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?
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.