Relevant:From Revenge to Love

Sermon Summary

This message looks at Jesus' interpretation of the "eye for and eye and tooth for a tooth" laws of the Old Testament as well as the attitude that had developed among many of the Hebrews to love those who loved them but to hate anyone they considered an enemy. Jesus was once again trying to get them to see the intent of the law rather than the erroneous ideas that had developed. Revenge is never sweet although it can bring a temporary satisfaction. It will ultimately destroy the one who seeks revenge. Jesus tells them to take a different approach to revenge. Turn the other cheek, give to one who ask, help others whether they deserve it or not, and love and pray for your enemies. The sweetest revenge is when a bad guy finds Christ and repents because of the undeserved love and mercy of the wounded person.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever struggled with the desire for revenge and why do most people think that revenge is sweet?

2. Jesus reminded them of the "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" law. This law was given to prevent people from "unlimited retaliation." However, Jesus said it would be better if there were no retaliation, rather a willingness to do good even to those who don't deserve it. How could this radical idea potentially change the heart of an evil person? Read the following story of Stephen and what he did when he was being stoned. Do you think God used Stephen to help change the heart of one of the guys involved? Discuss.

Acts 7:55  But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.
Acts 7:56  "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God."
Acts 7:57  At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him,
Acts 7:58  dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Acts 7:59  While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Acts 7:60  Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.
Acts 8:1  And Saul was there, giving approval to his death.

3. When Jesus says "don't resist an evil person" He's not saying to go along with evil people and their wicked schemes or actions. He's saying don't resist evil with evil. And when Jesus says we should be willing to help a person who ask for help, we should even go beyond what they ask. So the question is not do they deserve my help, but how can I help? There are times when giving a person what they ask for would not help them: for example a person who is struggling with addiction. However, we should still pray for the person and seek to provide the help we can. In other words, if a homeless person ask for money, you might offer to bring them some food. The way we handle these situations will either close the door or keep the door open for us to share Christ with that person. Have you ever had to be nice to a person who didn't really deserve your kindness? Explain how God can use an undeserved act of kindness to help reach someone with His love.

Rom 12:16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Rom 12:17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
Rom 12:18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

4. Jesus said to love our enemies. This doesn't mean we have to agree with them or to like what they do! If someone considers you an enemy because of your love for Jesus, don't be angry at them, rather feel deep sorrow for them. Their hearts are darkened and they are truly lost in their darkness. Remember that we too were once in a dark place. While they may not accept your love for them, there are ways that we can be a good example to them. What are some of those ways?

Eph 2:1  As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,
Eph 2:2  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.
Eph 2:3  All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.
Eph 2:4  But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,
Eph 2:5  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.


Full Sermon Notes

Aren't you glad we don't have to wait for heaven to experience a taste of heaven? Aren't you glad we don't have to wait for heaven to experience the presence, the protection, the power and the peace of God? We can, on this earth, taste the sweetness of God even though this earth is sometimes filled with a lot of bitter things.
Today, as we once again look at a portion of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, let's pray and ask God to show us how to take some of the most difficult things in life and let Him make good come out of them!! Let's pray!

"Sweet Jesus, You taught Your disciples so many amazing concepts and principles. You helped bring clarity to the laws, instructions and concepts of The Old Testament. I pray with all my heart, soul and mind this morning that You will speak powerfully through Your precious Holy Spirit and Your divinely inspired Word. There are so many different needs in this one room this morning and only You have the ability to take one sermon, and speak to each need! I simply yield myself to You and ask You to work through me as Your vessel, Your mouthpiece! I trust You completely to answer this prayer for I pray it in the name Jesus and with His attitude that Your will be done! Amen!"

Okay, this morning's message is about the gaping chasm between the ways of Jesus and the ways of the world which are especially obvious when it comes to how we handle things when we've been wronged and what to do with our enemies! Jesus is going to point out the way things had been, and the way things should be.
He's trying to get people to move from a mindset and culture of Revenge to a mindset and culture of love. Not an easy thing! In fact, I'm not a gambling man, but I bet some of you just thought to yourself, "I think I want to leave now, this guy's gonna try to get me to wimp out and be all forgiving and 'lovie dubbie with a bunch of turkeys that don't deserve anything from me!'"

You might be surprised, but I agree with you on one thing, they don't deserve anything from you, but I hope to show you that how we treat others shouldn't be dependent on what they deserve! I'll explain, but first let's check out what Jesus had to say about this topic. Matthew 5:38-42 as we learn to move...

From Revenge

Mat 5:38  "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.'
Mat 5:39  But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Mat 5:40  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
Mat 5:41  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Mat 5:42  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Wow!! Now that's some hard medicine to swallow right there, but it's the cure for so much that is wrong in our world. From broken nations, broken communities, broken politics, broken churches, to broken families. Let's examine these few verses in from revenge aspect of this message. Jesus quoted a portion of the Levitical Law...

Matthew 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’

What a lot of people don't understand when they go back and read that part of the Old Testament and what the people of Jesus' day had either forgotten, ignored or never understood, was the fact that "eye for an eye" and "tooth for a tooth" was actually a law given by God to prevent abuse and injustice in the early years of human existence. I know you're thinking, "Really? Come on Preacher!" Yes really. What was happening was unrestrained retaliation when something happened. Someone lost an eye in a fight so the person would go for revenge and take the other person's life! God was saying, "No! An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." People's hearts were hard and could be very cruel, so God gave them rules.

And as we've studied over the last few weeks, people, being people, would try to get around the rules, and still get what they wanted. Many times it's not justice that people want, but revenge. The law was given to control the wickedness of humankind, not some arbitrary rule given by God to make life hard on us! You might remember that the religious leaders had been told by Jesus that some of Moses' extra rules had been given because of their hardness of heart! So Jesus goes on to tell them something that I think points to the intent of the law...

Matthew 5: 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

When Jesus says "don't resist an evil person" He's not saying to go along with evil people and their wicked schemes or actions. He's saying don't resist evil with evil. In other words, if they want to solve the problem by fighting it out, and seeing who is the most powerful physically, or who has the most connections to people in power to win, or who has the most money to win the legal battles, don't play that game. Turning the other cheek is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of wisdom.
How many lives could have been saved if someone had turned the other cheek instead of just jumping into a heated battle? Now I understand that there are times when you turn the other cheek and you seek to reason things out with someone, but they refuse to talk. If they attack you to harm you or your family, you may have to defend yourself and those God has put under your protection.

Let me just say this, if a person comes after me to do me harm, I will do whatever I can to avoid hurting that person, even if it puts me at some risk, but if you come in my house to do harm to my family, you will have a tiger by the tail, and tigers don't like that! Turning the other cheek, however, in today's world has less to do with a fist fight and more to do with how you deal with insults, attacks on your integrity, and thoughtless and mean spirited words posted on your Facebook page by a fellow student or co-worker. If you choose not to turn the other cheek and you retaliate in kind, you may close the door permanently as far as your ability to ever share Christ with that person. You might be tempted to say, "But they're my enemy, so I don't care!" We'll see what Jesus had to say about that in a minute, but first: If you decide to turn the other cheek you may open the door for a witness to that person down the road. In fact, Jesus talks about just how far we should be willing to go in our attempt to keep the door open for an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus with someone. Listen again to the words of Christ...

Mat 5:40  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.
Mat 5:41  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.
Mat 5:42  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

I can hear someone saying, "Ok, that's it, that's crazy, I'm out of here!" By the way, this would be an awkward time to get up and go to the restroom!
Let me explain what Jesus was saying here. It's amazing what you can discover when you study and do a little digging on the background and cultural context of the Scriptures. In Jewish law, you could sue someone for their tunic, which was a piece of clothing with sleeves, but you couldn't sue a person for their cloak, because it was the outer garment that was used by poor people as a blanket at night. So, again, the intent of the law was always about fairness and justice. So just what is Jesus saying when He says to His followers to offer their cloak? He was saying that our commitment to share the Love of Jesus with others should motivate us to go beyond what the law requires and be willing to give up personal rights if it could lead someone to find the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ! And then Jesus tells His followers to even be kind to the pagan, occupiers of their nation, the Romans. How so?  

The soldiers were permitted to force non-Roman citizens to carry their baggage for a mile. Jesus tells them if they are asked to carry their stuff for a mile, offer to carry it two miles! Talk about a witness. The guys would probably say to that person, "So you must be one of those "Christians" which meant "little Christ." "Well, yes, in fact I am, mind if I tell you about Him while we walk?" I can hear the soldier say, "If you're willing to carry my duffle bag another mile, I'm all ears!" Now someone might bring up the fact that those pagan occupiers did not deserve help, or to be told about Jesus! All I can say to that is "So you deserved Jesus when He found you? I don't think so!" Again, I must quote from one of my favorite commentators on this passage, Dr. Frank Stagg...

"The Christian's question is never, 'Does the other deserve my help?' but 'How can I help?'"

Sometimes the answer is simple. As we've already read, Jesus said...

Mat 5:42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

If someone truly needs our help and ask for our help then we need to ask ourselves the question, "How can I help this person?" A good thing to do at this point would be to pray and ask God for wisdom to know the right thing to do. That God wants us to help the person and serve the person is a given. However, if you know someone is abusing your generosity for destructive purposes, like an addiction or as an excuse to not live responsibly within their means, then the answer to the question, "How can I help?" may be that you lovingly tell them what they asked for is not what they need! They won't like it, but sometimes the only way for someone to move up is when they hit bottom.

And for some folks, the bottom is really, really, deep and dark. At that point, you may be limited to praying, and loving, but no longer enabling them. A few Sundays ago, I was on my way home, and had my windows down. As I was in the turn lane to get on the interstate, one of the homeless ladies saw me. Our church has helped her. She said…"Hey preacher, give me some money!" I didn't have any cash on me, but I rarely give cash, I offer to buy them a meal. Since I was already in the turn lane with people behind me, I said I don't give cash, but I'll catch you tomorrow and get you some food. She yelled at me to get a life! I said, "See ya later," and she repeated for me to get a life. I wasn't mad at her, I just felt so sorry for her and said a prayer for her as I got on the interstate.

Now what Jesus said next is also a hard pill to swallow, but we need to hear what He said and we need to do what He said. Jesus' purpose for this teaching was to get people to move from revenge...

To Love

The Old Testament commands for the Hebrew people to be a separate and holy people had been many times interpreted to mean that they were to hate people who were not Hebrew. The command to love thy neighbor was interpreted by some Pharisees to mean only other Pharisees. They conveniently thought since I'm commanded to love God and my neighbor, then I can hate my enemy. Jesus had come to this earth to set the record straight. Here's what He said...

Mat 5:43  "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
Mat 5:44  But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Mat 5:45  that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Mat 5:46  If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?
Mat 5:47  And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?
Mat 5:48  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Okay, here's the deal, if we claim Christianity betters humanity then we've got to adhere to a higher standard, a higher calling, a higher purpose, and a higher practice! This does not make us better than others in our fundamental state of being created beings of a magnificent God who made us from dust but breathed into us the spirit of life! As you've heard me say many times, we are not better than, but we are better off because of what we have allowed God to do in our hearts and lives by His mercy and grace! People who have not allowed God to work this miracle of grace and love in their lives are still bound by their fallen nature and that nature will naturally love those who love them and do good to them, but will not go beyond that.

However, Jesus makes it clear that those who are recipients of a great and undeserved grace and love of God must in turn be willing to give the same grace and love of God to our brothers and sisters in creation who have yet to become our brothers and sisters in the spiritual recreation we call salvation! But how can I love my enemy. They are, after all, against me, they despise me, and say and do hurtful things to me! How am I supposed to love them? Start by remembering how it felt when you lived in a world without forgiveness, mercy, peace, hope, and love. Remember what it was like to live in a world filled with anger, hate, and despair. A world where revenge was to the goal. You know, getting back, paying back! A world where you went to bed thinking about negative things and got up thinking about negative things. When I remember back to my days before Jesus, it does several things. It makes me so grateful for the change of from the old life, the gift of a new life, and the promise of eternal life! It makes me sad that there are still people living in that world and causes me to want them to find what I found!

When I'm on a tough scene of overdose or preaching the funeral of someone who took their own life, I'm reminded of how that could have been my story if not for the amazing grace of God! When I think about that, how can I not care about even my enemy? I don't have to love what they do or love being around them if they are trying to tear me down, but I am commanded as a follower of Christ to love them and to pray for them! Let me tell you a story that happened to me. Before I met Jesus, when I was in the 7th-8th grade, there was a bully in my class. He was bigger than me and bossed me around. I especially hated P.E. class. We even had study hall together. He would pick on me relentlessly. I would get so angry and many times would day dream of ways I could get him when he wasn't looking. It was around my ninth grade year when Jesus radically changed my life. Guess what, I went from day dreaming of revenge to praying for that guy and for starters he stopped bothering me.

Then when I was junior or senior I went to speak at a small church close to Eagle Lake, Mississippi. That guy's grandmother went to that church and he was there that night. After the service we sat on the front steps of that old church and he apologized for being a bully. I told him I had already forgiven him and that Jesus wanted to be his Savior and best friend and he prayed to receive Christ! Not all of the people I've prayed for have allowed Jesus to change their lives, but I can tell you that every time I pray for my enemies it changes me for the better!! I'm reminded of how all that is good in my life is from God and how I owe everything to Him, so how can I not truly care about others.

Let me say this. I've counseled down through the years with some of our service men and women, and also law enforcement. They have a tough job to do. When asked, I tell them that God has ordained human authorities to protect the ideas of law and order.

Rom 13:1  Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.
Rom 13:2  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

But here's what I also tell them. You have a job to do, but that doesn't mean you can't pray for the very people you are having to arrest, or for the people you are having to fight against. Our Mayor, who used to be a police officer arrested a guy numerous times. He talked with this guy over and over about making better choices in his life and that God had a plan for his life. He didn't listen, but he heard! Years later that guy ended up in a federal prison, but never forgot that police officer who cared about him. Freddie Drenon had planted a seed, and God put another person in that man's life in that federal prison who led him to faith in Christ. That guy has shared his testimony on national television and spoke at the Mayor's prayer breakfast a few years ago. And I know for a fact that some of our service men and women, even though they are extremely limited in what they can say when on foreign soil, have had an impact because of the way they live their lives. Not an easy thing to do in some places, but doable because of God's presence in their lives by way of His Holy Spirit! And in case you were wondering about that last verse...

Mat 5:48  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Don't be discouraged by this. When God ask us to do something He will always make a way for us to do it! God's desire for us is that we become all that He created us to become, but He is very much aware that we are sinners and sometimes struggle with loving our neighbors, let alone our enemies. So He accepts us on the grounds of His mercy given to us through His Son's perfection.

We are perfected not by our own righteousness and goodness, but by the covering of Jesus' goodness and righteousness, and He will give us the power to live a life saved from the evil powers of revenge to live a life of love. Paul said it beautifully in Romans 12:9-21...

Rom 12:9  Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
Rom 12:10  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.
Rom 12:11  Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.
Rom 12:12  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
Rom 12:13  Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Rom 12:14  Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rom 12:15  Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
Rom 12:16  Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
Rom 12:17  Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.
Rom 12:18  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Rom 12:19  Do 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.
Rom 12:20  On 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."
Rom 12:21  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Revenge can bring a temporary satisfaction but it is never sweet. It is always bitter and destroys those who let it rule them. Only God has the ability to take vengeance, because He is the only one who knows all things and understands the heart. So the sweetest revenge is to love your enemy to Jesus and then you'll have a brother or sister in Christ for an eternity! Let's pray!