Tonight we finish Matthew chapter 5 with verses 38-48. These verses impart to us simple lessons that are easy to comprehend but can be difficult to practice. In these sayings, Jesus is telling us to put others first. It is simple. He gives us examples of how to do this in verses 38-42. If someone antagonizes us, we should not fight back, but remain meek. Christ is telling us to not be offenders, to not be affected by the antagonizers of this world, but to return evil with good. In this instance we can offer or bodies as peace offerings in a figurative or literal sense, should it come to that.
The second example encourages us to be free with our material possessions. If someone asks for a jacket in the cold, we should freely give it and more. If we see that our help is not enough, Jesus encourages us to give beyond what was asked until the need is fully met. This is a sacrifice of our material things.
The third example Jesus provides is that if someone asks us to go with them one mile, we should go with them two miles. It is a show of solidarity with someone who had asked a favor that might otherwise be alone. This is a sacrifice of our time.
All three of these examples require us to give of ourselves. Being honest, it can be painful to turn the other cheek, give away a trusted possession or sacrifice our time. This is especially true if we have other plans or find ourselves giving something away that we love and saved for but we know we might not ever see again. But consider the end result of these sacrifices: they each make a lasting impression on the receiver of them. People generally expect one to fight back. Some folks may be wary of lending their things but few will voluntarily lend more than asked. And giving your time? Rarely is it that we find those that will go above and beyond to help someone other than family or close friends. But Jesus’s words here are not limited to any one faction of our life. These sacrifices are encouraged for anyone to give to anyone else. This includes the panhandler on the of off ramp that looks like they could get a job if they really wanted to. Jesus doesn’t ask us to judge; Jesus asks us to give.
Verses 43-48 say a very similar thing but this time it is focused on enemies. We all have enemies and some we deal with more civilly than others. This passage mentions those that treat us unfairly, poorly, or that persecute and use us. Jesus tells us not to take vengeance, not to attack, but to pray for them and to do good things for them. Because God is good to us, the righteous, but is He not also good to the unrighteous of the world? Yes. He loves us all.
We find that when we actually do this, it feels different, but it also feels right. It feels good. Acting contrary to our baser nature helps us realize that when we trust in the Lord’s Word, even though it initially feels wrong, in the end it was so obviously the right thing to do. Why spend our lives in conflict when we can be peacemakers and peacekeepers? Why pursue our own agendas when we can serve others and find that peace inside ourselves that can only be had when we follow Him?