Words of Faith 5-1-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
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 "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that.  And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full.  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Jesus had laid out the plan for a Kingdom revolution. It was radical to be sure. Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. Turn the other cheek. Give to those who take from you. Very radical.
Jesus went on to explain. Religious people talk a lot about "love" but "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full."
Judaism had long taught the love of "neighbor", but the rabbinical definition of "neighbor" was "your fellow Jew". They reasoned that it was perfectly fine to hate your enemies. This Kingdom principle set a whole new standard with a call to love even your enemies.
Jesus was suggesting that if you are going to be revolutionary, why not be truly revolutionary, not just for today or this year, but for eternity? Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. You will be expressing the very heart of God.
Somewhere at about that time there must have been a mixture of stunned silence and quiet nodding among those in the crowd. This was one of those messages that either you got or you do not. Some got it. Some started getting it. Others never got it. Many were certain they had never heard anything like this.
This is like an Un-revolution? A backward revolution? Basically yes. Most of the things you naturally want to do as humans will not work to change the world. You will die and nothing will be accomplished but if you do what Jesus was describing the world will never be the same... that is what revolution is about.
The revolutionary instructions of Jesus were simple, practical and radical. They were all actions words yet hard to walk out. Here are the Six Revolutionary Activities--
LOVE - your enemy.
BLESS - those who curse you.
PRAY - for those who mistreat you.
TURN AWAY - from those who strike you.
GIVE - to those who ask.
DO - as you would have others do to you.
This is not a passive revolution. It is not passive at all. It is very active. It is violent in the realm of the Spirit, doing violence to the malice that is at the heart of conflict. We will see these same measures break through a crusty centurion at the cross and a hardened criminal on the cross.
But even when understood, we are at a loss to apply this Scripture. Are we to be door mats? Do we allow people to walk off with everything we have? Are we to allow criminals to go unchallenged?
What does Jesus really want us to do with this teaching? You see that is our big problem as humans. We hear a teaching and our first response is to turn it into another set of rules-- Always love, never curse, turn away once, give away money. The problem is that we simply become a new group of Pharisees with a new set of rules and we find ourselves going around and trying to make others obey them. Jesus has spent about four chapters trying to let people know that the Kingdom of God is not about rules but about relationship. And now we think Jesus is instituting new rules?
This teaching is about relationship too. It is about stopping the cycles of anger, whether in the arena of political abuse or family conflict or neighborhood disagreement, and looking at your enemy as a person not as an enemy. That is not something we do naturally or even by our own strength and will. And it will look different at different times.
Does this teaching preclude military service? It is interesting that when Jesus ministered to the centurion He did not tell him to stop being a soldier (Luke 7:2-10). John the Baptist preached to soldiers and but did not tell them to quit the military. Rather he told them to be honest, not to extort money, and to be content with their pay (Luke 3:13-14).
Turning the other cheek is not a rule as much as it is a remarkable possibility. It is not a constraint, it is a freedom. You are now free to turn the other cheek! You are no longer bound to respond with vengeance. This is not something that we are bound to by rule so much as it is something that the Gospel sets us free to do. It is not a requirement dictated by a religious law of rules, it is just the other possibility that God may inspire if we will listen.
I am always touched when I hear stories of brave military servicemen and women who are defending the innocent and protecting freedom, who also choose acts of kindness toward captive enemies or expressions of love toward civilian populations. These stories rarely hit the papers but they happen. These are the Kingdom possibilities.
Such radical responses are even possible in the political realm. The state of Israel turned the other cheek repeatedly during the Gulf war as scud missiles hit their cities night after night. It was only with a great deal of patience that the conflict did not escalate into a much more destructive conflagration.
Jesus suggests that there is always a different alternative in moments of conflict. There is always a Kingdom response. In most cases, the God possibility, the Kingdom response, is the opposite of what our human nature urges us to do and it is the opposite of the world expects us to do.
Some will say this is not easy to live out. No kidding. How about impossible!? I don't think we can live this out unless the Spirit inspires us, calls us, and empowers us to do so. It is not even a cultivated habit. It requires a moment by moment walk with God. Because of that these are the responses that you cannot program, legislate, or codify.
Is it possible that the Spirit might actually lead us to resist, raise a hand or say 'no' to the request for money? If we take the whole counsel of Scripture seriously, that is true. Surely we will protect the innocent. In the early church there was a problem with lazy people taking advantage of the benevolence of the community. Paul wrote that if someone is not willing to work then they should not eat and only those who are elderly widows or orphans should be on the list to receive assistance. That is a different leading of the Spirit but the same Spirit.
Jesus was saying into the heat of revolutionary passion, there is another possibility for revolution. There is another choice. It depends upon a greater power than you have. It runs counter to your human response.
Where are you today? Do you have an enemy? It may not be so much someone you dislike as some who has turned against you. Are you tempted to strike back at someone even with words? Are you tempted to prove who is right? Jesus suggests an alternative. Try a relationship with that person. LOVE - BLESS - PRAY - TURN AWAY - GIVE - DO AS YOU WOULD HAVE DONE TO YOU.
Will that person be immediately changed by your action? Not necessarily. The Bible never promises that people will change. That is the work of the Holy Spirit not our actions. So don't judge by your result. But in the big picture you have made a difference in the Kingdom. You may not "win the battle" but the Kingdom of God does win the war.
Listen to the Spirit. Hear the Kingdom possibilities. That is the real blueprint for revolution.
Father help me to be revolutionary in my actions today. Show me the Kingdom possibilities in the conversations I share and the actions I take. Show me how I can reflect Your love in every relationship. In Jesus' name.