Upside Down Kingdom: The Law of Retaliation & Love for Neighbor Restored | Curtis Hall
Topic: New Testament Passage: Matthew 5:38–48
Matt 5:38-48 1
INTRO: Good morning, Mercy Fellowship. Hope you are all doing well this morning. If you don’t know me, my name is Curtis, I serve as an elder in training and am honored to be preaching this morning. We are continuing our series that we are in over the Summer called ‘The Upside Down Kingdom,’ looking at Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount. If you have a Bible, Matthew 5 is where we are going to be today, so you can open up to verse 38, and as you’re doing so, let me share with you all where I have been the last few months.
Think about how you grew up for a minute, and as you’re thinking about how you grew up I’ll tell you a bit about me. I’ve brought it up before but growing up I didn’t like team sports, although I participated in them for a few years, but what really caught my attention was skateboarding. I loved skateboarding. It was free in the sense that it was void of being a group sport and when you start a sport though, you try to find guys you could imitate and be like and that gave you something to aim at and pursue so you could work at getting better at your craft. I remember one skateboarder in particular I really enjoyed had just become a new pro for only a couple years and bought a 2 bedroom 1 bath house in California and somewhere around 12 of his friends moved in and what they would do was skate all day and party all night and I remember seeing that as a kid and thinking ‘I know what I want to do with my life.’ I wanted to be this guy. The issue was though, I was 12 and my brain hadn’t fully formed, so as I got older I realized that was a horrible idea to aim at.
There was this tension I felt though because I wanted this careless lifestyle I saw the skateboarders have but at home, there was still rules. My Mom made sure I did my chores, I ate the right food, I did my homework. There were laws at home. But I look back now as an adult, so grateful for the laws that my Mom had put in place in the home, because it lead me to succeed in life.
If you grew up with a good parents or guardians, there were rules in the house and those rules were created for your flourishing. You parents, you do this with your kids, where you have family rules that bring an atmosphere of flourishing for the purpose of success.
And when it comes to our Father in heaven, it is exactly like that. Our father has created laws or instructions not for our punishment, but for our flourishing. For the purpose of succeeding in this world. And it should be noted that I am not talking about success in terms of finances or awards, because that is not how God sees it. God sees success as being a person of character that imitates Jesus. The word for that is holiness. That’s what Jesus is talking about here in the SOTM.
Final thing before we read the scriptures, I don’t want us to miss this, we do not follow God’s law to earn His favor rather, if we’ve placed our faith in Jesus we’ve already been accepted into the Kingdom of God. And on the other side of being part of the family of God is obeying the family rules. These are meant for our flourishing, not for our demise.
Matt 5:38-48 2
THE LAW OF RETALIATION RESTORED:
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
- Culture nor religion are always right:
Jesus in the first verse is quoting to them an OT law in what was a section on laws of retaliation (Exodus 21) . In fact in the OT, it continues on with this repetition for with concluding a life for a life. So if you hurt me, that same pain you inflicted on me, I get to do to you.
These laws were created for the purpose of preventing inappropriate punishments. You want punishments that would match the crime. So such laws like these existed for Israel.
But the whole reason that Jesus is bringing up the law is this; He is pushing back against how the culture and the religious viewed the law. Earlier in Jesus sermon, He says “I Have not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill them.” He’s addressing on one side, the bend that culture tends to go and that is towards abolishing of laws. The technical term for this, is antinomianism, which means anti-law. It’s when we look at the law that our God has given us and think that it is cold, callous, oppressive to our progress as some wrongfully say. The problem with this view however, is that the culture views the law void of the law-giver. It views the law void of the heavenly Father who loves us and Jesus who shed His blood for us.
Consequently though on the other side, is the religious spirit of Jesus’ day, that was found in the scribes and pharisees, who would add to the law for their selfish gain but it would be done at the cost of greater suffering for others. In Mark 7, Jesus rebukes the pharisees because they are working their way around God’s law and Jesus says to them “You leave the commandments of God and hold to the tradition of men.” The problem with this view is that God’s law is not enough to lead to human flourishing, so we feel we must add to it or rewrite it if we are going to be truly free people.
Trust In The Father:
What this all really boils down to though, wether you lean more in the cultural direction of abolishing laws or in the religious direction of adding more laws, is a lack of trust in our heavenly Father. That He is really good and that He really has our best interest in mind. Do you trust, your Father in heaven this morning? Do you see His kindness to you in how He gives you direction in life, rather than telling you to figure it out? 103 How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. - (Psalms 119:103-105)
Matt 5:38-48 3
Jesus, our savior, our friend, comes along though and doesn’t say that He has abolished the law. He doesn’t say He’s added to it, rather He has fulfilled it, meaning that it all points towards Him. The correct interpretation of the law is the one, that has Jesus as our example.
Character over Chaos:
And the example He gives on restoring the law of retaliation, is one that ‘does not resist the one who is evil.’ What does that mean? It’s hard because in other places in the Bible it explicitly says resist the devil in more than one way.
What I believe it means, is that God has set up structures such as government, police and soldiers for suppressing evil, but when it comes to individuals, Jesus is saying that we don’t seek personal revenge. A helpful tool to seek clarity in the bible is allowing scripture to interpret scripture, so for the sake of clarity, look at what the Apostle Paul says.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. - (Romans 12:14-21)
When we chase after another with a personal vendetta it becomes like a drug, to where we are never satisfied until we have our revenge. And it becomes this carousel of chaos where you hurt me, I’ll hurt you. You hurt me, I’ll hurt you and Paul is saying you want overcome this? Rather than being overcome by evil, overcome evil with good. How do we overcome evil with good?
Turn the other cheek. It would be better for you and me to turn the other cheek than seek revenge. We give more to the one who is taken from us. We go farther than someone asks us to go. We give to one who begs and do not refuse one who seeks to borrow from us.
We could dig into each separately, but for the sake of time, what they all have in common is prioritizing relenting over revenge. Seeking the common good over the destructive paths of evil. Pursuing character over chaos.
Jesus Fulfills Retaliation: There are certainly times, where it is good to fight against evil and flee evil. Even Jesus fled on numerous occasions when they sought to stone Him or throw him off a cliff. So Jesus is not prohibiting self-defense. Rather, Jesus gives us an example of how to overcome evil with good. Prior to you trusting in Jesus, you rejected him more than once, and He didn’t flee from your rejection. You and me, we selfishly before knowing Jesus, were begging for all the gifts that He has created with out acknowledging where they have come from.
Matt 5:38-48 4
Jesus turned the other cheek when you insulted Him. Jesus gave more to you when you were taking from Him. Jesus went further than anyone asked Him to go for your soul. Jesus gave to us as beggars and has never refused us once.
Do you see the great lengths with which Jesus has reached out to you? In the law we see clearly our failures of obeying it, but we also see the love of Jesus in perfectly fulfilling it for us. Where you and I have failed in obeying these laws, Jesus has succeeded for the purpose of reconciling us to God. And Jesus overcame the evil in you and me, by His goodness and kindness towards us.
Jesus restores the law of retaliation and continues to restore for us the law of loving our neighbor.
THE LAW OF LOVE TO NEIGHBOR RESTORED:
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your’ brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. - (Matthew 5:43-48)
As Jesus restores the correct meaning of the law for loving our neighbors, unlike the previous law, he highlights how the religious have rewritten this law. The correct law is ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Lev. 19:18) *The phrase of their day
This plays itself out in very real ways in our cultural moment. With all the divide we have nationally right now, it is so easy to make an enemy out of anyone who doesn’t look like us or doesn’t agree with us. Furthermore, perhaps some of you come in here today and have been hurt; emotionally, physically, spiritually. And perhaps you may never say this out loud, but in your heart, you’ve felt that these people that have hurt you are your enemy.
EX: It was about a couple weeks ago, I was taking a walk after work around the area we live and was praying as well. During this prayer-walk though I felt really convicted by God about how I was living my life. As I was praying I believe God revealed to me some areas of my life that need to change. One of which was that my time on social media was unhealthy. I was not stewarding the time that God had given me well, to where there would be a lot of time doom scrolling on social media, and the result of that was that I found myself making enemies of people I disagreed with and in so doing dehumanizing them. I would engage with other people on these platforms in UnChrist-like ways and as I was dehumanizing others.
I found myself becoming more and dehumanized myself and less Christ-like. The result of all of that was I found myself burned out, and exhausted from all the constant rhetoric of being on these rage machines while everyone is debating who is right.
Matt 5:38-48 5
So I felt convicted of that, and repented, because there has to be a better way to live than that. There has to be something and someway of becoming more truly human than what social media creates in me. Knowing I was going to be preaching in a couple weeks I opened up my bible and read the section of scripture I was covering and read “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies.” I was not loving those I viewed as an enemy.
Jesus, shares a story with us on what it looks like to love our enemies in Luke 10, The Parable of the Good Samaritan:
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”29 But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. 31 Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. 32 So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. 34 He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’ 36 Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” 37 He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” And Jesus said to him, “You go, and do likewise.”
This morning, who do you find in your heart you’ve made an enemy? As Jesus commands us to, love them. How do we love?
Loving enemies: We love in word: This means sometimes, speaking the truth but it may also mean keeping your opinion to yourself. You don’t have to share everything you disagree with about a person.
We love in deed: We give food and drink and clothes and care for those whom we disagree with. We love in Prayer: Pray for those who persecute you can also be translated pray for those who cause you to suffer. Bring it to God. Bring the pain that has been caused to you to your heavenly Father and He will comfort you in your affliction.
Matt 5:38-48 6
Thoughts on Roe v. Wade:
All of this talk makes me think of the recent supreme court decision of Roe V. Wade that was overturned by the federal court, sending it down to the states to make the decision on abortion. First off, I believe we should rejoice in this decision and praise God. This has been 50 years of God’s people praying and God has answered. The works not done either, it’s only half-time.
However, when it comes to our interactions with people who are pro-choice, we make the effort to love them. We don’t lay over in the face of evil, we seek to expose it. But we also don’t seek revenge on people we identify as our enemies. As followers of Jesus, we thread the needle of pursuing justice and righteousness while loving and giving mercy to those whom we disagree with.
And the reason/purpose we love our enemies, church is because Jesus says “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” The perspective of heaven is one that loves its enemies, while the perspective of earth is one that hates its enemies. Tony Evans, who’s one of my favorite preachers said “When there is a heavenly perspective, earth has to adjust to it.”
And the reason we do this is because of how God related to us, prior to us knowing or loving Him. Romans 5:8 says “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We sing in this church the song “In Tenderness” which begins by saying “In Tenderness he sought me.” The Apostle Paul even mentions in Romans that it is the kindness of God that leads us to repentance.
We follow the heavenly perspective and let the world follow theirs. So be focused on following Jesus and let Him do the rest. We have these laws from our heavenly Father that are given for our flourishing and not our destruction. But here’s the catch, how many of you want to say this morning you’ve loved your enemies? How many of you want to say you’ve turned the other cheek towards your enemies? We have all failed in obeying them. We have all sought retaliation at some point and have all hated our enemies at some point.
In the law we see clearly our failures of obeying it, but we also see the love of Jesus in perfectly fulfilling it, for us. So if we don’t come to Jesus with our good works of obeying the law, what do we come to him with? *Rock of Ages
You don’t fulfill the law church, Jesus does, and that is good news.
More in Upside Down Kingdom: Sermon on the Mount
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