It is more important for us to advance the Kingdom of God than it is to get even.
Good morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor.
Good to be back. Glad to hear things went well last week. Thanks to Dave Ridder for filling in and for tucking his shirt in on stage
Sunday’s where I don’t speak are always a reminder to me of how God created me.
I spoke for 27 weeks in a row, beating my previous record of 7. But yet, after one week off, I’m so pumped to go again. If I would have had two weeks off, I might have started getting the shakes or something.
This is what God created me for, and I’m excited to be back doing it
This morning, we are starting the second section of a long series called, “The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached.”
It is a series about what many have called the greatest moral teaching of all-time, Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” in Gospel of Matthew 5-7
This Fall, we did a good chunk of chapter 5, and we will be resuming that today in verse 38 in a little bit.
This is a little different series than what we’ve done in the last two. In this series, we are really going to dive deep into the Bible, study a few verses at a time, and then move to next section, etc.
As I’ve said many times, both types of series are REALLY important to do, so don’t get caught in the “Either/OR Camp”
The basic summary of Jesus’ sermon on the mount is this: It’s his explanation of how life should be in “The Kingdom of God.”
The kingdom of God is what life should be like when God is KING of our lives.
If we followed His ways, how we should truly live
Let’s take a look at today’s passage:
(Matthew 5:38-42) - NIV
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'[a] 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
SO, Jesus tells us to be wary of revenge and then gives us four illustrations on how we can serve those who offend us.
And e does so Because we like revenge.
Now revenge is a strong word. When we think of revenge…we often think of people getting back at someone by burning their house down, or murdering them, or some other graphic example we’ve seen in a movie
But it’s not always that graphic
Revenge essentially means to “Get Even”
If someone wrong’s you, it hurts, brings you down (lower hand). And we feel this need (I don’t care who you are), to balance this scale.
It tends to be our gut reaction
No matter the offense
9 year old boy punched on the playground (punch back)
I personally would have ran
16 year old girl gets cheated on by her first boy friend (key the car)
A friend completely leaves you out of something important, so you find a way to leave them out of something you do (so they can feel the pain of it)
A person at work takes credit for something you did…
Don’t punch them back or key their car, but perhaps we try and sabotage their reputation
We have this deeply entrenched, fleshly desire within us that when we are hurt, offended, embarrassed, or ridiculed, that we CRAVE getting EVEN.
Revenge is an energizing, motivating, and consuming emotion, and we often feel it can’t be quenched until we “get even” (show hands)
TURN THE OTHER CHEEK
Yet, Jesus tells us to react quite differently. Let’s dive into those first two verses:
(Matthew 5:38-39) – NIV
38"You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
This whole eye for an eye thing (which is still a common phrase in our culture) was called “The Law of Retaliation”
Jesus is saying, “You’ve heard that you can retaliate with the same measure that was inflicted upon you, but I tell you differently.”
So where are they hearing this?
You might be surprised to know that part of this law is written in the Old Testament in the Bible (Exodus, Lev., Deut.).
However, the law isn’t as simple as you might think
First of all, it was put in place to limit unrestricted blood vengeance
The last thing the Jewish leaders wanted was for someone’s wife to be killed, and then for that hurt husband to be free to kill 25 other relatives
You see this sometimes in ancient cultures…they would literally purge someone’s bloodline
And remember, there are no maximum security prison’s in an ancient Jewish tribal culture when this is put in place. They are roaming in the desert.
You have to have a legal system that’s going to deter
We see a strong deterrent system of justice in some countries still today, right?
There are countries where if you vandalize something, you can get caned
Kind of crazy, but nobody’s gonna spray paint an alley anytime soon
And thus, in a tribal culture w/o an elaborate prison system, a strong system of justice is necessary
Eye for an eye, tooth for tooth.
And although it wasn’t always taken literally (example: If someone came and burned down the left 2/5 of your house, they wouldn’t necessarily then go burn down same left 2/5 of the offender’s house)
But the idea was that there was going to be intense justice for the crimes.
But here’s the kicker…and here’s where people miss this today, and where people were missing it just as often in Jesus’ day
This sort of eye for and eye thing, was to be enforced by the courts, not on a personal basis
In fact, in Deut. 19 where it mentions and eye for an eye, it says that justice must be done by the courts
So what was happening in Jesus’ time (and still today), is people would get hurt by someone, and retaliate right back on their own, and then say, “and eye for an eye, tooth for tooth.” Sorry. It’s my right.
But that’s not what the Bible says, and eye for an eye, a tooth for tooth, is merely in there from a justice standpoint for the courts. Because, if someone does something of serious offense, there should be justice…by the courts
The Bible, even before Jesus’ time though, says that WE personally should act differently
(Proverbs 20:22) – NIV
22 Do not say, "I'll pay you back for this wrong!"
Wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you.
So that’s what the Bible really means by and eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, BUT Jesus says, you know what, if someone hurts you 1) don’t take the law in your own hands, then takes it a STEP further when he says BUT 2) turn the other cheek!
An important note from the Greek here (NT originally written in greek), it says in our version “Strikes you the cheek,” in the Greek, it means slap with an open hand.
Seems weird, but slapping in their culture was more commonplace and was a symbolic way of affronting a person’s dignity and honor.
Especially people who were “above” (explain) someone else would slap someone to insult them or embarrass them
That’s important, because Jesus is talking about being insulted and embarrassed not about being beaten
It’s imperative we understand that, because Jesus is NOT saying that if you were being physically abused (like domestic abuse) by someone that you should do nothing.
He’s talking about what to do when you are insulted
So, when someone hurts you, they offend you, a friend betrays you, someone spreads terrible rumors about you, when these things happen, he says turn the other cheek. WHY?????
When I was a freshmen in college…my roommate’s friend came over often. One night, I was having a really bad night, and I went off at my roommate’s friend
He looks at me, and apologizes and graciously offers that they move to a different room to continue their conversation
I was speechless for a moment, and then felt stupid for my actions.
He turned the other cheek, and in doing so revealed my foolishness.
However, if he would have argued back with me, it only would have escalated, and I would have never been shown the error of my ways.
Turning the other cheek is to take the high road. It’s to rob your oppressor from the power to humiliate. Because now, rather than them looking like the one winning the fight of evil vs. evil, they are forced to contend with the evil of their actions. And they are forced to do so because of the light you shine upon their darkness.
But if you don’t turn the other cheek, if you just reflect their evil, nothing good ever comes of it
It’s like reflecting a blackened mirror back at them
But turning the other cheek, it’s like shining a light, it’s like shining a large clear mirror back at them that reveals the truth of their actions
Let me read you one of my favorite passages from Romans (use to have end of verse on ceiling)
(Romans 12:17-21) – NIV
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.] 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
You CAN NOT overcome evil with evil
Ask yourself: Where have I been hurt? Who’s hurting me? Who do you feel like getting even with?
And if so, how are you dealing with it? Are you trying to overcome evil with evil? Or are you trying to overcome evil with good?
Let’s look again at the next example Jesus gives
(Matthew 5:40) - NIV
if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
Tunic was long sleeved inner robe that a person wore next to skin.
Cloak was the outer robe. It was an indispensable piece of clothing. In fact, there was a rule that if you borrowed one, you had to return it by sunset (Ex 22:26-27).
Jesus says, instead of saying, “I need this!! You can’t take it!! If you take it, I’ll steal yours some other day!!” Instead, he says, if they take your tunic, give ‘em your cloak as well
We don’t like to hear this though
Jesus often in his Sermon on the Mount (as we mentioned in the fall) grates against our American obsession with equality
For us, everything must be FAIR! And if it’s not, we cry, “It’s not fair! That’s not fair! Everything must be equal! You take from me, I take from you. You OWE me. We must be FAIR!”
So when someone hurts you, it’s only FAIR that we get them back
And I LOVE that Jesus says, “If someone wants to sue you…”
This is GREAT for us Americans. This is a civilized country. When someone hurts us, we’re not necessarily out for blood, but we are out for their MONEY! J
Seriously, what is our obsession with suing people?
It actually grieves me how much I hear Christian people talking about suing others?
Oh, did something go wrong at the hospital? SUE them!
Did they take something from you they shouldn’t have legally taken, SUE them!
Did the restaurant forget to tell you how hot their coffee was and it spilled on you, SUE them!
Your college couldn’t help you find a job after graduation, SUE them!
In America, we don’t get revenge with our fists; we get revenge with our lawyers!
And it’s embarrassing. Our obsession with “getting even” and our obsession “getting back at someone” is embarrassing.
It’s not what we teach our children, so why are we obsessed w/ it ourselves??
And the real question is: Where does revenge end?
Read a true story about 2 brothers
Sent insulting birthday card…OTHER sent 50 back for his b-day
Sent two busloads of Choir-boys to park in his lawn…other Elephant
Sent a 4,000 lb pet rock…OTHER 10 tons of pebbles (rock had babies)
Where does revenge end?
You have to have watched enough TV by now to know it doesn’t, right?
One mob goes after the other, each w/ a bigger blow
Or on a more serious note…think about gang life in our county’s inner cities
Or, what about Israeli and Palestinian peace? One rocket into one territory, and they also decide to retaliate and send something back in the form of a rocket or car bomb or suicide bomber?
And does this method work? Has it brought peace?
Then why would we be mad enough to think that it would work in our own lives???
It’s because we’re often too consumed with revenge to think with any rationality
All we can think about is “getting even,” and we can’t think clear enough to realize that turning the other cheek is not only the right thing to do, the Godly thing to do, but it also (not always, but many times) can be a solution as well
For instance, imagine a scenario using the example Jesus gave in Jesus’ time
Imagine a village where a man seizes another and demands his tunic. If that man proceeds to offer him his cloak too, he would virtually be naked.
Now think about this: How would the onlookers react to that? The angry person who first seized the tunic would be seen as dishonorable.
Thus, the angry person would probably be forced to say…no stop it. Stop undressing. Keep it.
Well, what happened is “the victim” is now empowered. And the antagonist is now forced to think about his evil.
The same is true w/ the turn the other cheek example
If someone dishonored or embarrassed you by slapping you, if you literally turned the other cheek, the person would be forced to hit you with the back of their hand (to hit you)
It forces them to think about it
It’s shining light on darkness. It’s attempting to overcome evil with good, not evil.
By avoiding revenge…by refusing to talk bad about the person who wronged you, by refusing to get back at the person who insulted your family or friend, by refusing to hold a grudge, you are as the Bible said earlier, “Heaping burning coals on their head.”
It’s surprising to people. It’s shocking. And it’s the shock of following the example of Christ that often is one of the only ways to stop the cycle of anger and hatred.
THE EXTRA MILE
In Jesus’ 3rd example, he tells us to go “the extra mile”
Which is another common phrase in our language, but it got confused over time. Now, go the “extra mile” means give it 110%, put some extra effort in.
It’s similar, but originally, it was a little different. Look at the verse again:
(Matthew 5:41) – NIV
41If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
In Jesus’ time, the Roman military could command ordinary citizens to “on the spot” help them with a project (construct roads, fortifications, public buildings, etc.).
Example: Simon of Cyrene forced by Romans to carry Jesus’ cross.
Jesus tells disciples, if they force you to go a mile, you might as well go 2.
And it’s the same principle as before. It’s surprising evil with servanthood.
You are A) Avoiding stooping to evil yourself and on top of that B) You’re getting people to think about their evil by serving them.
Again, imagine that a soldier forced a victim to carry their pack for a mile. And at the end of the mile, the victim said, “Sir, it looks like you’ve had a long day, let me carry this for you another mile.” For not all, but for a lot, that will cause them to think about what they’re doing. To have to confront their sin and not just continue on their way and do the exact same thing to someone else.
Jesus gives another example of serving in verse 42, but we are going to cover that in more detail in house groups this week.
The truth of this message is this: Even when we are being offended, embarrassed, or hurt, our first priority on this earth is always to figure out how we can advance God’s kingdom NOT how we can get even.
You are here to shine brightly for God. To be his light. To be his witness. And turning the other cheek, holding your tongue, refusing to get even, is not only one of the more effective ways to live life, but it’s one of the most noticeable ways to stand out as a Christian.
Because, let’s be honest, the majority of people find a way to get even, one way or another.
And maybe you’ve been sitting here all morning thinking, “So, basically I’m supposed to not get back at people and sometimes let them offend me and not say anything?! That’s ridiculous!”
And I would ask you the question: What do you really value? What is more important to you?
Defending Yourself (the idea of fairness) or Representing Jesus Christ
And I’m nervous that too many American Christians would pick fairness
Turning the other cheek in America feels so backwards, so counter-intuitive, so unproductive because are worldview screams otherwise
In America, if someone threatens us, or our churches, or our rights, we’re up in arms and quick to defend ourselves (because that’s how we’re raised)
But we’ve lost the spirit of the early Christian martyrs or our brothers and sisters in Christ in China or the Middle East who say, “Even if they kill us, maybe they’ll see our faith and turn to God”
Oh, but not here. That’s not how we see it. Because we keep foolishly leveraging the idea of fairness over advancing the Kingdom of God at all costs
And listen maybe you don’t even try and get even by the things you say…maybe you just passively desire for something bad to happen to them…that they’ll get their due.
I hear more and more people say this all the time. “Ah, they’ll get what’s coming to them. What goes around, comes around. It’s Karma”
Which by the way, is a completely un-Christian concept
But the Bible is saying, we are to be completely different.
Turning the other cheek is not just to not retaliate and then secretly wish they get theirs later, it’s to not retaliate and then pray your goodness leads to them finding goodness.
Don’t think you’re successfully ” turning the other cheek” if you’re actually hoping that your passive goodness eventually leads to them encountering deserved suffering.
And listen, yeah, turning your other cheek, won’t always work for someone else’s good, this is proverbial advice (meaning it’s not 100% law), sometimes someone will continue to wrong you even if you turn the other cheek; however, that doesn’t mean we don’t still do it
We do it because it’s right. Because He calls us to. And he is good.
And we do it, because that’s what Jesus did.
Look at this passage from 1 Peter about Jesus’ death
(1 Peter 2:23-24) – NEW LIVING TRANSLATION
23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted,
nor threaten revenge when he suffered.
He left his case in the hands of God,
who always judges fairly.
24 He personally carried our sins
in his body on the cross
so that we can be dead to sin
and live for what is right.
By his wounds
you are healed.
And thus, in the passion of my anger, and in the moments when all I can think about is getting even somehow or someway, I try and remind myself of Jesus
Who when he was spit at, insulted, mocked, beaten, flogged, and ultimately killed, he didn’t seek to get even. He didn’t seek revenge.
He merely did what was right. And what he had to do. And he gave up his life for us.
And in that moment after his death. The Bible records that one of the Roman guards who was responsible for aiding in his crucifixion cried out, surely this man was the Son of God!
And may people do the same with your life.
As you turn the other cheek, give to those who take from you, and walk the extra mile from those who force you to, may people say, surely this person is a follower of the Son of God!
You can look under your chair right now, and you should see a connection card and a pen. Go ahead and pick those up.
One of the things we do every week at Renovation Church, is fill out these connection cards.
It’s a way for you to connect with us and for us to connect with you.
If you have a prayer request and want our prayer team to be praying for you this week, there’s a space for that on the back as well
I mentioned briefly in my message about House Groups, if you’re interested in learning more about House Groups, stop by the table.
One other announcement, we’re looking for one more person to help with our video team. Use connection card or iServe form.
We are going to take an offering as well
A time for us to serve for God with what he has given us.
If you’re a visitor, feel free to let the offering just pass you by
As the offering goes by, you can stick your connection card in there as well
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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