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About this series
What the World Needs Now
It's easy to identify things we wish were different when we look around and see what's happening in the world. The trouble is there are so many opinions, so many experts, and we're so divided - even within the Christian community - that it becomes frustrating, messy, and even dangerous. In this series, Chip calls a big timeout to find out what Jesus would say in the midst of our current circumstances. The first-century world was amazingly parallel to our issues and problems. So, Chip goes to Jesus' words, in the book of Matthew, to see how He would counsel us today. He gets very practical about what it means for us personally, and then how we can apply it, to genuinely make a difference, as followers of Jesus.More from this series
I would like you, if you would, to pull out your phone, please don’t use it, but pull it out. And I would like you to imagine that just hypothetically, at this very moment, maybe in ten, nine, eight, seven, six, bang! Every phone was flashing, every pad, every news station, every satellite, all over the world. And it was flashing.
And the God of the universe said, “I have a message, and in the next hour, I will be giving a message to the entire world.” He would speak it in a language that everyone of all humanity would understand exactly what He is saying.
It’s going to come on your phone, or it will come on your tablet. No communication of any kind could happen anywhere. God is going to speak to humanity. Here’s my question: what do you think He would say? Just all the people: China, South America, Antarctica, Australia, Europe – what would He say? Everybody gathered.
Maybe zoom in the lens and since He’s God, He could speak to all of us individually, simultaneously, at the same time – what do you think He would say to you, personally? He knows all your thoughts, all your fears, all your secrets.
What do you think are the big issues He would address? Would He just look at racism and politics and corruption and just the unraveling and the evil in the world? What would He say? What would be the big issues?
And then, finally, what solution would He provide? Speaking to all of us at the same time: this is how the world gets solved. And then maybe more specifically, what do you think He would ask each one of us to do to be a part of the solution?
Now, that’s a pretty big hypothetical and if you’d like to have a lot of fun at a dinner party, you might raise those questions and say, “What do you think?” “Well, what do you think?” And, “I don’t know, what do you think?” “I think the big issue would be this.” “No, it would be this.” And that would be a lot of fun.
But the fact is this is that you are not all-knowing, all-wise, all-powerful. You can’t see the end from the beginning and the beginning from the end. Your thoughts and your ways compared to God are as far as the earth is from the heaven and the heaven is from the earth.
And here’s the amazing thing. This message that God would give, this sermon to all humanity, are you ready for this? It has already been given. It was given by God the Son. It’s commonly called the Sermon on the Mount, it is found in Luke 6 and then in Matthew chapter 5, 6, and 7.
But I have this, I just, it’s somewhere between a fear, a burden, and a concern that many of us who absolutely would say, “I’m a follower of Jesus,” we do not get the message. We don’t really understand what God is saying. We have analyzed a few trees over here and a tree over here and it has something to do with the Bible and something to with prayer and something to do with the cross and something to do with forgiveness and something to do with being a good person.
And we have got all these trees, but I believe that many, many, many, many very sincere Christians have completely missed the forest and really do not know the singular most important sermon or message from God.
If you would pull out your notes, I’m going to give you the summary of that message and then we will cover the very end, because here’s what God would say, because this is what He did say.
He would say the fundamental problem in the world is life isn’t fair. Most of you have experienced that. If you’re older, you have experienced it a lot. If you come from a different background or born into a situation unlike a lot of people, you may have experienced it extremely.
In one word, the biggest problem in the world is injustice. Some people, no fault of their own, they are born blind; they can’t see. Some people are lame. Some people are born in abject poverty. Some people were beaten before they were very old. Some people have been abandoned, abused. Some people have lost their jobs. There has been greed, corruption. There have been coups in countries that have killed millions of people.
When God looks on the earth that He made, that He loves, what we see today is not what He wanted nor created. Sin occurred. And what you’re going to see is in His sermon, everything He says in those beatitudes are about bringing about justice, first in incremental ways now, and then forever and ever and ever. That’s the corporate issue.
The private issue gets a little more personal. The fundamental problem in my life and in your life is we don’t measure up. You don’t, okay? And, by the way, don’t get over it. You’re not the father you want to be, you’re not the man you want to be, you’re not the student you want to be, you’re not the woman you want to be, you’re not the daughter you want to be. You’re not always kind, always loving. You have private thoughts, you have lust, you have little lies and big lies, you have stolen, you have stolen people’s ideas, you have marred their reputation, you have assassinated them with your lips.
What I’m describing is humanity. In one word, it’s unrighteousness. And what the Sermon on the Mount does, and this is what I think we miss, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount introduces a kingdom, that’s an odd word for Americans. It really works everywhere else in the world.
Most people, for all time, is used to having a king or a dictator, or someone that you realize what they say is: this is the way of life. But Jesus’ kingdom or way of life promises justice and He redefines righteousness.
And He introduces this concept of His way or His kingdom with Him being the King and calling and asking us to follow and all of His sermons were about the kingdom of God. In Matthew chapter 5, verses 1 through 12, He sets forth the prerequisites to enter the kingdom and to experience and to expand it now and forever.
And so, contrary to: be a good person, make the world a better place, here’s five lessons on morality, just try and figure out in your mind what would Jesus do and try really hard to do what He would do – He says, “All of that is completely the opposite of what I want.”
He’s not looking for little moral robots. He is saying you need to see how desperate you are. Poor in spirit. You’re spiritually bankrupt. Your good deeds and my good deeds and the best of humanity is like a dirty, righteous, filthy rag compared to the supreme, pristine, unapproachable light of God’s holiness.
And those that see that and get that realize their need, they mourn! And, therefore, God comforts them. He says, “When you begin to thirst, not for fame and wealth and significance and power, but for righteousness, you’ll be satisfied.”
He says those people that are gentle, that are willing to let go of their rights and serve other people, you actually one day, justice, you’re going to inherit the earth.
Each one of these beatitudes is not like a new moral code. Here’s what He is saying: These are the heart conditions and the kind of people that represent My values.
And then notice, not only does He tell us these are the prerequisites to both enter and expand His kingdom, but then in Matthew chapter 5:13 through 16, He says: There is the purpose for this now and later. Remember? “You’re the light of the world. You’re the salt of the earth.”
In other words, the kind of life that follows Jesus by His power and His life exposes darkness. The kind of life that is others centered and kind and overcomes evil with good and works in these counter-cultural ways as a follower of Jesus, you preserve righteousness. You begin to give people a taste of what heaven and real life is like.
And then, in Matthew 5:17 through 48, you can turn the page if you’re not there, He sets forth the king’s way by contrasting it with the current interpretation of the law. Now, we have different laws at different times and He takes all of the Old Testament and He is speaking to the scribes, the Pharisees. They will hear all this and there is this multitude of people.
And He goes down through and He looks at the law of murder and it was just about the physical act and He said, “No, life is sacred. That’s the kingdom value.” There was the law of reconciliation. He said, “Relationships matter more than fulfilling religious requirements.” He said, “When it comes to adultery, it’s not just the physical act, it’s fidelity. It’s a heart of purity. A mind and a heart that is sexually pure and longs to
be pleasing to your heavenly Father.”
He looked at the law of divorce and He says, “I created a man and a woman to come together forever and the covenant that you make matters and it’s holy. And apart from unique, unique circumstances, it should never, ever be broken.”
It’s the law of oaths. In this time, everyone knew, and there are some cultures where lying is okay, literally. I have been in cultures where lying is morally okay as long as you don’t get caught. By this time in Judaism, everyone knew that unless you said, “I swear by the Temple,” or, “I swear by God,” then you have to tell the truth. Any other time, lying would be okay.
And He says, “I don’t want to hear…” none of that. “Your yes is yes; your no is no.” What He’s really saying is the kingdom value is we are men and women of integrity.
We’ll look at the law of retribution – paying back when you incur injustice. And we will look at the law of love. But what I want you to see, look at the bullet point underneath. In each case, Jesus sets forth what the exceeding righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees look like for His kingdom followers.
Remember, verse 20 is the key to this whole sermon. He says to them and He says to us, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees,” who fast twice a week, who tithe everything from their money down to their herbs and spices, who are squeaky clean externally and morally.
He says, “Unless your righteousness is above theirs, you can’t even enter the kingdom.” Because theirs was external and it was hypocritical.
And then these are the points, what He does after chapter 5, He says, “Then, here’s how the practices look.” Because giving is important because you can’t ever win over greed unless you become generous. Praying is important because you’ll never overcome pride unless your dependent in prayer. And fasting is critical because we all have things that get a hold of our life and we need to break free from them. But you do it for the right reason, with the right motive. And then the word Father. It’s about relationship.
Then, in chapter 7, it’s filled with warnings. Jesus makes clear that living out His kingdom values requires a new heart. Jeremiah 31 said there would be a new covenant. Someday, someway, there would be a new day. There would be a Savior, there would be a Messiah. And what He is going to do, He’ll take the heart of stone inside of human beings and He’d make it a heart of flesh and people would want to obey from the inside out. And Jesus has made this impossible standard to help us see we need a new heart and we need new power that only He can provide.
But look at chapter 7, verse 13. He has told them about all these things. He told them about connecting with their heavenly Father. And so He says in verse 12, “So, whatever you wish what others would do for you, do for them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
He’s talking about this complete inside out, upside down, completely different way of thinking that goes against human nature. But notice He says, “Enter the narrow gate, for the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction. And those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life and those who find it are few.” We do not take that seriously.
You have grown up in an Evangelical world where I prayed a prayer or I had a little spiritual moment. He is saying that to enter the kingdom, you need a new heart. You don’t need to be remodeled, you don’t need to try harder, you need a completely new life and I need a new life.
And then the warning goes on. He says, “Beware of false prophets.” What are they? Those are people who tell you things that aren’t true. “They come to you in sheep’s clothing and inwardly, they’re ravenous wolves.”
And then He gives this parallel. He says, “You’ll recognize them by their fruits,” their lifestyles, how they actually live. And then He gives this example, “Are grapes gathered from a thorn bush,” of course not, “or figs from thistles?” Of course not. “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but a diseased tree bears bad fruit.
A healthy tree can’t bear bad fruit nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, you will recognize them by their fruit. “
It’s not that they prayed a prayer. Their life! This is a supernatural life of new power that brings transformation and new speech and Luke takes the same passage and says, “The way you evidence this is that the mouth speaks from that which fills the heart.” He said if there hasn’t been a change, if there is not a revolution, if Jesus isn’t the focus of your life, be careful.
This isn’t a “try hard, be nice, be moral, come to church” – this is a revolution that has to occur. So, He warns us.
Jesus also makes it clear that only those with an eternal perspective of His sovereign rulership, in other words, final justice can live this counter cultural life. Again, He gives it in verse 21 of chapter 7.
He says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day, many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name and cast out demons in Your name? Didn’t we do many mighty works in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.’”
When you grasp this new life, the forest, not just some trees, not just some spiritual little cues here and there. Unless you have an eternal perspective, when Jesus says, “Give good for evil,” when you’re encountering injustice, when Jesus says you are poor in spirit and you’re thinking, I’ve got plenty of money, I’ve got a great job, I’m pretty smart, I’m a person that makes it happen.
When Jesus says to do the most counter-cultural things: to give, to love, to care – when it costs a lot, are you ready? Be willing to die. I had a small group of people at my home last night and I shared an interview that I can’t share publicly because of the danger to his life. It’s an interview with a young pastor in Syria who, every day, lives in a world and the people with him, to become a follower of Jesus – “Yes, I am receiving God’s grace. And, yes, I am signing up, that I, in all likelihood, need to be prepared to die, and probably will die.” It produces a little bit different kind of follower.
Notice, Jesus makes clear that only through death to our personal agendas and selfish ambition can this supernatural life that expands His kingdom be experienced. Notice what He says in this warning.
He says, “Everyone,” verse 24 of chapter 7, “everyone who hears the words of Mine and does them,” doesn’t agree with them, doesn’t have them underlined in their Bible, doesn’t have them on a plaque at home, doesn’t have their kids learn them at a Christian school.
“‘Everyone who has these words of mine and does them will be wise like a man who built his house on the rock and the rain fell and the floods came and the winds blew and it beat on the house, but it didn’t fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not do them will be like the foolish man who built his house on the sand and the rain fell and the flood came and the winds blew and they beat against the house and it fell. And great was the fall.’ And when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching as One who had great authority and not like their scribes.”
Under the bullet point where it says we need to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, I want you to write the words: the required response.
What is the required response of a follower of Jesus to be more righteous than the scribes and the Pharisees? And then under that, I have given you the bullet point, but under the bullet point it says: “Jesus made clear that His kingdom values require a new heart and new power,” I want you to write the words: new relationship. And under that, write the word: God as Father. That’s what they missed. They had religion, they had morality. All of chapter 6 was a practice to please One. When your Father, who sees in secret, He will reward you.
So, a new heart, a new life. And then on your notes on the left side, write the word: faith. This is new to all of them. Yes, He has healed people, He has raised people from the dead, He has fed five thousand. He is now claiming to be the King and He has now set this King and there is His way, which is called His kingdom. And if you want to follow Me, you need to believe in Me. And believing in Me, you have new relationship that requires a new heart and a born-again experience. And you’ll be pleasing to your heavenly Father. You got it?
The bullet point under that says: “Jesus makes it clear that only those with an eternal perspective of His sovereignty can live this counter-cultural life.” Under that, I want you to write: new allegiance. New allegiance.
You see, the Sermon on the Mount says there is a new relationship: God the Father through Jesus. Now there is a new allegiance. And write under that, “Jesus is Lord.” Not religion. And for us, not money, not success, not education, not what people think, not how your body looks. Jesus is Lord.
Salvation, relationship with God is a precious, supernatural gift of God. And as we step into that new relationship, He says, “The will of God for every, single follower is to say He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and now, I want you to surrender all that you are and all that you have. You cannot be My disciple unless you deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” At great cost. But with far greater reward.
Underneath that, it says, “Jesus makes clear that personal agendas and selfish ambition have to die for a supernatural life to expand His kingdom. Write the word under that: new authority. New authority.
The Sermon on the Mount is about a new relationship, a new allegiance, and there’s a new authority. And under that, write: His Word is life. Can you imagine a human being? He was fully God but He was fully man. He is teaching on a hillside. “You have heard it said,” and this is what Moses said all these years. And then He says, “He who hears My Word and believes on My Word and acts on My Word will spend eternity with Me and with the Father. And He who hears My Word,” do you hear the new authority?
The new standard isn’t anybody’s interpretation. It’s not a rabbi, it’s not a scribe, it’s not religion. It’s Jesus’ words.
Now, I don’t know about you, that’s different than what I grew up with. I learned a lot of verses that went like this: a Christian is a person who is a nicer person than more people and you try hard to be moral. A Christian is a person is help yourself because God helps those who help themselves. A Christian is a person that is just a little bit better or at least thinks they are than the average person and they go to, used to be at least, weekend services three or four times a month, try really hard. You’re supposed to give some money, read the Bible, and be good and God is usually mad at you most of the time.
And the revolutionary – these things – you know why they sound so hard? Are you ready? You can never be found until you get totally, thoroughly, and completely lost. And I believe American Christianity, much of it is a self-help mantra that the Jesus who died in your place and rose from the dead is going to make you a wonderfully happy person with a marriage that is off the charts, with all your kids if you have kids turning out right, that will make you upwardly mobile, wealthy and successful, and if that doesn’t happen you have permission to get mad at God.
Now, the fact of the matter is God is so kind and so generous and as we follow the truth of His principles, they so often come with blessing. But I believe we are living in a world where we are far more in love with the blessings of God than the blesser Himself.
And so, the Sermon on the Mount is about a radical change that happens inside my life and your life where I realize: I am poor in spirit. If exceeding the righteousness of people that live a lot better than me; if having a deep sense of my loss and where I don’t measure up; if being passionate to want to really see God; if being willing to say, “Yes! If persecution for Your name, that would be a badge of honor.” If that’s not my attitude, I’m not getting the message. How are you doing? I mean that.
This is one of those messages that some very good, moral, kind people who were sitting on a hillside heard this message, and they liked Jesus and He was so winsome and, man, He was an awesome preacher and the miracles were awesome and often you got lunch.
And when He got done with this, they were undone. They were completely undone. And the more religious and the more moral you are, the more undone you are, because we have this false notion that we need God’s help, but we are really doing pretty good. Because we so unconsciously and consciously compare ourselves to others.
You know the people that got really excited? Sinners. People that just knew, I am doing what is wrong, I don’t like me, I don’t think there is any hope for me.
And He’s saying, If you’re that kind of person, there is a kingdom awaiting. I want to forgive, but I want to invade your life. I don’t want to help you. I don’t want to put my arm around you; I want to invade your life. And I want to draw you close to Me and I want to give you a joy that circumstances can’t change. I want to give you a life and a love that no matter who does anything to you ever, can’t take away. And I want you to know that this little thing called “time” really is important, but you were made for eternity. This is the life you were made for. And the kingdom starts now when you receive and choose to follow Me and there will be ups and downs and struggles. And you will taste the kingdom and then you will be delivered into it forever and ever and ever. And whatever you suffer in this little thing called time for My sake will be greatly rewarded. Whoo.
So, I’d like you to think before I go on: where are you in the grand scheme of your relationship with God? Do you have a new relationship are confident that the Spirit of the Living God lives inside of you? Faith. Are you presently living in such a way that your, not your words, although those are helpful, your time, your pocketbook, your words, your priorities, and your passions align with: He is Lord. He has an agenda. I am here to fulfill His agenda. And whatever blessings happen to come, great.
And, finally, are you living in a world where when you think about what is right, what is wrong, where is true north? What should I do with my life? His Word, His Word is your guide. And that you have an insatiable appetite for it. And that you are in it, not for, I call it “guilt relief and image management.” Man, I always feel a little bit better when I read three chapters, so, three is better than four. I can’t remember anything I’m singing.
I think God would be very pleased with three verses that ended with, Lord, what would You have me do with these? Sure. I’ll forgive my ex-mate. Sure, I’ll treat my supervisor that is so unfair with kindness today. Sure, I’ll apologize to my son the way I blew up last week.
And each time you take those little incremental responses to the authority of God’s Word, whoo, the Spirit of God changes you from the inside out, little, by little, by little, by little until your life becomes unexplainable.
Jesus’ life was unexplainable and the Early Church was unexplainable. If you would meet a Christian, you would scratch your head: “Why are these foolish people giving their money away?
Why do they care about these babies on the dump? Why would they be willing to walk into stadiums singing, arm-in-arm, about this invisible God who they say died and came back to life?” And just, all they had to do was say, “Just kidding. I don’t really believe that stuff.”
Now, I want to show you, He pushes the envelope. And the reason I wanted to go back through that is that these final things can be easily misunderstood. And what I mean by that is that we can get into where, Okay, I want to, each one of these little teachings I want to seek how to follow, and miss the point.
His final and most outrageous teaching, are you ready? The law of retribution. Probably the most misunderstood and misinterpreted, probably, of anything in the Sermon on the Mount.
Verse 38, “You have heard it said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil. But if someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to the other cheek also. And if someone sues you and asks for your tunic, let him have your cloak,” outer garment, “as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.”
If you don’t know the context of this, it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The interpretation is an allusion to, they are the same verse, Exodus 21:24 and Leviticus 24:19 and 20. Leviticus is probably the cleaner, it says, “If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it to them, it shall be done unto him. Fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, whatever injury he has given to a person, he shall receive.”
The purpose of this in the Old Testament was to limit retribution. Some of you that have children will get this and some of you that everything from the Hatfield and McCoys to tribal things is – right? One of your kids steals something from the other. And so, the other gets it back and then pushes him. The other comes back and not only pushes him, then punches him in the mouth. Then the other one punches him in the mouth and gets a bat and…
In other words, escalating retribution. And so, what these verses were were not a right, but it was: look, if someone does something to you that is a one category, then the law teaches that you can respond with the one category. If they get you with a three category then you can only respond with a three category. But the purpose was to say, “How do we limit retribution,” are you ready? Justice. What’s fair?
Because when we are hurt, we usually want a lot more back. The context is that in the Old Testament, it was in court. And so, in other words, if this happened, my eye or I injured or someone took one of my animals, I would go to the court and then the court would decide and this law is: this is how the court will decide what is fair.
The Pharisees of the day had misapplied it and taken it into private interactions with one another. So, to understand this, when Jesus says, “You have heard it said, ‘Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth,’” Old Testament, “I say to you, do not resist the one who is evil.”
This is not being pacifistic like, “Oh, wow! You want to kill me? Well, here’s the whole family. Take us out.” He is saying, “Don’t take them to court.” See, as you look in your notes, what the Pharisees were saying, “What is the legal limits of payback and injustice?”
In other words, “How far can I go to exact revenge for my injury?” Do you hear the spirit? This is what Jesus is after. Do you hear the spirit? In other words, what does the law allow? How hard can I hit him? How much damage can I do? What is the box that I can…?
And Jesus’ new standard of righteousness, literally, is He gives us these four vignettes and culturally, they make a lot of sense but at first reading, it’s like, Every homeless person, am I supposed to give them all my money? Is that what this means? No.
First of all, it says, “Don’t resist the one who is evil.” His point is, “You don’t automatically have to take them to a court and a judge. Maybe there is a way to solve this, because here’s the question Jesus wants you to ask and answer. How can I respond to injustice with mercy in order to reveal God’s heart and expand His kingdom?
Illustration number one: if someone hits you on the right cheek, I forget, ninety-some percent of all the people in the world are right-handed. If you get hit on the right cheek with a right hand, it’s the back of the hand. In other words, in essence, it’s an insult. Someone slaps you and they have insulted you.
Or in our day, they cut you off in traffic. And as they cut you off in traffic, they look back in their mirror because you honk, and they raise their hand and they make a gesture with their hand, usually with one of their fingers that apparently means something to some people.
How do you respond? Vengeance! “I’ll get him! You know what? I’m going to get up on his bumper and I’ll tell you what, he takes that exit, I’ll…” You’ve seen it, right? On the freeway, and you see these two cars chasing each other. He said, “Let it go.”
The second one is someone sues you. According to the law, they couldn’t take your outer garment. That was your possession, no matter how poor you were. And Jesus’ hyperbole, He is making the point, “If they want your undergarment, the tunic, they want that, give them the coat too.”
And they would be going, “Whoa, what?” See, they would be scratching, “What? I did the injustice and you’re treating me like that?”
The third was government. The Roman law was, at any time, Romans would have their baggage, they could be in a city, and they could stop in a city, “Hey, you, right here!” And the legal law demanded that if a Roman soldier said, “Carry my bag,” you had to carry it for exactly a mile. It’s kind of like taxes today.
There are certain things that you feel like: this is unjust, this is not fair. This is how to respond from the heart to reveal God’s mercy instead of: my rights! And so, you can imagine a Roman soldier. And everyone has had a bad attitude and they are rolling their eyes and they are cussing him out in, probably, Hebrew if he doesn’t understand it. And then he meets this Christ follower and they get to one mile and he looks at the soldier and says, “You look very tired. Could I carry it another mile?”
Do you understand what He’s saying? A Christian’s life should be completely unexplainable. Mercy triumphs over justice.
Finally, according to Jewish law, if a relative or someone came and wanted a loan, Jews were commanded to give interest-free loans to one another. And so, someone wants a loan, the goal is, like, how much? And what is the limits? And I don’t want to give too much.
And Jesus is saying, “What if you replaced that with a heart of generosity?” What if you said something like, “Wow, it seems like,” you would vet it, “but this seems like a really difficult time and you said you needed a hundred dollars. Here’s two hundred. Let me help you on your way.” And they go…
You understand, the Early Church multiplied and took the world, literally, and made it upside down because of these kind of behaviors? Jesus, in essence, was saying, “Stop demanding your personal rights and live for a different kingdom with a different set of values the way I respond.”
It’s not that you’re a mattress or a doormat or you enable people. There are plenty of verses and plenty of truth about, “If he,” Paul says, “if he doesn’t work, don’t feed him.” This isn’t giving another bottle to an alcoholic. But this is in situations saying, “Instead of my rights and what does the law allow me to pay back?” What might I do that would extend mercy?
It goes against every human tendency in our being. And it displays God’s greatness and His mercy.
The final thing is the law of love, and He makes this very, very clear. When it comes to retribution, He says, “Don’t ask inside the box, ‘What can I do to pay people back?’” I want to live outside the box. What would it look like to extend mercy in this situation so they could actually see God’s heart?
Notice, verse 43, “You have heard it said to 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 the sun to shine on the evil and the good and He sends rain on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not 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,” you might circle that, “as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It means whole.
It’s translated sometimes mature. It means, like your heavenly Father goes beyond the legal limits and He is kind and just and fair.
The interpretation of the day was: just love the people in your circle. And notice there is an omission. They leave out: “love them as yourself.”
And then there is an addition. You’ll never find in the Old Testament, “Hate those outside your circle.” But in the rabbinic teachings it was, “Well, if you’re supposed to love one another,” their mindset was, That means we probably should hate our enemies. And Jesus’ new standard of righteousness is: “Love those in My circle and love and pray for My enemies and persecutors.”
It’s very, very interesting, this radical, radical life that can only be lived with Him living inside you is when it comes to retribution, live outside the box. When it comes to love, love outside your circle and the people that are comfortable. And I would ask you: who would you see as enemies and persecutors? Who makes your blood boil? Who has hurt you in the past? Who is your political enemy? Who are people that hold things that make you crazy? Who are people in your neighborhood that just make you nuts? What would it look like for you to pray for them, to do good to them?
Not enable, not put yourself in any kind of danger, but to live in a way that they would scratch their head and go, “I’ve been treating this person like this and, oh, good is more powerful than evil.” Lord, these are not hard words, they are not even difficult words, they are absolutely impossible. And only when we come to see that we are desperately in need, and that we fall so much shorter than we think we fall and we are in desperate need of You. Lord, we don’t need remodeled, we don’t need a little help, we need a brand-new relationship for those that have never trusted Christ. Lord, for some of us, we need to stop allowing other things to be our god and surrender to Jesus as Lord. And, Father, we would confess that apart from Your Word, and the power that it brings by Your Spirit, we are hopeless and helpless to be the men and women that cause Your kingdom to come and Your will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.