38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. 40 And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres. 42 When someone asks you for something, give it to him; when someone wants to borrow something, lend it to him. 43 You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ 44 But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike, and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. 46 Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! 47 And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! 48 You must be perfect – just as your Father in heaven is perfect!”
This passage opens with Jesus highlighting some Old Testament teaching (Exodus 21:12-27 and its parallel texts in Leviticus). Jesus wants to contrast the guidelines set out in the Law, or the Torah, with a new attitude and way of behaving.
The Law established the level of compensation equal to the damage done – an eye for an eye and so on. Jesus points his disciples to a new way of looking at things where generosity is the standard.
For this kind of behaviour, which goes well beyond human expectations, Jesus takes God as the model. We have to imitate God, who is perfect (verse 48). God does not distinguish between good and bad people when he lavishes his blessings on mankind. In this God shows his perfection.
The Torah demands God’s people to be holy and perfect just as God is (see today’s reading from Leviticus). In the Gospel reading, God calls for his people not to hold grudges, to sort out disputes and to love others as themselves. What a different place this world would be if we lived like that. Well, this is indeed the challenge that Jesus places before us: follow my example.
Who influences your behaviour towards others, God or “the world”? What lessons can we learn from this passage about the values of the kingdom? In what practical ways can we start living the kingdom way now?
Have you been in a situation, perhaps even in church, where no one speaks to you? Jesus’s words in verse 47 challenge us to be friendly to others. Look out for opportunities to speak a friendly word to people this week.
“Praise the Lord, my soul, and do not forget how kind he is. He forgives all my sins …”
“He does not punish us as we deserve or repay us according to our sins and wrongs” (Psalm 103:2-3, 10).
Thank God for the mercy and grace he has shown you. If there is someone you need to forgive or are finding it hard to love, ask God to help you. Remembering God’s forgiveness for you may help.
Today’s passage specifically instructs us to pray for people who persecute us. Maybe someone has been unkind or hurtful to you. Bring them before the Lord and ask God how you can pray for them.
Consider the ways in which Jesus gives us an example of loving his neighbour as himself and “turning the other cheek”. What is true wisdom? Read 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 and think about what God considers wise
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