Archive for January, 2019
“‘Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?’ And he said, ‘The one who showed mercy toward him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do the same’” (Luke 10:36-37).
Jesus’ telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan emerged from a question posed by a lawyer seeking to qualify the definition of “neighbor.” The lawyer’s evaluative response, and Jesus’ injunction, indicates that the initial question was misguided. In fact, there is no such thing as a non-neighbor. Instead of quibbling and “splitting hairs” over such matters, the charge and challenge to each of us is to be neighborly. Therein lies the right answer.
“You have heard that it was said,…but I say to you” (Matthew 5:43-44).
In five previous examples (Mt. 5:21,22; 27,28; 31,32; 33,34; 38,39), Jesus used the same phraseology as notification that things will not be as they once were. No longer will my followers be self-satisfied simply because they haven’t done certain things…murder, adultery, etc. Instead of settling for the least common denominator found in the letter of the Law, Jesus raises the bar to address the Spirit of the Law and the attitudes behind these acts against both humanity and God. It forces us to read the entirety of scripture in the light of our relationship with Him.
“But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’’” (Matthew 4:4).
The BMI (Body Mass Index) is, more often than not, an unfriendly and indicting number. It is also utilized by the National Center of Health Statistics to indicate that nearly three-fourths of Americans are obese. Our insatiable appetites aren’t for a want of food but nutrition. Processed foods, and the empty calories they provide, deprive us of the nutrients our bodies desire. Thus, we remain hungry. Jesus’ statement is a reminder to crave more in life. This world is a pantry filled with the empty calories of material desires. The satisfaction they offer is only for the moment and will not bring the fullness that only the table of God can provide.
“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine. I will repay’” (Romans 12:19).
A vengeful spirit is a losing proposition. It is impossible to get even and settle the score. Parity is never achieved. Evil cannot be defeated by a corresponding evil response. Living life with the bitter resolve to “payback” what someone has coming to them is to take from God what rightfully belongs to him. None of us are qualified administrators in matters of judgment. There is only One, and it’s neither you nor I.
“Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you” (2 Timothy 1:14).
The gospel continues to flourish, and lives are being transformed. Though the world stands in opposition, the offensive strategy of the Kingdom of God marches forward, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. How has it continued on for 2000 years? For the likes of you, who, by deed and word, actively communicate the gospel; who suffer for it bravely, and guard it faithfully. You are the reason.
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
A life given to following Christ isn’t always a peaceful transition. A commitment to the pursuit of God’s purposes can bring division between you and your family, your friends, your job, your possessions. Thus, to all potential followers, Jesus says you must count the cost. Salvation is free, but it will cost you something.
“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).
It’s important to note in this passage the emphasis is upon who, not what; whomever and not whatever. That is, due diligence and circumspection must still be exercised. I’m not going to give a murderer a gun, or a loan to a conniving scoundrel or a reckless spendthrift. We cannot be so naive in the understanding of scripture. Otherwise, the uninformed will find themselves bullied and guilted by those who would abuse scripture for their own selfish gain.
“Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matthew 5:41).
A Roman soldier could require any non-Roman to carry his armor for one mile if compelled to do so. While unfair, abusive, and racially discriminatory, it was nonetheless the law. Going the extra mile bears testimony to a greater compulsion…the desire to serve God and not man. Someone has well said, “The first mile renders unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, while the second mile renders unto God what belongs to God.”
“If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also” (Matthew 5:40).
Forget walk-in closets with extensive wardrobe selections. The clothing of those to whom Jesus spoke was limited to the long undershirt and the coat worn over it. These were inexpensive items that could be easily replaced. Jesus is essentially saying there are no material possessions worth the damages created by going to court; that I’d rather you go naked than fight. Get your “honor” out of the way and focus on the greater mission.
“But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also” (Matthew 5:39).
To be struck in such a demeaning way seemingly presents only two options—either lash out or lay down. Jesus, however, offers a more creative response. To turn the other cheek is to look the perpetrator in the eye and, thus, restore human dignity. It’s the difference between being a passive victim and a proactive victor.