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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Reconciling Opposites

Matthew 5:38-47
New Living Translation (NLT)

Teaching about Revenge

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

Teaching about Love for Enemies

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much.  If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.

The problem presented by this difficult teaching is the challenge of effectiveness.  The disciplines of love call for us to be helpful--effectively so.  We are not being helpful to the extent that we are limp doormats inviting self-abuse.  This simply cannot be what Jesus and the God of love require of us.  

The first thing to observe is that under many circumstances unanticipated responses can summon great power to effect change.  Think of the contributions of Gandhi, MLK, Mandela.  Their unanticipated responses to strident provocation was deeply unsettling and eventually triumphant.

The second consideration is that "Love is not a reward to be parceled out as a favor to friends; it is a tactic by which we share the best in us so that others have an opportunity to live at their best."** Parcelling out favors for friendship merely prostitutes us as doormats.  This is not love but abuse of self.  Love [it is worth repeating] "is a tactic by which we share the best in us so that others have an opportunity to live at their best" (ibid).

Reconciliation therefore requires that we compete with the best in ourselves to establish helpful opportunities for those who at the outset may not like us very much.  

**A Year with Jesus by Eugene Peterson, page 52.

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