"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Matthew 5 -- The Extra Mile & Being Our Father's Children

A few days ago I touched on the latter half of Matthew 5 with this post about Jesus speaking with authority or a lot of nerve. I didn't specifically talk about each teaching although one or two were brought up in the comments thanks to a couple ladies who added their wonderful thoughts and perspectives! Before moving on to chapter six I wanted to address a couple of things. As I concluded in the post mentioned above, Jesus' deals a lot with relationships. Here are a few things I have learned from verses 21 through 48.

The importance of

  • not harboring hatred in your heart (thoughts lead to actions -- hatred can lead to murder)
  • reconciling with a brother before leaving a gift on the altar
  • reconciling with an adversary before being taken to court
  • not lusting after women (again thoughts lead to actions -- lusting can lead to immoral behavior including rape)
  • marriage relationships -- your wives are not easily disposable -- you can't divorce them simply because dinners were burned or they no longer look good to you
  • being people of your word; telling the truth and doing what you said you would do
  • breaking the cycle of retaliation and revenge -- trusting God to avenge you since God says vengeance belongs to Him (Deut. 32:35)
  • going the extra mile
  • loving your enemies

Can you find others? Do you think some of these should be taken off the list I compiled?

Now quick things about the last two on my list and then I think I'll be finished with Matthew 5.

Jesus teaches: 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

I will borrow from this source (Jef Menguin) since I like how he said what I was going to attempt to write. Put yourself in the situation of Jesus' hearers on the day of this sermon.

For us to appreciate the impact of that statement to the Jews who gathered before Christ on that day, we need to know that 600 years before that, the Roman Empire enacted a law that forces every male Jew, young and old, to carry any Roman soldier’s burden when ordered anytime, anywhere.

Imagine the frustration of a father who is yet to earn for the day when told to leave his goods or his work. He must carry the goods of a rude Roman soldier or suffer his day in jail. For every Jew, the law is unfair, inhuman, and unjust. Bound by law, he would carry the burden for a mile, but not for another yard, not for another foot, and not even for another inch.

Do you see the reaction on their faces when Jesus instructed them, “If someone forces you to go one mile, go two miles with him”? Some of them must have said, "He must be joking!”, or “No way!”, or “WHAAAAAAAAAAT?”

Jef goes on to list three reasons to go the extra mile. I'll only copy the first since it ties in with loving your enemies and returning good for evil.

"First, the second mile is a character mile. When a Jew carries the soldier’s backpack or burden for the first mile, he does so as a slave. But when he goes the second mile, something not required by law, he does so as a master. The first mile is the “have to mile”; the second mile is the “want” mile. The first mile is to love your parents, your friends, and those who love you. The second mile is to love your enemies. The first mile is to return good for good. The second mile is to return good for evil. The second mile is an invitation for us to develop our character."

What do you think?

And from the last verses (43-48) Jesus tells us to love our enemies and then says something strange:

45that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.

So if we love our enemies -- which is a huge oddity for most people as it goes against human nature - we will be like God?

Jesus continues:

He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

So God blesses the evil people as well as the "good" people so by doing the same, we are as "sons of your Father in heaven"? We are "our Father's child" as we might say it here in the States?

Must be! Because this chapter concludes with these verses.

46If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

If we only are good to nice people and greet those like us while ignoring everyone else, we are no better than any other ordinary person out there. Most people return good for good, however, the exceptional person seeks to overcome evil with good! As one of my blogging friends has said she likes that the ideal ethical/moral code is perfectionistic rather than realistic. She wants something to inspire her to do better! One would expect something from God to be of the highest standard possible. Jesus set the bar high.



Sarah said...

I am in two minds about going the extra mile. It feels suspiciously like supporting your oppressor's injustice against you and being a doormat. But I suppose in some ways it gives you power because it means whatever they make you do, it doesn't affect you. It is hard to hurt someone who has no attachment to material things or to their own life, even. So it could have a big impact on the oppressor if their attempts to humiliate you in this way are not resisted. Do you think that's the point - to make an impact on the oppressor rather than just submit to oppression?

Susanne said...

Sarah, yes, I think you nailed it! It's kind of like ignoring a blog bully. If don't feed their ego by arguing with them, they are more apt to go away. Some people thrive on contention and when you ignore them, they slink away.

Also I think Jesus wants us to keep in mind that GOD sees and rewards us which in spoken of in the next chapter. If we live faithfully, do good even to our enemies and "go the extra mile," plus leave vengeance to Him (and trust Him for that) ... it pleases Him. HE will settle things...we just need to live faithful lives as we are accountable for our actions not everyone else's. At least this is the lesson I take from it

Thanks for your honest thoughts. Good stuff!

Amber said...

Fascinating. Like many of Jesus' teachings that you've covered, it's counter intuitive. And therefore hard. We have to put an effort (mental, physical, etc) into following it. We have to make a conscious *choice* to act against our first instinct.

Susanne said...

Amber, so true. Act and REACT like a Christian (follower of Christ). Sometimes the latter is much harder than the former. :)