms of actions, things that are done or not done.  The Christian is interested in the heart.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 278)

 

There are always two ways of doing things.  A man can do the irreducible minimum and not a stroke more; he can do it in such a way as to make it clear that he hates the whole thing; he can do it with the barest minimum of efficiency and no more; or he can do it with a smile, with a gracious courtesy, with a determination, not only to do this thing, but to do it well and graciously.  He can do it, not simply as well as he has to, but far better than anyone has any right to expect him to.  The inefficient workman, the resentful servant, the ungracious helper have not even begun to have the right idea of the Christian life.  The Christian is not concerned to do as he likes; he is concerned only to help, even when the demand for help is discourteous, unreasonable and tyrannical.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 169)

 

But why carry his pack a second mile?  Is this not to rebound to the opposite extreme of aiding and abetting the enemy?   Not at all.  The question here, as in the two previous instances, is how the oppressed can recover the initiative and assert their human dignity in a situation that cannot for the time being be changed.  The rules are Caesar’s, but how one responds to the rules is God’s, and Caesar has no power over that.

Imagine then the soldier’s surprise when, at the next mile marker, he reluctantly reaches to assume his pack, and the civilian says, “Oh no, let me carry it another mile.”  Why would he want to do that?  What is he up to?  Normally, soldiers have to coerce people to carry their packs, but this Jew does so cheerfully, and will not stop!  Is this a provocation?  Is he insulting the legionnaire’s strength?  Being kind? Trying to get him disciplined for seeming to violate the rules of impressment?  Will this civilian file a complaint?  Create trouble?

From a situation of servile impressment, the oppressed have once more seized the initiative.  They have taken back the power of choice.  The soldier is thrown off balance by being deprived of the predictability of his victim’s response.  He has never dealt with such a problem before.  Now he has been forced into making a decision for which nothing in his previous experience has prepared him.  If he has enjoyed feeling superior to the vanquished, he will not enjoy it today.  Imagine the situation of a  Roman infantryman pleading with a Jew to give back his pack!  The humor of this scene may have escaped us, but it could scarcely have been lost on Jesus’ hearers, who must have been regaled at the prospect of thus discomfiting their oppressors. Jesus does not encourage Jews to walk a second mile in order to build up merit in heaven, or to exercise a supererogatory piety, or to kill the soldier with kindness.  He is helping an oppressed people find a way to protest and neutralize an onerous practice despised throughout the empire.  He is not giving a non-political message of spiritual  world-transcendence.  He is formulating a worldly spirituality in which the people at the bottom of society or under the thumb of imperial power learn to recover their humanity.  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

V-  Love must define all that we do.  Even to the extent of loving our enemies.  (Mt 5:43-45; see also: Ex 23:4-5; Dt 7:2; 20:16; 23:3-6; 25:17-19; Job 31:29-30; Ps 139:19-24; Prv 24:17; 25:21-22;   Mt 7:12; 16:24-25; 19:19; 22:21, 36-40;  Mk 12;17; Lk 6:27-28, 35; 10:27-37; 20:25; Rom 5:6-10; 12:17-21; 1 Cor 5:13)

 

Love is not love until it manifests itself in the face of that which is not lovely. — Steve Brown

 

“Why are we to love our enemies?   Because we’re not sure who they are.” (Steve Brown message, The Sure Things of Life)

 

Love in response to goodness is not love at all, but reward.   You can never really  know if you have been loved until you are unlovable.  Love is a choice of loving in spite of behavior or circumstances.  —Steve Brown

 

Can you look beyond his or her behavior and get a glimpse of why he or she matters to God?  As Ralf Luther said, “To love one’s enemy does not mean to love the mire in which the pearl lies, but to love the pearl that lies in the mire.”  (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 22)

 

Our enemy is seeking our harm; we must seek his good.  For this is how God has treated us.  It is “while we were enemies” that Christ died for us to reconcile us to God.  If he gave himself for his enemies, we must give ourselves for ours.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 118)

 

The Greek word used here indicates a love that loves despite the unloveliness, or even repulsiveness, of its object.  It is a love that does not demand, but gives.  It involves not only emotion but volition and action.  It is expressed freely to deserving and undeserving alike.  (J. Oswald Sanders, Bible Studies in Matthew’s Gospel, 35)

 

The rule for all of us is perfectly simple.  Do not waste your time bothering whether you “love’ your neighbor; act as if you did.  As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets.  When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.  If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more.  If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less…The difference between a Christian and a worldly man is not that the worldly man has only affections of “likings” and the Christian has only “charity.”  The worldly man treats certain people kindly because he “likes” them; the Christian, trying to treat every one kindly, finds himself liking more and more people as he goes on–including people he could not even have imagined himself liking at the beginning.  (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 101-2)

 

Here the old “rightness” was very simple.  It was really just another application of the lex talionis.  They seek our destruction, so we seek theirs in the same way.  They hate us, so we hate them.  It is only right to do so (Mt 5:43).

Jesus, on the other hand, tells us to love our enemies and to carry that love through with the highest act of love, prayer.  “Love your enemies and pray for those persecuting you.  In this way you take on the nature your Father, the one in the heavens, who routinely gives good things, such as sunshine and rain, to both the evil and the good, to those who are godly and those who spit in his face” (Mt 5:44-45).

Loving those who love us and lavishing care and honor on those of our own group is something that traitorous oppressors, the Mafia, and terrorists do.  How, then, could that serve to distinguish the goodness of someone born into God’s family or the presence of a different kind of reality and life?  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 181-82)

 

They said that the “neighbor” meant only an Israelite; so they taught the Jews to love the Jews, but they told them at the same time to regard everybody else not only as an alien but as an enemy.  Indeed they went so far as to suggest that it was their business, almost their right and their duty, to hate all such people.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 264-5)

 

How much of our thinking and acting and behavior is entirely governed by other people.  It is one of the things that make life so wretched.  You see a particular person and your spirit is upset.  If you had not seen that person you would not have felt like that.  Other people are controlling you.  “Now,” says Christ in effect, “you must get out of that condition.  Your love must become such that you will no longer be governed and controlled by what people say.  Your life must be governed by a new principle in yourself, a new principle of love.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 269)

 

There has never been a natural man who has been able to love his enemy, to do good to them that hate him, to bless them that curse him, and to pray for them that despitefully use him and persecute him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 280)

 

David grieved over and prayed for his enemies when they were sick and in need, despite the fact that they repaid him “evil for good” and rejoiced when he himself was in trouble.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 339)

 

David would not harm Saul directly, and he would not let anyone else do so in his behalf.  David’s conviction was deep and sincere.  Though he had every human reason to hate Saul, David refused to return evil for evil.  He would not hate his enemy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 339)

 

Throughout the OT, God’s standard for His people was to treat even their enemies like their friends and families.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 339)

 

We are to share God’s own balance of love and justice.  God loved Adam, but He cursed him.  God loved Cain, but He punished him.  God loved Sodom and Gomorrah, but He destroyed them.  God loved Israel, but He allowed her to be conquered and exiled, and He set her aside for a while.

The scribes and Pharisees had no such balance.  They had no love for justice, but only for vengeance.  And they had no love for their enemies, but only for themselves.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 343)

 

The best way to have the right attitude, the agapē love attitude, toward those who persecute us is to bring them before the Lord in prayer.  We may sense their wickedness, their unfairness, their ungodliness, and their hatred for us, and in light of those things we could not possibly love them for what they are.  We must love them because of who they are–sinners fallen from the image of God and in need of God’s forgiveness and grace, just as we were sinners in need of His forgiveness and grace before He saved us.  We are to pray for them that they will, as we have done, seek His forgiveness and grace.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 347)

 

Its perversion in the popular summary drew a sharp contrast between neighbor and enemy, as if the purpose of the commandment had been that the former be loved and the latter bated.  The result was the question, “And who is my neighbor?”  (Lk 10:29).  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 312)

 

Jesus explained to his disciples that they must live by a higher standard than what the world expects–a standard that is impossible to reach on mere human strength alone.  People who have experienced God’s love understand what it means to be loved undeservedly.  Only with the help of God’s Spirit can his people love and pray for those who seek to do them harm (see Rom 12:14-21).  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 105-6)

 

To like someone is to have a certain emotional feeling toward them, and because we cannot entirely control our feelings it is not always possible to like everybody.  I am not even sure that we should.  I believe, for instance, that there is a sense in which we can say that God does not really like the way we are.  But he does love us, and that is an entirely different thing.  Love is not a matter of the feelings; it is a matter of the will.  And because it is of the will and not of the feelings, it is something that is always possible and that may always express itself in good actions.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 143)

 

Lk 10:25-37 shows how far the “neighbor” category extends.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 157)

 

“In loving his friends a man may in a certain sense be loving only himself–a kind of expanded selfishness” (Broadus).  Jesus will not condone this.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 160)

 

If my house is burgled one night and I catch the thief, it may well be my duty to sit him down and give him something to eat and drink, while at the same time telephoning the police.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 112)

 

The Canaanites are known from modern near eastern studies to have been utterly corrupt in religion and culture.  So nauseating were their abominable practices that the land itself is described as having “vomited them out.”  Indeed if Israel were to follow their customs, she would share their fate.  “The wars of Israel,” wrote Bonhoeffer, “were the only ‘holy wars’ in history, for they were the wars of God against the world of idols.  It is not this enmity which Jesus condemns, for then he would have condemned the whole history of God’s dealings with his people.  On the contrary, he affirms the old covenant.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 116)

 

The truth is that evil men should be the object simultaneously of our “love” and of our “hatred,” as they are simultaneously the objects of God’s (although his “hatred” is expressed as his “wrath”).  To “love” them is ardently to desire that they will repent and believe, and so be saved.  To “hate” them is to desire with equal ardor that, if they stubbornly refuse to repent and believe, they will incur God’s judgment.  Have you never prayed for the salvation of wicked men (e.g., who blaspheme God or exploit their fellow humans for profit as if they were animals), and gone on to pray that if they refuse God’s salvation, then God’s judgment will fall upon them?  I have.  It is a natural expression of our belief in God, that he is the God both of salvation and of judgment, and that we desire his perfect will to be done.

So there is such a thing as perfect hatred, just as there is such a thing as righteous anger.  But it is a hatred for God’s enemies, not our own enemies.  It is entirely free of all spite, rancor and glory.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 117)

 

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re worthy.

Agape makes them worthy by the strength and power of its love.

Agape doesn’t love somebody because they’re beautiful.

Agape loves in such a way that it makes them beautiful.

(Rob Bell; Sex God, 120)

 

Love your enemies.  It will drive them nuts.  (Eleanor Doan)

 

How does God produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?  By putting us in the exact opposite circumstances so we have a choice to make!  God teaches us how to really love by putting us around unlovable people.  (It doesn’t require any character to love people who have it all together.)  He teaches us joy in times of sorrow.  (Joy is internal.  Happiness depends on what’s happening, but joy is independent of circumstances.)  He develops peace within us by placing us in the midst of chaos so we can learn to trust him. (It doesn’t require character to be at peace when everything is going your way.)  (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church, 361)

 

Christ’s illustrations are not to be taken as the charter for any unscrupulous tyrant, ruffian, beggar or thug.  His purpose was to forbid revenge, not to encourage injustice, dishonesty or vice.  How can those who seek as their first priority the extension of God’s righteous rule at the same time contribute to the spread of unrighteousness?  True love, caring for both the individual and society, takes action to deter evil and to promote good.  And Christ’s command was “a precept of love, not folly.”  He teaches not the irresponsibility which encourages evil but the forbearance which renounces revenge.  Authentic Christian non-resistance is non-retaliation.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 108)

 

VI-  Love is the essential attribute of God and His perfection which we are called to replicate through faith in Christ.  (Mt 5:44-48; see also: Lv 19:1-2; 20:7, 26; Dt 18:13; Ps 119:96; Mic 6:8; Rom 8:29; 13:10; Eph 5:1; Phil 3:7-16; Heb 10:14; 1 Pt 1:15-16; 1 Jn 3:2-3; 4:8, 16)

 

God loves His children, not because of who they are, but because of Who he is.  (Croft M. Pentz)

 

When we love without limits, we are like God.  (R. Kent Hughes; The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom, 142)

 

God is love.  God is love in the NT and God is Love in the OT because God never changes.  That means EVERYTHING that God does, is ultimately to be understood as an act of love.

If we look at God’s treatment of Egypt and Pharaoh in the book of Exodus, and we do not see God’s love in those acts, we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we look at the conquest of Joshua and the eradication of the Canaanite people and do not see it ultimately as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we look at the cross of Christ, and the suffering, anguish, and punishment that He underwent, and do not see it as an act of love, it means we do not understand God’s motivation.

If we cannot understand an act God does and see it as love, then we are either ignorant of the circumstances and God’s motivation or we do not understand what love is.  — Pastor Keith

 

The Bible is clear here:  I am to love my neighbor as myself, in the manner needed, in a practical way, in the midst of the fallen world, at my particular point of history.  This is why I am not a pacifist.  Pacifism in this poor world in which we live–this lost world–means that we desert the people who need our greatest help.

Let me illustrate.  I am walking down the street and I come upon a big, burly man beating a tiny tot to death–beating this little girl–beating her–beating her.  I plead with him to stop.  Suppose he refuses?  What does love mean now?  Love means that I stop him in any way I can, including hitting him.  To me this is not only necessary for humanitarian reasons: it is loyalty to Christ’s commands concerning Christian love in a fallen world.  What about that little girl?  If I desert her to the bully, I have deserted the true meaning of Christian love–responsibility to my neighbor.  She, as well as he, is my neighbor.  (Francis A. Schaeffer; The Great Evangelical Disaster, 128)

 

Love is ever the activity of God.  — Martin Luther

 

To say I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love.  — Thomas a Kempis

 

Definition of love that takes God into account and also includes the feelings that should accompany the outward acts of love:  Love is the overflow of joy in God which gladly meets the needs of others.  (John Piper; Desiring God, 103)

 

He is governed by His own love which is absolutely disinterested.  In other words, it does not depend upon anything that is in us, it is in spite of us.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 268)

 

Love’s question is never who to love–because we are to love everyone–but only how to love most helpfully.  We are not to love merely in terms of feeling but in terms of service.  God’s love embraces the entire world (Jn 3:16), and He loved each of us even while we were still sinners and His enemies (Rom 5:8-10).  Those who refuse to trust in God are His enemies; but He is not theirs.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 346)

 

Those blessings are given without respect to merit or deserving.  If they were, no one would receive them.  In what theologians traditionally have called common grace, God is indiscriminate in His benevolence.  His divine love and providence in some forms benefit everyone, even those who rebel against Him or deny His existence.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 348)

 

That perfection is also utterly impossible in man’s own power.  To those who wonder how Jesus can demand the impossible, He later says, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).  That which God demands, He provides the power to accomplish.  Man’s own righteousness is possible, but is so imperfect that it is worthless; God’s righteousness is impossible for the very reason that it is perfect.  But the impossible righteousness becomes possible for those who trust in Jesus Christ, because He gives them His righteousness.

That is precisely our Lord’s point in all these illustrations and in the whole sermon–to lead His audience to an overpowering sense of spiritual bankruptcy, to a “beatitude attitude” that shows them their need of a Savior, an enabler who alone can empower them to meet God’s standard of perfection.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 350)

 

Ungodly men have no disinterested affection for each other, but only a mercenary regard:  and thus, as Plato judiciously observes, every man draws on himself that affection which he entertains for others.  But Christ demands from his own people disinterested beneficence, and bids them study to aid the poor, from whom nothing can be expected in return.  We now see what it is, to have an open hand to petitioners.  It is to be generously disposed to all who need our assistance, and who cannot return the favor.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 302)

 

However distant we are from the perfection of God, we are said to be perfect, as he is perfect, when we aim at the same object, which he presents to us in Himself.  Should it be thought preferable, we may state it thus.  There is no comparison here made between God and us:  but the perfection of God means, first, that free and pure kindness, which is not induced by the expectation of gain;—and, secondly, that remarkable goodness, which contends with the malice and ingratitude of men.  This appears more clearly from the words of Luke, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful: for mercy is contrasted with a mercenary regard, which is founded on private advantage.  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 308)

 

The mark of “perfection” in the Christian is just this:  his love is not determined by the loveliness or the attractiveness he find in its object.  His love is not conditional upon his being loved first.  His love is not directed only towards those whose love he can rely on in return.  No, his love is controlled by the knowledge that when he was God’s enemy and a sinner, the Father first loved him.  If he is to show the Father’s love–the family love–then he will “go and do likewise” (Lk 10:37).  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 104)

 

So, then, a man will be teleios if he fulfills the purpose for which he was created.  For what purpose was man created?  The Bible leaves us in no doubt as to that.  In the old creation story we find God saying, “Let us make man in our image after our likeness” (Gn 1:26).  Man was created to be like God.  The characteristic of God is this universal benevolence, this unconquerable goodwill, this constant seeking of the highest good of every man.  The great characteristic of God is love to saint and to sinner alike.  No matter what men do to him, God seeks nothing but their highest good.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 178)

 

Leo Tolstoy, who battled legalism all his life, understood the weaknesses of a religion based on externals.  The title of one of his books says it well:  The Kingdom of God Is Within You.  According to Tolstoy, all religious systems tend to promote external rules, or moralism.  In contrast, Jesus refused to define a set of rules that his followers could then fulfill with a sense of satisfaction.  One can never “arrive” in light of such sweeping commands as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. . . Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 197)

 

Great love and great hatred are only possible in the presence of great concern.

 

We cannot be holy the way God is holy, nor can we reach perfection before we get to heaven.  Jesus knows that, and He knows that this ethic is a difficult one.  He also knows that we adjust our personal standards to our level of performance.  Every last one of us has done this.  Instead of elevating our performance, we reduce the standard.  Jesus is explaining that God’s standard does not change, and God’s standard is perfection.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 127)

 

When we love without limits, we are like God.  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 142)

 

This love of God for those whom he created is also clear from Gn 17:20; 39:5; Ps 36:6; 145:9, 15, 16; Jon 4:10, 11; Mk 8;3; Lk 6:35, 36; Acts 14:16, 17; Rom 2:4; and 1 Tm 4:10.  To single out just one of these passages, Jon 4:10, 11–God’s tenderness toward the Ninevites, to their little ones and even toward their cattle–, can anyone read this without being overcome with emotion?  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 315)

 

Just as in the OT it was the distinctive mark of Israel that they were set apart for God to reflect his character (Lv 19:2; cf. 11:44-45; 20:7, 26), so the messianic community carries on this distinctiveness (cf. 1 Pt 1:16) as the true locus of the people of God (cf. France, Jesus, 61-2).  This must not encourage us to conclude that Jesus teaches that unqualified perfection is already possible for his disciples.  He teaches them to acknowledge spiritual bankruptcy (v. 3) and to pray “Forgive us our debts” (6:12).  But the perfection of the Father, the true eschatological goal of the law, is what all disciples of Jesus pursue.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Vol. 8, 161)

 

The logic of pacifism would deprive policemen of their guns and entrust the protection of life, limb, and property to moral suasion–a program that original sin would nullify.  (Chad Walsh, Early Christians of the 21st Century, 120)

 

. . . in the final analysis, forgiveness is an act of faith.  By forgiving another, I am trusting that God is a better justice-maker than I am.  By forgiving, I release my own right to get even and leave all issues of fairness for God to work out.  I leave in God’s hands the scales that must balance justice and mercy.  (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 93)

 

In The Art of Forgiving, Lewis Smedes makes the striking observation that the Bible portrays God going through progressive stages when he forgives, much as we humans do.  First, God rediscovers the humanity of the person who wronged him, by removing the barrier created by sin.  Second, God surrenders his right to get even, choosing instead to bear the cost in his own body.  Finally, God revises his feelings toward us, finding a way to “justify” us so that when he looks upon us he sees his own adopted children, with his divine image restored. (Philip Yancey;   What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 106)

 

“God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest most tragic, most inexorable sense.

…. Love, in its own nature, demands the perfection of the beloved; … mere, “kindness” which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love.”   (C. S. Lewis; The Problem of Pain, 41, 46)

 

Love is not a feeling it is an act of the will

 

VII-  Failure to love is to fail the DNA test of divine parentage.  (Mt 5:44-45; see also: Jn 13:35; 1 Jn 3:10-18; 4:7-12, 16-21)

 

If we do not show love to one another, the world has a right to question whether Christianity is true. — Francis A. Schaeffer

 

Alfred Plummer summed up the alternatives with admirable simplicity:  “To return evil for good is devilish; to return good for good is human; to return good for evil is divine.”  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 122)

 

The question we must each ask is, is there a “more” in my love?  Is there something about my love that cannot be explained in natural terms?  Is there something special and unique about my love to others that is not present in the life of the unbeliever?  (R. Kent Hughes, The Sermon on the Mount, 143)

 

A Christian is not a man who reads the Sermon on the Mount and says:  “Now I am going to live like that, I am going to follow Christ and emulate His example.  There is the life I am going to live and I shall do so by my great willpower.”  Nothing of the kind.  I will tell you what a Christian is.  He is one who has become a child of God and is in a unique relationship to God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 282)

 

The greatest evidence of our divine sonship through Jesus Christ is our love.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 348)

 

When he expressly declares, that no man will be a child of God, unless he love those who hate him, who shall dare to say, that we are not bound to observe this doctrine?  The statement amounts to this, “Whoever shall wish to be accounted a Christian, let him love his enemies.”  (John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, 306)

 

Perfect love is an active concern for all people everywhere, regardless of whether or not they receive it.  To do this is to imitate God and demonstrate that we are his children (v. 45).  It is to display a family likeness.  The Greek work teleios (“perfect”) means “having attained the end/purpose.”  Since human beings were made in the image of God (Gn 1:26), they are “perfect” when they demonstrate in their lives those characteristics that reflect the nature of God.  (Robert H. Mounce, New International Biblical Commentary: Matthew, 51)

 

The natural man thinks of God primarily as Someone who is to be obeyed, and Someone whom he fears.  That is not the essential view of the Christian.  The Christian loves God because he has come to know Him as Father.  He does not think of God as One whose law is grievous and hard.  He knows He is a holy yet loving God, and he enters into a new relationship with Him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 279)

 

Love in such a way that those who know you but don’t know God . . . will come to know God because they know you.

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION:

How can we begin to love like this?

A-  Look to Jesus.  (Lk 7:47; Jn 3:16; Rom 2:4; 5:6-10; Phil 2:1-11; Heb 12:2; 1 Jn 4:7-10, 19-21)

 

To lower God’s standard of justice is to lower God’s standard of righteousness–which Jesus came to fulfill and clarify, not to obviate or diminish.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 332)

 

You can’t love until you’ve been and then you can only love to the degree to which you have been loved.  — Steve Brown

 

In the command do not resist him who is evil Jesus rebuts the Pharisees’ misinterpretation and forbids retaliation in personal relationships.  He does not teach, as many have claimed, that no stand is to be taken against evil and that it should simply be allowed to take its course.  Jesus and the apostles continually opposed evil with every means and resource.  Jesus resisted the profaning of God’s Temple by making a scourge of cords and physically driving out the sacrifice sellers and moneychangers (Mt 21:12; Jn 2:15).  We are to “resist the devil” (Ja 4:7; 1 Pt 5:9) and all the evil that he stands for and inspires (Mt 6:13; Rom 12:9; 1 Thes 5:22; 2 Tm 4:18).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 331)

 

“The Son of Man has come unto the world to take upon Himself the sins of the world.   If you want to follow Him you must be willing to do the same.”   (Jesus of Nazareth video)

 

That’s the secret to the riddle of love.  Someone will love you as you are when you love them as they are because Christ loves you as you are.  (Patrick Morely; Ten Secrets for the Man in the Mirror, 179)

 

Behind this lies the principle by which every Christian is called to live:  do not make your “rights” the basis for your relationships with others.  Be prepared to take a lowly position, as a humble servant; be prepared to pay the price of imitating the example of Jesus.  (Sinclair Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount, 99)

 

You can’t forgive until you have been forgiven and only then can you forgive to the degree that you have been forgiven.  — Steve Brown

 

Seriously propose this question to your own heart:  “Have I got any good by means of the wrongs and injuries which I have received?  If they have done you no good, turn your revenge upon yourself.  You have reason to be filled with shame and sorrow that you should have a heart which can deduce no good from such trouble; that your temper should be so unlike that of Christ.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 84-5)

 

For the sake of God’s righteousness, as well as for the sake of human justice, believers are obligated not only to uphold the law themselves but to insist that others do so as well.  To report crime is an act of compassion, righteousness, and godly obedience as well as an act of civil responsibility. To belittle, excuse, or hide the wrongdoing of others is not an act of love but an act of wickedness, because it undermines civil justice and divine righteousness.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 331)

 

Jesus strongly resisted evil that was directed against others, especially His Father–as when He cleansed the Temple of those who defiled His Father’s house.  But He did not resist by personal vengeance any evil directed at Himself.  When the leaders of the Sanhedrin, and later the soldiers, physically abused Him and mocked Him, He did not retaliate either in words or in actions (Mt 26:67-68).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 333)

 

The true Christian has forgotten what it is to be insulted; he has learned from his Master to accept any insult and never to resent it, and never to seek to retaliate.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 167)

 

The Christian is a man who has forgotten that he has any rights at all; and the man who will fight to the legal death for his rights, inside or outside the Church, is far from the Christian way.  (William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: Gospel of Matthew, 167-8)

 

The lives of believers are to be lived with such a quality of spirituality verity and justice that they need no physical retaliation to defend or justify their position.  There is no greater example of this ethical truth than the life and death of Jesus Himself!  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 61)

 

Of course Christians must resist evil!  No decent human being could conceivably stand by and watch innocents suffer without trying to do, or at least wishing to do, something to save them.  The question is simply one of means.  Likewise Christians are not forbidden by Jesus to engage in self-defense.  But they are to do so nonviolently.  Jesus did not teach supine passivity in the face of evil.  That was precisely what he was attempting to overcome!   (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 

A realistic assessment of what “loving enemies” might mean in practice must of course take account of the very robust way in which Jesus reacted to the opposition of the scribes and Pharisees in the diatribe of ch. 23.  His concept of love is apparently not at the level of simply being nice to people and of allowing error to go unchallenged.  Love is not incompatible with controversy and rebuke.  (R.T. France, The New International Commentary on the NT: Matthew, 226)

 

Jesus’ illustrations and personal example depict not the weakling who offers no resistance.  He himself challenged the high priest when questioned by him in court.  They depict rather the strong man whose control of himself and love for others are so powerful that he rejects absolutely every conceivable form of retaliation.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 107)

 

He will certainly never hit back, returning evil for evil, for he has been entirely freed from personal animosity.  Instead, he seeks to return good for evil.  So he is willing to give to the uttermost–his body, his clothing, his service, his money–in so far as these gifts are required by love.  (John R.W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount, 107)

 

B-  Confess your lovelessness.  ( Acts 19:18; Ja 5:16; 1 Jn 1:9 )

 

Love will find a way.  Indifference will find an excuse.

 

Love asks:  How much can I give?  Legalism asks:  How little can I give?

 

“There is nothing that makes us love a man so much as prayer for him. —William Law

 

Jesus is condemning the spirit of lovelessness, hatred, yearning for revenge.  He is saying, “Do not resist the evil-doer with measures that arise from an unloving, unforgiving, unrelenting, vindictive disposition.”  (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 310)

 

To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully around with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.   The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is hell. (C.S Lewis; The Four Loves, 169)

 

When the church stopped preaching God’s righteousness, justice, and eternal punishment of the lost, it stopped preaching the fullness of the gospel, and both society and the church have suffered greatly for it.  And when the church stopped holding its own members accountable to God’s standards and stopped disciplining its own ranks, a great deal of its moral influence on society was sacrificed.  One of the legacies of theological liberalism is civil as well as religious lawlessness.

Not to restrain evil is neither just nor kind.  It fails to protect the innocent and has the effect of encouraging the wicked in their evil.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 332)

 

It is the old principle of the seesaw in theology.  It is the principle that if God is up in theology, man is down; and if man is up, God is down.  Both can never be up or down at the same time.  Some persons have man up and are always talking about how well man is doing, but then they have a very small God because there is not much need of him if a man can manage so well on his own.  Others, the ones who know their Bibles, have man down.  Then God is everything, and he becomes increasingly wonderful to them.  That is what God wants because he knows that as we get lower he will get higher and we will look to him for the help, strength, and encouragement which we so desperately need.  (James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, 149)

 

I recently overheard a radio talk-show psychologist attempting to give a caller an ego-boost:  “God loves you for what you are.  You must see yourself as someone special.  After all, you are special to God.”

But that misses the point entirely.  God does not love us “for what we are.”  He loves us in spite of what we are.  He does not love us because we are special.  Rather, it is only His love and grace that give our lives any significance at all.  That may seem like a doleful perspective to those raised in a culture where self-esteem is elevated to the supreme virtue.  But it is, after all, precisely what Scripture teaches:  “We have sinned like our fathers, we have committed iniquity, we have behaved wickedly” (Ps 106:6).  (John MacArthur, Jr.; The Love of God, 120)

 

C-  Die to yourself and ask to be born again and again by Jesus and His Spirit.  ( Mt 10:38; 16:24-25; Mk 8:34; Lk 9:23; 14:27; Jn 3:5; 1 Cor 2:12; Gal 2:20; 5:22-23; 1 Pt 1:23; 1 Jn 3:9; 4:7; 5:1-4, 18)

 

You change your life by changing your heart.  (Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, 116)

 

The beginning is the ending.  To wit:   God begins where we end  — Steve Brown

 

We must rid ourselves of this constant tendency to be watching the interests of self, to be always on the lookout for insults or attacks or injuries, always in this defensive attitude.  That is the kind of thing He has in mind.  All that must disappear, and that of course means that we must cease to be sensitive about self.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 257)

 

Whenever I notice in myself a reaction of self-defense, or a sense of annoyance or a grievance, or a feeling that I have been hurt and wronged and am suffering an injustice–the moment I feel this defensive mechanism coming into play, I must just quietly face myself and ask the following questions.  “Why exactly does this thing upset me?  Why am I grieved by it?  What is my real concern at this point?  Am I really concerned for some general principle of justice and righteousness?  Am I really moved and disturbed because I have some true cause at heart or, let me face it honestly, is it just myself?  Is it just this horrible, foul self-centeredness and self-concern, this morbid condition into which I have got?  Is it nothing but an unhealthy and unpleasant pride?”  Such self-examination is essential if we are to conquer in this matter.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 259-60)

 

Jesus wanted his followers to have an unselfish attitude that willingly follows the way of the Cross instead of the way of personal rights.  They should entrust themselves to God who will one day set all things right.  (Bruce Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew, 102)

 

Perfect love is a kind of self-abandonment and self-sacrifice.  Love requires us to die to ourselves and our own interests for the sake of the one we love.  To love a person we must sacrifice ourselves to please him.  Because of this high price love demands we become quite upset if love is not returned or the person we love does not pay us any attention.  (Henry Scougal and Robert Leighton; God’s Abundant Life, 42)

 

The only person who is nondefensive, nonvengeful, never bears a grudge, and has no spite in his heart is the person who has died to self.  To fight for one’s rights is to prove that self is still on the throne of the heart.  The believer who is faithful to Christ lives for Him and, if necessary, dies for Him (Rom 14:8).  It is impossible to live for self and for Christ at the same time.

George Mueller wrote, “There was a day when I died, utterly died to George Mueller and his opinions, his preferences, and his tastes and his will.  I died to the world, to its approval and its censure.  I died to the approval or the blame of even my brethren and friends.  And since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.”  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 336)

 

No man can die to himself except the man who can say, “I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”  It is the doctrine of the rebirth.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 259)

 

But self always means defiance of God; it always means that I put myself on the throne instead of God, and therefore it is always something that separates me from Him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 261)

 

So the ultimate cause of any misery or lack of joy is separation from God, and the one cause of separation from Him is self.  Whenever we are unhappy it means that in some way or other we are looking at ourselves and thinking about ourselves, instead of communing with God.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 261)

 

The only place to get perfection is in Christ, who kept the standard perfectly.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 127)

 

I believe that in Christ Jesus my sins have been fully and freely forgiven, and I am a new creation.  I have died with Christ to my old identity in Adam.  I have been raised with Christ to a new life.  I am seated in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  God has given to me the full righteousness of Jesus Christ.  I am joined with angels, archangels, and all the saints in heaven.  God is my Father, and if He is for me, who can be against me?  Because of who I am in Christ, I am more than a conqueror.  In fact, I can do all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens me.  Christ Jesus is my life!  Everything in my life here on this earth is working out for good according to the purposes of God.  Christ Jesus Himself dwells within me.  I have been called according to the purposes of God.  These things I believe and confess, because God, my Father in heaven, says they are true.  Amen! (Don Matzat; Christ Esteem, 96)

 

The aim of disciplines in the spiritual life–and, specifically, in the following of Christ–is the transformation of the total state of the soul.  It is the renewal of the whole person from the inside, involving differences in thought, feeling, and character that may never be manifest in outward behavior at all.  This is what Paul has in mind when he speaks of putting off the old man and putting on the new, “renewed to resemble in knowledge the one who created us…” (Col 3:10).

The genius of the moral teachings of Jesus and his first students was his insistence that you cannot keep the law by trying not to break the law.  That will only make a Pharisee of you and sink you into layers of hypocrisy.  Instead, you have to be transformed in the functions of the soul so that the deeds of the law are a natural outflow of who you have become.  This is spiritual formation in the Christian way, and it must always be kept in mind when we consider Jesus’s teachings about various behaviors–in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere.

For example, his famous teaching about turning the other cheek.  If all you intend is to do that, you will find you can do it with a heart still full of bitterness and vengefulness.  If, on the other hand, you become a person who has the interior character of Christ, remaining appropriately vulnerable will be done as a matter of course, and you will not think of it as a big deal. (Dallas Willard; The Great Omission, 152)

 

“If we be truly Christian we must become dead to self.”   — D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

 

In the back of Steve Brown’s Bible:

Dying to self:

 

  • When you are forgotten or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting or hurt with the insult or the oversight but your heart is glad being counted worthy to suffer for Christ . . . that is dying to self.
  • When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advise disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger arise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence . . . that is dying to self.
  • When you lovingly, patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, when you come face to face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility and endure it as Jesus endured it . . . that is dying to self.
  • When you are content with any food and offering and raiment and any climate, any society, any solitude and interruption by the will of God . . . that is dying to self.
  • When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or to record your own good works or itch after commendation, when you can truly love to go unknown . . . that is dying to self.
  • When you can see your brother, and have his need meet and can honestly rejoice in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in more desperate circumstances . . . that is dying to self.
  • When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit both inwardly and outwardly finding no rebellion or resentment rising up in your heart that is dying to self. (Steve Brown message, Miracles in the 20th Century)

 

Worship Point:  Realize just how powerful love is and that Jesus loved us perfectly.  When you understand this, you will worship Him Who loved us when we were enemies of His.  (Rom 5:5-10)

 

We love to ask, “How can a good and holy God bring anyone to Heaven?”  Or “How can an absolutely good, pure, sinless, utterly transcendent God redeem rebels, save sinners, take ‘worm[s]’ like us (as Isaiah calls Judah in Isa 41:14), and metamorphose us into worshipers?”  Who asks questions like those these days?  Or who even asks the psalmist’s question, “What is man that you are mindful of him?” (Ps 8:4).  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 142)

 

Gospel Application:  For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.  (John 3:16 NIV) Even though the world hates God, He did this.

 

The Law guides us to a true understanding of ourselves so that we might recognize the depth of our sin and the love that God offers to sinners in the person of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  The holy heaviness of the Law ought to make us wholly humble before God.  (Douglas Sean O’Donnell, Preaching the Word: Matthew, 143)

 

Spiritual Challenge:  Decide to die to self and love like Jesus loves.  Decide!

 

As Dorothy Day put it, “I really only love God as much as I love the person I love the least.”   (Philip Yancey; What’s so Amazing About Grace?, 158)

 

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered — Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives — do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will have false friends and real enemies — be successful anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow — do good anyway.

Honesty & frankness will make you vulnerable — be honest and frank anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs — fight for the underdog anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you help them — help them anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you will get kicked in the teeth — give the world your best anyway.

Why?  Cause He said so.  — Karl Meininger

 

 

 

C.S. Lewis confessed that he too struggled with how to truly love the sinner while hating the sin.  One day it suddenly became clear:  “It occurred to me that there was one man to whom I had been doing this all my life–namely myself.  However much I might dislike my own cowardice or conceit or greed, I went on loving myself.  There had never been the slightest difficulty about it.  In fact, the very reason why I hated the things was that I loved the man.  Just because I loved myself, I was sorry to find that I was the sort of man who did those things.”  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 171)

 

We can be vulnerable because we are, in the end, simply invulnerable.  (Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy, 181)

 

Biblical illustrations of the spirit which Jesus here commends:

  1. Abraham, rushing to rescue his “brother” Lot (Gn 14:14 ff.), though the latter had earlier revealed himself to be a rather avaricious nephew (Gn 13:1-13).
  2. Joseph, generously forgiving his brothers (Gn 50:19-21), who had not treated him very kindly (37:18-28).
  3. David, twice sparing the life of his pursuer King Saul (1 Sm 24 and 26).
  4. Elisha, setting bread and water before the invading Syrians (2 Kgs 6).
  5. Stephen, interceding for those who were stoning him to death (Acts 7:60).
  6. Paul, after his conversion, writing Rom 12:21; 1 Cor 4:12; and 1 Cor 13; and putting it into practice!
  7. Above all, Jesus himself, praying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34; cf. Isa 53:12, last clause; Mt 11:29; 12:19; and 1 Pt 2:23). (William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 311)

 

When we act like Gary Grudge, we become the prisoner of the one we hate.  Dr. S. I. McMillen, in his book, None of These Diseases, eloquently captures the fate of the grudge-holder:

The moment I start hating a man, I become his slave.  I can’t enjoy my work anymore because he even controls my thoughts.  My resentments produce too many stress hormones in my body and I become fatigued after only a few hours of work.  The work I formerly enjoyed is now drudgery.  Even vacations cease to give me pleasure.  It may be a luxurious car that I drive along a lake fringed with the autumnal beauty of maple, oak and birch.  As far as my experience of pleasure is concerned, I might as well be driving a wagon in mud and rain.

The man I hate hounds me wherever I go, I can’t escape his tyrannical grasp on my mind.  When the waiter serves me porterhouse steak with French fries, asparagus, crisp salad, and strawberry shortcake smothered with ice cream, it might as well be stale bread and water.  My teeth chew the food and I swallow it, but the man I hate will not permit me to enjoy it. . .

The man I hate may be many miles from my bedroom; but more cruel than any slave driver, he whips my thoughts into such a frenzy that my innerspring mattress becomes a rack of torture. (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 273-4)

 

In a recent study, Charlotte Witvleit, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, found that when individuals were able to forgive, they experienced greater joy, a more profound sense of control over life and less depression. Sound appealing?

Why holding a grudge can be toxic

Your boyfriend blows you off for an important date.  If you stay angry at him, you’ll probably get fresh flowers on your doorstep and maybe a fancy meal or two.  But grudge-holding only gives us the illusion of power, says Everett L. Worthington Jr., Ph.D., executive director of A Campaign for Forgiveness Research.

If you hold on to that anger on a chronic basis, then it has power over you, eating away at your peace of mind and perhaps even your immune system.  A study by Kathleen Lawler, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Tennessee, confirms that people who are unable to forgive report more stress in their lives, more illness and more visits to the doctor than do forgiving folk.

Going from a grudge to forgiveness

Researchers have found that the greatest predictor of an individual’s ability to bury the hatchet is personality.  People who are naturally prone to being angry, fearful or overly sensitive are less likely to forgive than people with empathetic, agreeable dispositions.  But everyone is capable of forgiveness; some of us just have to work harder at it.

A few ways to develop your capacity to turn the other cheek:

– Try writing a daily “forgiveness” reminder in your journal; it may sound corny, but it’s a great way to help gain control over your emotional life.

– Write a letter to your offender, detailing exactly what’s bothering you. Then toss it. You’ll feel better, even if your message never reaches its intended target.

– What, exactly, makes your blood boil?  By focusing on your feelings, you’re more likely to connect with your capacity to forgive.

– Give yourself time to forgive.  You’re trying to change your emotional habits —— and that doesn’t happen overnight.  There’s a difference between forgiving and forgetting.  Forgiveness isn’t about swallowing anger or being a doormat. It’s not about forgetting, either.  On the contrary, it’s about acknowledging a transgression with your eyes wide open—and then releasing the anger.  “To really forgive, you’ve got to replace negative emotions with positive [ones]”—substituting anger, hurt and self-pity with love, says Dr. Worthington.

Another way to think of it:  “Letting go of a grudge is a way to return to the peaceful center inside you,” explains Frederic Luskin, Ph.D., research fellow at the Stanford Center for Research in Disease Prevention.  That means conjuring up empathy toward the person who hurt you, then focusing on the good parts of your life.

An Act of Courage

Still not convinced that it’s worth it to put your energies toward forgiving?  Besides the benefits to your psyche and physical health, true forgiveness is a sign of strength and soulfulness. “It takes a lot of moral muscle to forgive,” says Dr. Witvliet.

The bottom line:  Forgiving ultimately benefits the forgiver more than the person who has done wrong.  So start putting your own well being first, and live life with as much gusto and love as you can.

 

Quotes to Note:

We cannot expect the reward of Christians if we rise no higher than the virtue of publicans.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Vol. V, 67)

 

“For as he thinks within himself,” says the Bible, “so he is.”  In other words, people who entertain bitter thoughts and exhibit an angry attitude toward their enemies often become bitter and angry people.  They become a hostage to their own hate.  They don’t hold a grudge as much as the grudge holds them in its claws. (Lee Strobel; God’s Outrageous Claims, 12)

 

The scribes and Pharisees knew how well they loved themselves.  They loved to be honored, praised, and respected (Mt 6:2, 5, 16; etc.), and believed they deserved it.  The Pharisee who thanked God that he was “not like other people” (Lk 18:11) was typical of most Pharisees.

He was also typical of most people throughout history.  For the natural man, and unfortunately for some Christians, self-love is real, active, and quite noticeable.  Most people spend their lives doing and seeking things that are primarily in their own interest–their safety, comfort, income, pleasure, health, personal interests, and so on.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: Matthew 1-7, 340-1)

 

Jesus taught us to have confidence in an almighty God who is completely aware of the injustices done to us and totally capable of evoking ultimate eternal justice.  He must be trusted even when legal litigation goes against the believer.  (Edward Hindson and James Borland, Matthew: The King is Coming, 61)

 

Your natural man may regard others with tolerance; he may bring himself to be sorry for them and say that we must not be too hard on others.  But the Christian goes beyond that.  He sees them as sinners, and as the dupes of Satan; he sees them as the terrible victims of sin.  He does not merely see them as men for whom allowances are to be made; he sees them as dominated by “the god of this world” and held captive by Satan in all his various forms.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 279)

 

People claim that God loves all men unconditionally, but the Bible is clear about how it defines the love of God for people.  We can distinguish among three types of divine love.  The first is God’s benevolent love, His good will.  God has a good disposition to all of His creatures even in their fallenness.  Added to God’s benevolent love is His beneficent love whereby God not only has a good will toward His creatures but does good things for them, as Jesus illustrates here.  God is beneficent toward wicked people in letting them bask in the sun.  He lets His sunlight fall upon the evil and the good.  He lets the rain fall for the just and the unjust, so that the unjust farmer receives the benefit of God’s kindness of rain for his crops.  People curse God and use His name in vain every day.  They blaspheme Him.  Yet whereas we curse Him, He blesses us.  Whereas we do evil, He does good.  God does not engage in retaliation against those who stand against Him.  God does not engage in retaliation against those who stand against Him.  Every wicked person enjoys the love of God at least in terms of the first two kinds of love–benevolent love and beneficent love.

The third kind of love, the love of complacency, refers to the unique delight and affection God has especially for His only begotten Son.  It is His Son that the Father calls His “beloved.”  The Father has a special love for Christ that He does not have for everyone else in creation, but that special love of complacency is not limited to Jesus.  It is extended to all who are in Christ Jesus.  None of us deserves God’s love of complacency, but every Christian enjoys love from God that the wicked do not enjoy.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 126-7)

 

Jesus, in short, abhors both passivity and violence.  He articulates, out of the history of his own people’s struggles, a way by which evil can be opposed without being mirrored, the oppressor resisted without being emulated, and the enemy neutralized without being destroyed.  Those who have lived by Jesus’ words—Leo Tolstoy, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Dorothy Day, César Chavez, Adolpho Pérez Esquivel—point us to a new way of confronting evil whose potential for personal and social transformation we are only beginning to grasp today.  (Walter Wink, “Beyond Just War and Pacifism: Jesus’ Nonviolent Way”, cres.org/star/_wink.htm)

 Christ is Love

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