Loving Without Limits
City on a Hill – Part 6
June 30, 2019
Rev. L. Kent Blanton
- Story of Carole, missionary on furlough, and her “course” and unruly neighbours
- Today we ponder Jesus words on loving others whom, for one reason or another, are difficult to love. We ponder his words about loving without limits.
Today’s Focal Passage: Matt 5:38-48 HCSB
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
“You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- Three weeks ago in our study of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, we read Jesus’ statement to his disciples, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
- Over the past two weeks, we learned that the verses that follow Jesus’ statement describe the kind of righteousness that surpasses the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.
- Over the past two weeks, we have considered four of Jesus’ examples of greater righteousness or the higher standards of the kingdom: anger/murder, sexual purity and lust, marriage and divorce, and oaths and integrity of speech.
Forsaking Retaliation (5:38-42)
- Jesus alludes to Ex 21:24 and Deut 19:21.
- Law of retaliation demanded punishment commensurate with the damage inflicted (eye for an eye, tooth for tooth, etc.)
- One purpose of the law was to ensure justice to the victim and to deter crime. But the law was also intended to prevent excessive punishment that did not fit the crime, as well as to prevent self-appointed vigilante action.
- Jesus condemns the way that the law of retaliation was being abused to promote personal revenge.
- Oppressive atmosphere of first-century Palestine under Roman occupation and rule
- “But I tell you. Do not resist an evil person.” (v. 39)
- Jesus’ disciples are to be givers, rather than takers, seeking to advance kingdom interest, rather than their own
- Jesus uses four illustrations from everyday life to emphasize how they can love without limits
- Public insult (turning the other cheek – v. 39)
- Economic deprivation (giving up one’s cloak when an oppressor sues for one’s tunic – vs. 40)
- Unreasonable authority figures (going the extra mile – vs. 41)
- Responding to requests for financial help (v. 42)
- Important to balance these four graphic and penetrating images with truth found in other Scriptures
- Jesus used hyperbole to underscore the seriousness of his message, so it’s important to consider his words in the light of other Scriptures
- Willingness to forgo one’s personal honor and endure insult is not incompatible with a firm stand for matters of principle and for the rights of others.
- NT reveals Paul appealing several times to his Roman citizenship as a means of protesting and sometimes avoiding unjust treatment, like scourging, for himself and others (Acts 16:37; 22:22-29; 25:11-12)
- There are times when one should avoid personal harm, and there are times that we ought not let people walk over us, unless we know this to be God’s will for us at that time.
- Paul’s admonition that those who are unwilling to work shouldn’t expect to eat (2 Thess 3:10). Giving or loaning to such individuals is foolhardy. (I.e. its not wrong to avoid supporting panhandlers who are likely using the money collected for alcohol, drugs, or who are simply unwilling to work)
- However, it’s so easy to rationalize personal vengeance and lack of love and generosity for others. We must let Jesus words sound to the depths of our hearts and not dismiss the uneasiness and conviction they arouse within us.
Loving One’s Enemies (5:43-47)
- Jesus quotes Lev. 19:18 that says we are to love our neighbor.
- “hate your enemies” is not found explicitly in the OT
- However, Scripture tells us that God hates evil and (Ps 5:4, 45:7) and judged Israel’s enemies (Deut 7:2; 30:7)
- The psalmist also said they he hated those who hate God (Ps 139:21-22; cf. 26:4-5)
- Some groups within Israel identified neighbours as fellow Jesus and the evil doer as Gentiles and all those outside of their faith community.
- Because God hates evil, those who embody evil are understood to be God’s enemies. It was natural to hate God’s enemies.
- God does hate evil, but his intent is to bring reconciliation. The old saying is true, “God loves the sinner, but hates the sin.” God loves every human and desires that all will come to repentance (2 Pet 3:9).
- Jesus’ disciples are to look at people in this world as God does and to love them enough to reach out to them with the message of reconciliation, even to pray for those who persecute them as Jesus’ followers.
- When Jesus talks about being sons of your Father in heaven we know that to be a son or daughter of God means to do God’s will (Matt 12:48-50). The family relationship includes the obligation to act like a son or daughter, which means loving as the Father loves.
- Two examples of God’s common grace given to all people, both evil and good (vv. 44-47) to demonstrate why his disciples are to love both neighbor and enemy
- God causes the sun to rise and rain to fall on both good and evil people.
- Jesus draws on natural relationship and how God’s love goes beyond normal human ties.
- All groups take care of their own members, including tax collectors and pagans whom Jews hated.
- Even Gentiles (non-believers) extends greetings (warm hospitality) to their own associates and family members. Thus, believers showing hospitality to other believers is nothing meriting special favour.
- God does not see the same groupings that humans have created. Love without limits is to be extended to all that God has created.
- In this sixth example, we see a focus on the driving energy that enables Jesus disciples to love without limits. We are to love as God loves.
- Two verses best sum this up:
- John 3:16 – God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son
- Rom 5:8, 10 – Jesus died for us and reconciled us while we were still enemiesof God
- Do we love the way Jesus loved? Probably not as much as we think we do. To love with his kind of love will mean our full obedience to God’s will for our lives, the continuing transformation of every part of our lives, and dedicated outreach to the world around us.
Concluding Charge (5:48)
- Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
- What does this mean? Can we reach sinless perfection in this life?
- The word Greek word telios translated perfect denotes the idea of wholeness or completeness, rather than sinlessness.
- Context of verse 48 is loving one’s enemies. God’s loves is pure. It’s complete, whole, and mature. He loves without limits.
- The perfect, mature, or complete love of God toward all his creatures is the example of the love Jesus’ disciples are to display toward both their neighbours and their enemies.
- While we will never be fully without sin in this mortal life, Jesus’ disciples are to pursue the perfection or completeness that is God himself. Being like him and loving like he loves is to be our ultimate goal in this life.
- Performance-orientation – we desperately strive to live up to God’s standards of righteousness. This is an impossible endeavor. We can never successfully live up to God’s standards.
- Complacency – we disengage from intentionally and passionately following Jesus. We go into coast mode and begin to think our attitudes and behavior don’t really matter. After all, Jesus has done it all for us. We may even become casual about sin in our lives. Paul said, “May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it. To live this way is deny the very faith that we profess.
- What is the answer? We must choose to live with “restful dissatisfaction.” We must rest in the fact that because Jesus has fulfilled the law, there is nothing more that I must or can do to be made right with God. At that same time, I balance that contentment with the desire to move on to complete maturity, to be like Jesus, to love like he loves.
- Are you caught in a trap of performance-orientation or complacency? God can set you free to live in restful dissatisfaction that trusts completely in Christ’s righteousness, but keeps you moving toward maturity where more and more you love with God’s love, a love without limits.