Matthew 5:38-48 NKJV
Matthew 5:48 The Message
A Story of Love
Of all of the scriptures and stories of love found in the Bible, this could very well be the most difficult. It calls for tough love.
Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 covers almost every difficult subject people wrestled with at the time.
Jesus began the Sermon with the Beatitudes.
Jesus began the Beatitudes by saying in Matthew 5:3-4:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
The list of unexpected blessings went on and on and in the 1st Century every item would have been a shocking revelation of truth.
How can the poor in Spirit be blessed? AND why are those who mourn blessed?
From there, Jesus tackled subjects like murder, adultery, divorce, and taking an oath. I imagine His audience sitting in disbelief as they heard each item. Many of the subjects that Jesus covered gave a very different viewpoint than anything preached before.
It’s not that what Jesus said was in opposition to the Old Testament Torah, it was just that it was presented in a very different format.
For example when Jesus spoke about murder in the Old Testament we are told “Do not Murder” (Exodus 20:13). In Matthew 5:22 Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.”
Jesus looked deep into the heart of man and expanded how they should view murder.
In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus opened their hearts to how they view retaliation when He said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to 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 away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
Even nearly 2000 years later His words are difficult to process. Jesus was telling them straight up that love is real. Love is not just about loving the lovable.
Love, God’s love is about loving an evil person who strikes you. Jesus told them to offer their other cheek as well. The interesting thing about that statement is that in the 1st Century if a man slapped you he did it with the back of his hand and he hits your left cheek. If you turn the other cheek, you force him to slap you with his left hand striking your right cheek. In that culture, the right hand was considered to be clean, but the left hand that was used to clean the body was considered to be unclean. By offering your right cheek he would need to use his unclean hand.
Some would say Jesus was telling the man to offer his left hand in order to shame him, but I don’t think so. I don’t think Jesus would intentionally shame a man.
I think Jesus was saying love him enough to tell the whole truth. Love the whole man. If an evil man chooses to strike you with his clean hand, offer to let him strike you with his unclean hand. In doing so, you are loving the whole man. Jesus wants us to love to the extend that our love, God’s love will change the man. See…real love changes people.
In the same vein, if a man takes your tunic, give him your cloak and in doing so, everyone would know the extent of your love for him.
If someone expects you to walk a mile, walk two miles…love more.
Jesus was saying, love and love, and then love more.
Jesus went a step further when he told them to Love their Enemies.
In Matthew 5:43-48 Jesus said, “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 makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
In the same way, Jesus encouraged them to love, really really LOVE their neighbors. If someone is mean to you, pray for them. Pray they will be showered with God’s love.
After all, they are the one who really needs God. They may not have been told when they were three years old to be kind to others. They may have had an abusive parent who beat them. They could be so miserable inside that they don’t know any other way to respond.
Jesus reminded them when it rains, it rains. Life can be hard. If they only love those who love, the evil and the unjust won’t receive any kindness and love at all.
Jesus asked them what reward there is in loving those who love you?
He reminded the tax collectors take and take. In the 1st Century under Roman rule, there were no fairness laws. By comparing those in the audience to the tax collectors (which would have been shocking) Jesus was trying to get them to see they could be acting the same way with their love. In a way He was asking, ‘Are you being stingy with your love?’
In the same breath Jesus wanted them to see if they only greet their brothers aren’t they making the same choices a tax collector makes?
When you withhold your love, you are NOT loving.
WOW. Then Jesus hit them with the hardest line of all. It WAS the punchline! He said, YOU are no better than the Gentiles.
I imagine when Jesus delivered that line, they probably all gasped!
The Hebrew people had been call “the chosen ones” who didn’t associate with Gentiles. By telling them they were not better than the Gentiles, that would have turned heads.
Jesus’ last line in that part of His sermon drove the point home. In The Message version, verses 48-49 Jesus said, “In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
In other words…LOVE like God loves you.
Today’s Spiritual Practice: Love/Pray for the Unlovable
Love or pray for someone who is unlovable. Do you have a neighbor who is unlovable? Love him/her. Love them with God’s unending love.
In God, Deborah
acrazyjourney.com toward God’s Love