Our passage today is Matthew Chapter 5 verses 38-42. I was going to take the next 2 sections together, but have now decided to look at them separately because although they are short, there is much to think about and ponder.
John Stott, the writer and church leader, in his commentary describes these 2 sections as the highest point of the SotM, for which it is both most admired and most resented.’Nowhere is the challenge of the Sermon greater. Nowhere is the distinctiveness of the Christian counter-culture more obvious. Nowhere is our need of the power of the Holy Spirit (whose first fruit is love) more compelling.’
And looking at these verses in particular, again Jesus is critiquing the interpretation at the time of the OT law. It indeed talked about ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth’ when it came to justice, but we should note 2 things, the original context of these words was to restrict the justice to a proportionate level (sometimes when I hear these words quoted today the implication seems to me to increase the punishment!); but more importantly the original context was these instructions were issued to the judges of Israel.John Stott writes, ‘But the scribes and Pharisees evidently extended this principle of just retribution from the law courts (where it belongs) to the realm of personal relationships (where it does not belong). They tried to use it to justify personal revenge, although the law explicitly forbade this.’
And so Jesus gives 4 little examples of everyday life, when rather than seek personal revenge on someone who is doing you wrong, the Christian seeks to return good for evil. And if we think this can only apply to the Lord Jesus Himself, who is perfectly kind and forgiving, St Paul teaches something very similar in his letter to the Romans, Ch.12 verses 17-21 – do look it up.
Now friends, this is hard teaching, I personally find it immensely challenging and not my natural response at all, and we will only be able to do this with the Lord’s help; His Holy Spirit living inside us helping us to deal with the individual situations that we face. But if we do manage to not retaliate as graciously as we can, then we are beginning to copy in some small way the Lord Jesus Himself, who literally was struck on the cheeks, spat at and jeered at on his way to the cross. As I said at the beginning, much to think about and ponder…
From our extended church address list let us pray today for,- Pat and Catherine- Jotham and Jethro