Thoughts from the Sermon on the Mount …
I like to watch hockey. Where else can you see people crash into each other at high speeds, regularly, repeatedly, for over an hour every night? And all for the goal to get this tiny, heavy puck into the other team’s net.
One of the tactics of the game is to antagonize the other players. Players use verbal insults, badgering, legal and illegal hits to get their opponents to focus on them instead of the game. When you get your rival angry enough to think about fighting you instead of playing their game, you have a much better chance of winning.
But the same thing happens at every game. The final period ends. The clock runs out and everyone goes home. It is just a game.
In real life, though, it is too easy to get caught up in revenge. When we are insulted, hurt, or otherwise offended, our first thought is to fight back. We need to “get even” for what they did to us.
And the conflict always escalates. You hit them once, they hit you back twice. They hit your arm, you hit their face. We see this on the road every day. One driver is too slow so another driver cuts them off. A small driving mishap can quickly turn into a deadly “road rage” incident.
We assure ourselves that we would never go as far as what we hear about in the news. We could never do the horrible deeds committed by these road warriors! But at our core, we are all like that. We all want revenge when someone hurts us. We all want to see our enemies suffer.
In His famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has been teaching about the law. He did not come to do away with the law. Instead, He has been using illustrations to show that we should hold to a much higher standard than what has been written down (see here).
Now, His final two examples are about revenge and how to treat our enemies.
These are some of Jesus’ most famous words. Even those who don’t know the Bible, who may have no interest in Jesus Christ, tend to know that He said to “love your enemies.” Even if they don’t know what it means, most people have heard the quote to “turn the other cheek.”
These are some of the easiest words to remember, but some of the hardest commands to obey. But what was Jesus saying?
Was He teaching that, like Ghandi, we should use passive resistance?
Was he teaching that we should all be easy targets for any predators that may come
Should we be pacifists? Abandon the police force?
Should we (as many people do) simply ignore what He says?
Jesus teaches that, when confronted by persecution, we need to surrender our rights and to love our enemies.
How can we do that?