Loving Your Enemies And People You Don't Like
Epiphany 7 Luke 6:27-38
The following Bible study is from a larger course entitled, THE LIFE OF CHRIST: A Study in the Four Gospels. This 54 week course for the laity will be available for congregations in 2006.
Basic text for the course: SYNOPSIS OF THE FOUR GOSPELS, Kurt Aland, English Edition, P. 34-35.
#58 On Retaliation
Matthew 5:38-42 Luke 6:29-30
-"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 evildoer. (only Matthew)We hear the parallel again. “You have heard it said in the Old Testament law about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, BUT I say to you.” Then Jesus, the New Moses, gives new moral commandments for his followers.
“Do not resist one who is evil.” Only Matthew. Highlight. Again, if a person takes this literally, it invites evil to grow rampantly in the world. So once again, a person interprets this saying as Aramaic hyperbole and exaggeration in order to state a truth.
And what truth is taught? Followers of the Way are not to practice revenge because revenge belongs to God. Rather than returning violence for violence and creating a cycle of violence that spins out of control, disciples are to find another way to solve one’s conflicts and differences.
Jesus offers four examples of not retaliating: if some strikes you on the face…if someone take your coat… in someone forces you to go an extra mile… if someone begs from you.
Again, if a disciple followed these teachings literally, these teachings do not seem wise or part of the wisdom of God to act in such a way.
-But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;
-And if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well;
-And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.
-Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
Again we ask: “What is the meaning of these hyperboles and moral exaggerations?” The answer? Don’t be quick to revenge but try to find a way of reconciliation. Don’t be quick to punish someone who steals from you but discover why they were stealing and how people can solve that problem. Don’t be quick to judge beggars. Why are these people begging and what can be done about it? Jesus wants to change the spirit of irritation, anger and hatred inside of us. Irritation, anger, hatred and retaliation only seem to heap gasoline on the fire of conflict. Jesus is teaching his disciples another way of dealing with revenge.
Can a person apply these teachings of Jesus to governments of cities and nations, to police forces and armies? Are governments to take these sayings of Jesus literally? Most of us think, “Of course not.”
On the other hand, governments and ethnic groups can easily be drawn into a cycle of violence and retaliation, and the conflict is only exacerbated. Most people today can see the cycle of violence and retaliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians, the Indians and the Pakistanis, the Protestants and the Catholics in Ireland. A cycle of violence between nations and ethnic groups does not seem a wise choice. Therefore, there is a wisdom to Jesus’ teachings about revenge that applies to governments and ethnic groups as well.
#59 On Love Of One's Enemies
Matthew 5:43-48 Luke 6:27-28, 32-36
-"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 children of your Father in heaven; We hear the same parallel again. “You have heard it said in the Old Testament law that you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy, BUT I say to you.” The Jesus, the New Moses, gives a new commandment on the new mountain, a new moral code for his followers.
“Love your enemies.” Highlight. This is the fifth example of Jesus using Aramaic hyperbole and exaggeration to make a point. That is, a “normal” reaction is to hate our enemies and do evil to them. Instead, Jesus is teaching his disciples another way of life and loving. How can we as Christians deal effectively with the people we don’t like and have conflicts with? We discover that hating people only inflames the conflict between them and us. Instead of hating one’s enemies, Jesus is teaching his disciples another way. A person only needs to look at history and our past enemies e.g. the Germans, the Japanese, and the Russians to realize that previous enemies can be transformed into friends and allies. The same is true of friends, family, neighbors, work associates. Christ can work miracles and transform conflictive relationships into peaceful relationships. Sometimes and often, peace making with one’s enemies takes years.
-For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. Yes, it is true. Our gracious heavenly Father gives rain and sunshine to both the good and the bad. That is just a fact of life. God’s free gifts of grace fall on everybody.
-For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If we love only those who love us, what is so great about that? Everybody else does that as well.
-And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? And if we greet only people that we love and know such as family, friends and fellow church members, what is so great about that? Everybody cordially greets people that we like and enjoy.
-Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.“You must be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” Highlight. Perfect means to be mature, not to be flawless. Write the word, “mature,” next to the word, “perfect.” The word, “perfect,” comes from centuries ago when a translator by the name of Tyndale used this word. The word, “perfect,” came to mean flawless, with no defects. The Greek word under the English word is “teleos” from which we get the English word, “mature.” “Be mature in your thinking.” The word, “perfect,” has too much perfectionism in it.
“Be merciful as your father is merciful.” Only Luke. Notice in this passage and the Lord’s Prayer, Luke simply uses the word, “Father,” rather than “heavenly father” as Matthew does. The most high God, our Father, is kind and merciful to people who are ungrateful and selfish, and we as disciples are to be kind and merciful like God our Father is kind and merciful.
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