Matthew chapters 5: 33-48 (continued)
“Again, you have heard that it was said to the men of old, you shall not swear falsely, but you shall perform your oaths to the Lord [as a religious duty]. But I tell you, do not bind yourselves by an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is the throne of God; or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King.
And do not swear by your head, for you are not able to make a single hair white or black. Let your Yes be simply ‘Yes,’ and your No be simply ‘No;’ anything more than that comes from the evil one.
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 the evil man [who injures you]; but if anyone strikes you on the right jaw or cheek, turn to him the other one too.
And if anyone wants to sue you and take your undershirt (tunic), let him have your coat also. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two [miles]. Give to him who keeps on begging from you, and do not turn away from him who would borrow at interest] from you.
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy; but I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, to show that you are the children of your Father Who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].
For if you love those who love you, what reward can you have? Do not even the tax collectors do that? And if you greet only your brethren, what more than others are you doing? Do not even the Gentiles (the heathen) do that?
You, therefore, must be perfect [growing into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity], as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
When we reflect upon Jesus’ crucifixion sometimes it is difficult for the world to understand how we can celebrate the death of someone we love so much. But Jesus’ death brought eternal forgiveness for all of our sins.Anyone who has ever been forgiven a great debt can understand the joy we feel. Imagine, that you own a home and have a large mortgage, one that you could not pay off in a lump sum and the bank demanded payment or you would lose your home.
You have no money and no friends or family with enough money to help you.Then one day that bank calls and tells you that they have forgiven your debt and all you have to do is come and get the deed to your home; it is yours, the debt has been paid in full and can never come up against you again. What would you do? Would you ever forget that day? NO, NEVER!
Well, you and I have a sin debt to God. He is holy and we are sinful in every way possible. That debt has to be paid and we have no friends or family who can pay it for us. BUT, Jesus came and lived a holy life, He never sinned and He loved us so much He died on the cross to pay our sin debt.
Romans 6:23 tells us that the payment or the wages of sin is death.Jesus was and is holy. His payment should have been life—but instead God poured out the pain and suffering that we deserve on Him and our debt to God has been paid.All we have to do is believe that Jesus is God, that He paid the price, agree with God that we are sinners needing to be saved and then ask to be saved.We find this message in Romans 6:23:
“For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Jesus paid the price for all of your sins and all you need to do is receive the payment.”
Today we will finish up Matthew chapter 5.The last three verses, 46-48 hit us pretty hard in the heart—the inner man so to speak.We will talk about love for our fellow man, even and especially those that hate us or dislike us.And then true perfection and the standards we are to meet as Christians.
Love Your Enemies, verses 44-47
This to me is one of the hardest verses in the Bible to come to grips with.Matthew goes on to explain and clarify this to make sure that we understand what is being said.We all have our cliques, we have people who are just like us and with whom we feel comfortable.
This is especially true for Christians, as we get more and more into the Lord it is easy to simply close out the world and live in safety. We know of communities that do that here in North America—the Amish and the Mennonites are a closed people.They speak their own language and live in segregated communities so that there is little interaction with the “unwashed.”
But this was never God’s intention for the New Testament church. We are called to go into the world, to engage in it and ultimately love the lost—because God loves them.We are called to love and honor those who are our enemies with the sole purpose of having the opportunity to share Christ.We are to be in kingdom expansion mode at all times and not avoid sharing the gospel with someone we do not care for.
Why are we to care for these people?We are supposed to because God cares for them.We are told in verse 45 that God makes it rain on the “just and the unjust.” Simply put, God feeds them too.He allows them to awaken in the morning and He protects them when they travel.He keeps their children safe and watches over them as they sleep.
God cares for all of humanity and so should we if we are to be Christ-like.You and I were once enemies of God; it is our sins that put His Son on the cross.We were born the enemies of the living God and yet in His great love and compassion, He fed us and clothed us and made sure that we lived long enough to hear about His Son.
He made sure that we had a chance to accept the gift of salvation because He loves us; and He loves all men and women with the same fervor. As maturing children of God we need to have this same fervent love for our fellow man.
Even when they hurt us, the love of God for them is in us, and the constant realization that were it not for the grace of God, we would be His enemies. This should compel us to love them and share Christ with them.Anyone can love their friends, even the heathen do that.God’s people are called to love our enemies.
The Standard of Perfection, verse 48
We are to be perfect as God is perfect. Wow, this is hard to swallow.How can I be perfect?I am a sinner and I cannot be perfect in this life.This verse is an impossibility for me to come to grips with outside of the context of these verses. I am to strive to be perfect in the area of loving my enemies.This is very important for us to understand; if not—one can become very discouraged and maybe even give up on even trying.
The call to perfection is based on the previous verses; we are called to make the effort to live like Christ did in the midst of His enemies. We are to love and honor them for the purpose of offering them the chance for forgiveness and eternal life. We are called to put aside grudges and personal agendas for the kingdom.
Nothing is more important than a person’s eternal destiny that was paid for with the precious blood of Jesus.We are not to let personal grudges and feelings get in the way.We should not use hell as a weapon—ever.Sometimes we get the feeling in us that someone deserves hell because they are a murderer, or a child molester or a rapist or because they hurt us.
In Kenya, Africa dozens of people have been killed simply because they were Christians; the murderous hoard came into their school, asked if they are Christian or Muslim and killed all who answered “Yes” to being a Christian.These men are not to be hated by us but pitied; they live for nothing and die for nothing.
They are simply doing what sinful men do and were it not for the love and grace of God, those men could be us.We need to pray for these men that they will be saved and they will become children of God.This is what God wants for them and this is how we need to work at being perfect. This is about having the mind and heart of Christ.
Philippians 2: 5 tell us: “You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had.” What attitude did Jesus have right to the end? He prayed for God to forgive His executioners, He redeemed a thief on the cross next to Him and He cared enough for His mother to make sure she was cared for.
He never forgot the cause and He did not let things like pain whether physical or emotional get in the way.The redemption of lost souls was more important.Let us strive to be perfect in this as our Heavenly Father is perfect and love your enemies.
2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.”