Getting Even Doesn't Get You Right
Getting Even Doesn’t Get You Right In today’s passage Jesus points us towards the proper response we must have when someone harms us. 38 ”You have heard that is was said, ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” 39 But I tell you, do not resist and evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if any one wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth” is found in Exodus 21:24. It prescribes a fair and balanced response to an act of violent, what is done against one person will be the punishment for the first. The Law did not allow for an escalated response. If you lost an eye the punishment to the other would be the loss of an eye, not an eye plus a hand. The Law was given for judges and the courts to administer, not to be used as a personal response. The law did not give me the right to retaliate. The judges and the courts would meat out the punishment and it was limited to an even pay back. This would prevent blood feuds and continuing escalation. Jewish leaders were overlooking the Law and allowing personal retaliation against others. Do you seek revenge when you are wronged? How about when you are driving and that person cuts you off, takes your lane without using a turn signal, tailgates you when you are in the fast lane? We think we don’t take revenge but we do in little ways to make ourselves feel better. We think that if we get even we will be made whole or right again but we aren’t. To get right will require something more from us. Jesus tells us in 39a “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person.” Do not resist an evil person. Wait, what? What does Jesus mean? I can respond to someone in anger, rage, and hatred or I can respond in love. The 2nd is the path Jesus wants His followers to take. When we retaliate we look like the rest of the world. WE MUST BE DIFFERENT! Don’t dilute the Gospel of Jesus for those who do not know the truth. Jesus did not resist the evil people that arrested Him, falsely accused Him, tortured Him, and hung Him on a cross to die. He expects us to do the same. Romans 12:17-19, Do not repay evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Daniel Akin in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount says this, ”Don’t relate to others as enemies. Relate, if at all possible, to them as neighbors. Be loving not hateful. Be kind, not harsh. Revenge of any stripe is not an option.” “I don’t get mad, I get even, is foreign to the ethics of Paul and the crucified Galilean.” This is on a personal level. We still have our responsibility in society to protect others. Example: If I see someone beating someone else I have a responsibility to act to help bring the violence to an end. Sometimes just being a presence is enough. Or I am able to shout and get attention so the attack is stopped or use a cell phone to get police to the scene quickly. Some may use this statement of “Do not resist and evil person” as a claim the Christians should not be policepersons or in the military but we are commanded by God to serve the government in our land. Examples: Actions of dictators, mass killing of Jews in Germany, Rwandan and Cambodian genocide. In these cases it is expected that law enforcement or governments will act to protect people. In this sermon Jesus is telling us of we have no right for revenge and retaliation, but we have a responsibility to the community. The Word tells us to act in love; that is what Jesus did, He expects us to do no less. Jesus now gives us four examples of how to deal with our neighbors: Example 1: 39B, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other.” John 18:23 When Jesus had said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face.” It’s hard to put up with an insult. We want to defend and prove ourselves right but Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, to bare the indignity of the slap and offer up the other side. When Jesus was arrested and brought Jesus before the high priest one of the officials slapped him for his response to the high priest. Jesus did not defend Himself. John 18:23 When Jesus had said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face.” How difficult that is. Our flesh cries out and wants revenge, “Let me at him, I’ll kill him!” Oops, maybe now we see why a heart for revenge is wrong. I just got angry and in my heart killed a man. A humble, loving response keeps us from sinning. 1 Peter 2:23 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.” Let Jesus be your example of how to turn the other cheek and be right before God. Example 2: 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. Jesus says to go beyond what is required. If you are sued for you shirt give your coat as well. Giving to you adversary what is not required is an act of grace. God extended His grace to us through His Son. This is something clearly we did not deserve but God used His grace to win over His enemies, you and me. We did not deserve it but it was freely given, it even cost Him to do it. If we want to be right with God we must learn to not only live in His grace but to offer it to others. Think of those who have wronged you. Where do you stand with them? Have you forgiven them? Have you offered grace to them? This is not easy for us to do. But it’s what the Lord wants from His followers. How different this world would be if we gave our enemies blessing instead of wrath. Can you look your heavenly father in the eye and say you have offered grace? That’s what He wants from us. Example 3: 41: If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. This idea refers to Roman law at Jesus’ time. The Jewish people were resentful of their Roman rulers and what they could require of them. One such requirement was any Roman soldier could conscript a Jew to carry their baggage or equipment for them up to one mile. Jesus said to go further than the law and to carry it two miles. I believe his expectation was not to just doing it but to not grumbling about it. Our grumbling as believers sounds just like the grumbling of non-believers. It is when we serve others with a smile and a willing heart we no longer feel forced and our attitude shines like a light to the world. Ever have that moment when you are done with all of your work and are ready for some “ME” time? Then you get that text message from someone, “Hey, what I you doing? I could use your help with something.” There is that moment of “Oh man, how can I get out of this?” Jesus wants our hearts to say instead, “I can help, I’ll be right there!” Going the extra mile can be hard but it is what the Lord expects us to do. Example 4: 42: Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. This last example is very basic, help those who need help. Some requests are a challenge. You know when someone asks you for spare change or they are holding that sign that says “Need help, God Bless you”? How should you respond? First use some discernment. If you see the same person repeatedly at the same place with the same sign, maybe they aren’t really in need of your help, maybe begging is easier. We are told in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 “ The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” So it may be okay to say no. You may think they will spend the money on alcohol or drugs. If so then you are probably safe to refuse to help. But there are times of legitimate need when you can help. When those kind of requests are made ask the Lord how to respond. For those times that your heart is moved and you can help then help, it is a blessing to them and pleases the Lord. Maybe God will use this Crosspoint to serve our community in the face of this pandemic. Maybe we can be the ones to pick up food and supplies and drop them at their door. If we get a mild case and recover we would be the perfect people to serve others in our community without risk to anyone. What others ways can we go the extra mile in the name of Jesus? Those things please the Lord and get us right with Him. The passage this morning is the 5th of 6 where Jesus says “You have heard it said… But I tell you…” Jesus wants us to follow the spirit of the law not just the letter of it. To do this remember some basics: 1. Love God 2. Love others 3. Show mercy 4. Give grace 5. Offer forgiveness 6. Ask for forgiveness When we live our lives doing these things then we are no longer getting even but getting right.