Benevolence Versus Vengeance
Benevolence vs Vengeance
Benevolence vs Vengeance
A young man was very excited because he just won a ticket to the Super Bowl. His excitement lessened as he realized his seat was in the back of the stadium. As he searched the rows ahead of him for a better seat, he found an empty one right next to the field.
He approached the man sitting next to the empty seat and asked if it was taken.
The man replied, "No."
Amazed the young man asked, "How could someone pass up a seat like this?"
The older gentleman responded, "That's my wife's seat. We've been to every Super Bowl together since the day we were married but she passed away recently."
"Oh, how sad," the man said. "I'm sorry to hear that, but couldn't you find a friend or relative to come with you?"
"No," the man said, "They're all at the funeral."
Well today’s the big game—the Eagles versus the Patriots! Philadelphia versus New England! I guess back in the Northeast part of our country, people are probably a lot more excited than we are today, but it’s still the big game, and the stakes are high!
New England is playing to make history! One quarterback has never won 6 Superbowls before! And I heard that our nation’s economy has almost always done well in years that the NFC team wins. So the Eagles are carrying the financial hopes of a whole nation on their shoulders! If you believe in that stuff!
But that’s not the only contest this afternoon—there’s also the contest of morality and indecency as advertisers “push the envelope” in hopes of attracting attention to their product. Actually, that contest has already been waged—we just find out who won this afternoon.
So the challenge for this morning was to preach on a contest—while at the same time keeping in mind our series on the upside-down Church!
Pray with me.
Jesus tells the crowd as He preaches the Sermon on the Mount, that when it comes to their enemies; they’ve got it upside down. ,
"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
As with every other admonition—as with every other directive; loving our enemies doesn’t come naturally—loving our enemies is something we have to do on purpose. It’s a fight—it’s benevolence versus vengeance and like the Patriots, vengeance is the odds-on favorite.
When the Eagles and the Patriots square off this afternoon, they will play and they will play hard. But in truth, most of the work of today’s game has already been done. For the last two weeks these teams have studied each other, they’ve planned defenses and adjusted offenses; and they’ve put together a game plan that they hope will bring them victory! Truth be known, many of the players and coaches have even prayed.
Know Your Foe!
Know Your Foe!
So in the spirit of the day, I want to suggest a game plan…a plan that will lead us to victory in the battle between vengeance and benevolence!
The plan starts—First—know your foe!
Right before we’re told to love our enemies, we’re told,
You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' "But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. "If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. "Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. "Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
It’s important that you realize Jesus isn’t rewriting the law here. There’s nothing wrong with the concept of an eye for eye. But that law was written, like ours, with the idea that a magistrate, a judge would be administering justice—not people on the street in the moment.
The problem is people like vengeance. Vengeance is seductive. Vengeance seems honorable, standing up for yourself, Vengeance even seems fair, Vengeance seems well, okay.
Jesus said, “do not resist an evil person” but what that means is not resist evil with evil, outrage with outrage. Your mom said it like this, “Two wrongs don’t make a right”. And Jesus gives the example of someone striking your cheek.
Paul writes in ; “Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,’ says the Lord.”
And we say, “Oh yea, when?” it seems like bad people get away with a lot.
Let’s let God answer?
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”
I have a friend who—years and years ago was my boss for a summer—he was camp director. On the first day of camp orientation he wore a t-shirt that boasted, “I don’t get mad, I get even.”
It made him sound pretty powerful at the time; it makes him seem pretty petty as I look back.
Friends, don’t take matters into your own hands—leave rage and vengeance to God—He knows what he’s doing. Just make sure you know your enemy. The one who tempts you to be vengeful.
We are called instead to love our enemies. In the Greek language there are three or more words for love. Eros—the love we feel for a husband/wife—is a word not used in the Bible. Phileo—which is friendship, brotherly love—coincidently, it is the root of the name, Philadelphia. Agapao—or Agape—which we often refer to as unconditional love. It is love in a moral sense—love because it’s the right thing to do.
My Greek dictionary defines Agape as benevolence. My English dictionary defines benevolence as “showing kindness or goodwill”.
says, “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”
Jesus says this is what Agape looks like;
Do good to those you hate you! Those who oppose you—I daresay doing good to those we disagree with, those we don’t get along with, those who don’t really like us—well that’s not exactly our natural tendency, is it?
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Jesus goes on to say to bless those who curse you. Or as one commentator put it, return good words for bad words. This is even harder than doing good to someone who hates us.
In our great list of violations against our person, this is the one we tolerate the least—slander. Being disrespected! Yet Jesus says to bless those who curse us, who speak ill of us.
Bless—it means to speak well of. It comes from the Latin word that we get the word eulogy from. Eu—which means “good”, and legoo—which means “speak”.
Benevolence speaks good! Remember what your mom use to say? “If you can’t say something good don’t say anything at all.”
Finally, Jesus says pray for those who mistreat you. I don’t think this is all that easy either. King David prayed for a few of his enemies—he prayed that God would destroy them in a variety of creative ways.
But prayer changes things! Amen? And I don’t mean to yell after them, “Well, yea Buddy—I’ll be praying for you!” We like to mix a little vindication in with our benevolence—but that’s sort of missing the point.
Prayer often has its first effect on the pray-er. But then that prayer is calling on the power of Almighty God on behalf of a person who might not otherwise have someone praying for them—you might be the ONLY one praying for them.
Just before I move on, I want to point out that Jesus didn’t turn His statement completely upside down as some of us have come to think—at least judging by our actions.
“You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' "But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
Notice Jesus didn’t say love your enemies and hate your neighbor. No, we’re to love our enemy and still love our neighbor. To live above with saints we love,
Oh that t’will be glory.
To live below with saints we know,
Now, that’s a different story.
Love… that is Benevolence.
Know What You’re Fighting For!
Know What You’re Fighting For!
As the saying goes, I don’t have a pony in today’s race. Neither Philadelphia or New England have hooked me—but I love the game and so I am hoping for an exciting game.
I am convinced that both teams will show up ready to play, prepared, pumped up, and healthier than they’ve been in a month or two. The difference may well come down to one little intangible; which team wants it more. When the ball is fumbled, when the play is close, when the play is disrupted—which team wants the win the most?
, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.”
This afternoon, two teams will play their hearts out to take home a trophy and a title! They know what the stakes are… do we?
Jesus explains our reward in “…so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” NASU.
Jesus simply means here that when Benevolence wins, we are the most like God, His values, His actions—that’s when we resemble God.
We are never more like God than when we choose benevolence over vengeance; because that’s what He would do.
It is sad when we stop and think about it, how often we have let ourselves be fooled to think that Vengeance should win out. Not that we would say it out loud, but we look for ways to return evil for evil.
And so the battle rages—friends when Jesus says love, He means to let Benevolence take its place. Let love win. Say it with me,
“LET LOVE WIN!”
“LET LOVE WIN!”
You can do it. “to be God’s children means to love!” Jesus wouldn’t ask us to fight the vengeance vs benevolence fight if benevolence couldn’t win. In fact, He is our coach. He supplies strength training. He provides our game plan. He chides us when we make a mistake, and cheers for us while the battle rages.
Myron Augsburger wrote, “Such love is not primarily something you feel but something you do, opening your life in the spirit of Christ even to your enemy.”
Another Bible commentator wrote “the followers of Jesus are not to take their standards from the communities in which they live. The God they serve is a loving God, and therefore they are to be loving people.”
We are—to be loving people. despite the world around us.
Can you? Will you?