Friday, 9 January 2015

How you deal with annoying people demonstrates if we are born again (Matthew 5:38-48)

What do you do when someone wounds you?  How do you deal with people who don’t like you?  What do you do when someone says things that hurt?  How do you react when people are rude?  I want to suggest that how you deal with difficult people reveals whether you are born again.
1.  Don’t get mad, and don’t get even

The religious teachers of that day had taught the people badly, so Jesus corrects some popular misunderstandings.

“You have heard it said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’”  It’s true that the Old Testament teaches this principle, but as a guide for the courts.  We should want a legal system where the punishment is proportional to the crime.  However, the Old Testament expressly forbids taking the law into our own hands and exacting personal revenge.  Therefore, the religious teachers were out of line when they applied the ‘eye for an eye principle’ to personal vendettas.  Instead, we are not to resist the evil person.

‘If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.’  Striking someone on the right cheek with a blow from the back of the hand is still an insulting act in the Middle-East.  Don’t get uptight when someone insults you.

‘If anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let them have your cloak as well.’  Remember that the context is about not resisting the evil-doer; the case against you may be unjust.  Don’t get bitter when someone treats you unfairly. 

It is very satisfying to be a volunteer and to be appreciated for what you do.  However, when a Roman soldier commandeered a Jewish man to carry his baggage, that man had no choice and was not going to receive any thanks.  Instead of being resentful, we are to go the extra mile.

We are also to be generous, by giving to the one who begs from us.  How easy do people find it to ask us for a favour?  We are to give to the one who asks, and not to turn away the one who wants to borrow from us.

Of course, by not resisting the evil person, we are following in the footsteps of Christ.  Peter tells us that, ‘Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps … when he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but entrusted himself to him who judges justly’ (1 Peter 2:21-23).
2. Love the one who wrongs you

Augustine wrote, ‘Many people have learned to offer the other cheek, but do not know how to love the person who struck them.’  Not only do we not resist the evil person, we love our enemies.

‘You have heard it said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.”’  The Scriptures do teach that we are to love our neighbour, but it never commands us to hate our enemy.  ‘I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’  When I was in theological college, one lecturer pointed out that it is difficult to keep on hating someone you are praying for every day.

We are to love our enemies, ‘so that you may be sons of our Father in Heaven.’  God not only provides for those who love him but also for those who remain hostile towards him.  His love should inspire us to go beyond the worldly love that only loves those who are like us, and nice to us.  After all, ‘God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

Conclusion—‘Be perfect’ (48)

Jesus concludes his six ‘you have heard it said’ statements saying, ‘therefore, be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect’.  Not that Christians will live without moral failings; he later teaches us to pray ‘forgive us our trespasses.’  But by calling us to be perfect Jesus is comparing the imperfect, superficial, outward religion being taught by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, with the heart-transforming, life-changing religion that he points to.

The fruit of God’s presence in our lives demonstrates that we are spiritually alive, like the fruit in an orchard reveals that the apple trees are healthy.  So if you want to be sure that you are truly a Christian, depend on God to help you with difficult people.  ‘For, not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven’ (5:21).

No comments: