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Turn From The Desire For Revenge

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.”Matthew 5:38-41

I know that one aspect of my personality is the desire to “get even” when someone wrongs me. If nothing else, I have a strong desire to show the world how I am being mistreated, and hope for immediate justice. In my younger days, this desire was often manifested in my actions.

As I grow older, I think I understand the words of Jesus a little more. The fact is that I tend to be much more patient and reserved than I used to. I guess that is probably a good thing, though the temptation to want justice is still close to the surface. Jesus' words are important to understand here, for if he had not followed this principle, he would never have gone meekly to the cross. Where would we be if that event had not occurred?


Does Jesus Advise Extreme Measures?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.”Matthew 5:29-30

Does Jesus mean this literally? If our eyes are causing us to sin by lust or through another avenue, should we literally gouge them out? Is he that radical in his teaching?

Well, perhaps. I suppose there are situations where taking this to the extreme might be necessary, but I find it hard to believe that such action is what Jesus expects. Instead, I would consider alternative ways to achieve the same desired result. For example, if lust is an issue, why not remove yourself from the situation that causes the problem in the first place? It might be a place one frequents, or a common situation that one encounters which can be tactfully avoided. It might be necessary to find an accountability partner to challenge you on keeping this commitment. But rather than gouging out your eye, removing the thing that your eye is drawn to seems to be a good alternative.

Consider the consequences raised by Jesus – is it worth risking our eternal soul to be condemned to hell – just because we weren't bold enough to take action to stop willful sin?


Even With A Clear Conscience…

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”Matthew 5:23-24

My mind creates a certain mental picture when recalling this verse. That is, I think of trying to worship in church and suddenly realizing that I am holding a grudge against a brother, or that I need to work out some of my anger or confusion with someone else. And the right thing to do would be to get this worked out right away, before even devoting another minute to worship.

But note that this is not exactly the situation to which this verse refers. It says that we should immediately drop everything, if “your brother has something against you”. That is, we are asked to take the initiative, even when the grudge may possibly come from another – not necessarily when it is us who bears the grudge. In so doing, we are still required to work things out, even when we believe our conscience is clear!


Are We Still Under The Old Law?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 5:17-20

In these verses, Jesus seems to give continuing credence to the Old Law. And he appears to warn the people not to break this Law, or punishment will result. But isn't the Old Law done away with? Didn't Jesus come to give us a new covenant, as Paul describes in Galatians 3?

It's important to read this passage carefully. Jesus says that the Law will not disappear “until everything is accomplished”. By this, he means that the Old Law will remain until it has accomplished what it pointed to all along – to his coming to earth and dying on the cross. Jesus' life and death was the fulfillment and end of the Old Law. He is what the Law has been waiting for. A new covenant is established, beginning with the first words of his ministry which begin in this chapter.

It seems very likely that when Jesus begins the phrase, “Anyone who breaks the least of these commandments…”, he is referring to the words he just got done teaching earlier in the chapter. He is NOT referring to the words of the Old Testament. He can't be. There are 316 distinct laws in the Old Testament, and some of them are very esoteric. And Paul makes it very clear in Galatians 3:24-25 (NLT) – “Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian and teacher to lead us until Christ came. So now, through faith in Christ, we are made right with God. But now that faith in Christ has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.” We are not expected to follow the Old Law after Christ fulfills it. To be sure, many of the things in the Old Testament (such as the Ten Commandments) are mirrored in the New Testament. But we are no longer expected to keep the Sabbath as described in the Old Testament, nor are we required to return to Jerusalem each year for annual festivals. Similarly, Paul would have been wrong to teach that circumcision was no longer necessary in Romans 2:25-29. Clearly, there is no longer the same requirement for us to live under the Old Covenant.

For more on this topic, read this excellent article – .



A Light Both Close and Far

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”Matthew 5:14-16

As a counterpoint to yesterday's post, let me write a bit about how we need to be willing to step out of our comfortable Christian surroundings sometimes, and be an example to those who don't know God. These verses make it very clear that it is the duty of Christians to be watchful for those times when our light must burn brightly for others.

Does this mean that we need to hang around in the worst places in order to be a light there? Not necessarily. I find Jesus' use of the city on a hill to be very interesting. He also says the light is to be put on a stand for others to see. In both cases, the light shines from a high place, and the far darkness is overcome. I don't believe we have to move away from America and live in poverty in a third-world country in order to be successful in evangelism. That may indeed be the calling for some, but we can also shine our light from right here. In fact, the more this country does to get away from God's favor, the more we may be needed right here to live out our example.

In conclusion, God calls us to take advantage of our opportunity to be an example for others. He doesn't exclude mission work far away, nor close to home. And it is possible for others to come to know God just by seeing us across the room in a restaurant, praying before a meal. Sometimes our example is very direct and personal, and sometimes it might be seen as a light from a far distance – but a light in the darkness, nonetheless.


The Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”Matthew 5:13

These words of Jesus are often quoted as a means to justify the Christian's immersion in the world around them. I have heard Christians say that they need to know about the latest movies and television shows in order to “relate” to non-Christians. In the same way, I have heard people argue against homeschooling because our children need to be salt for others.

But there is a second half to this verse that is rarely quoted. “But if the salt loses its saltiness…” is a definite reminder that too much exposure to the world can wash out the Christ in a Christian. While I don't believe we should be entirely insulated from providing an example to the world of how people can live with Christian principles, I believe there are limits to how much exposure to the world is healthy. If we get too far from the Bible, and from Biblical living, the world can overwhelm us (instead of the desired other way around) and we become good-for-nothing. This verse tells us that we will be trampled by the very men who we had hoped to save.

Finally, for more on this topic, especially in regard to homeschooling, see an earlier blog series post at .


A Call to Meekness

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:3-11

Here is a list of character traits recommended by Jesus for those who want to spend an eternity with God. As I read through this list today, I couldn't help but think how foreign these concepts are when compared to a typical, modern “self-improvement” book. The theme of most of these books are more along the lines of aggression and dominance. Meekness and purity are not commonly recommended by our society. A quick scan of today's television programs would back up this thought. Do we see honor given to the meek in many shows?

In the face of a society dominated by brashness, are we able to perform effectively with Jesus' recommendations? I would contend that it pleases God to do so – and that is all that really matters. Our lives should be devoted to God's glory first and foremost. He will take care of our earthly success if He sees fit to do so.

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