Mathew 5:38-48 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. “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, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
Roman law gave their soldiers the authority to force anyone to carry their loads for the distance of one Roman mile (a thousand paces). This law was commonly applied at any time and in a variety of ways, but most likely, the context was of a soldier forcing the Jews to carry their heavy armor. Jesus obviously had witnessed this practice of the soldiers many times along the roads and paths, from town to town. Also, Jesus knew how much the people despised the Romans for capturing Israel, as well as the soldiers for rubbing their Roman superiority in the Jews faces daily.
Picture yourself on a long journey walking down the road to Jerusalem. Only a few more miles, and you will be able to get that long awaited cool drink of water, and shade to shield you from the blistering sun. You happen upon a Roman soldier, going in the opposite direction. He calls out to you: "You there, I command you to carry my armor." In addition to the inconvenience and the fact that the armor was a very heavy burden; the Jews believed that all non-Jews were unclean. Being forced to carry the armor left them unclean spiritually, and potentially unable to even complete their day, as planned. Also, by going a mile in the wrong direction as forced, you were actually extending your journey by two miles.
But the Jews did as they were told, begrudgingly, to be sure. To do otherwise would mean to be beaten on the spot, or imprisoned or even worse, crucified. Now after fulfilling your duty, you continue along the road towards your destination only to come across another soldier, who also captures you for a mile. Perhaps, you can begin to understand the depth of the resentment that the Jews carried in their hearts for the Soldiers. Most likely, many decided to not walk the road to town, but rather take a more remote and perilous route in order avoid the soldiers.
Jesus Christ’s answer; "Go another mile" to the bitterness in their hearts, must have rubbed many the wrong way. Jesus' new teaching would actually extend their trip by a total of four miles. But this instruction is not about the obvious wrongness of the Roman law, and its burdensome application against the people. It is about their hearts and minds. His teaching is contrary to common sense. Jesus is still speaking to us today, on a deeper level. This principle is about His reaching out with His love through us to the world. It is about retraining and transforming our minds to guide our body in His loving ways.
I cannot remember a pastor preaching on actually applying these verses in our daily life. Have you ever wondered, why not? Most likely, you have not meditated much on them either. It is uncomfortable to dwell on that which we are hard-pressed and don't want to change in ourselves. Why do we not set our mind on this, our Savior’s most important sermon ... more often?
1. These verses don’t make sense to you.
2. They expose your personal failings.
3. You have unconsciously rejected these truths.
4. You believe it, but you just can’t do it.
5. It makes no sense, you don't want to do it..
I’m wrong, you say? Okay let’s do a quick check. Are you ready to apply the above scripture to suicide bombers? Or, to corrupt politicians who lie to you? Or, to a law that greatly increases already unjust taxes? Are you willing to turn the other cheek when wronged, or do you counter-attack? How about making a loan to someone, who you know will never pay you back? When someone slanders you, do you pray for them and lovingly reach out to them? Do you allow an evil person to take advantage of you? Do you love people who have wronged you and pray for them? Sound impossible? Welcome to planet earth. These ideas are not only hard to accept, they are foreign to us.
This must be a parable with hidden meaning, you say? No, the instruction is right there … in plain sight. Jesus lived and continues to live the above scripture in full, all day, every day and every night. “For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” This instruction is about transforming you from the inside out. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." In this context ... the verses above, which make no sense from a human perspective ... make perfect sense. This isn't about the old you. It's about Him living through the new you, and you cannot do that through human effort (that's the old way), no matter how hard you try. You are instructed to put on His loving ways, and surely He wants you to do your best, but only resting in Him, and allowing His Holy Spirit to guide you in the perfect way will bring about His Perfect Love.
Think about that … God always loves you and every other person in the world … no matter what you, or they do. At your worst moment, God loved you the same as if it were your best moment. Those who have rejected Jesus Christ and His free gift of eternal life are loved by Him regardless of the consequences they have chosen for themselves. The reason all of this makes no sense to you is because it is not about you. It is about Him and His perfect love, living through you. The love of Christ is a love incapable of pride or lust. A foreign thought from above is often a Paradox Principle. Only when we are resting in Him, is the Holy Spirit free to work through us with the application of His love. this love is so foreign to us, it will likely come as a surprise, when His love is applied through us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
But we can work at it on a human level and experience extraordinary results. We should always pray for our enemies for God's help as instructed. Another example, “going the extra mile” is a winning principle in personal relations and business. I have taught this in sales training for many years. If you develop the habit of always trying to give others twice as much service as you promised them, or to double whatever it is that they expect to receive from you … your return will increase immeasurably. But of course, the way of Christ is way beyond this worldly line of thinking. Christ has no desire for monetary return. The love of Christ is the essence of His nature. He does not put on love, expecting something in return. It is who He is, at his very core. Abide Above.
God Bless you my friends, Bob
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