A few words spoken by Jesus have been on my mind lately. They are recorded in Matthew 5:38-48. (Click this link and you can read them in the three versions: TNIV, NIV and KJV.)
As I’ve reflected on these verses, Eugene Peterson’s rendering has proven to be most helpful:
38-42“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
43-47“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
48“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” (The Message)
Heeding Jesus’ leading is not always the easiest path to follow, is it? It’s certainly not the course of least resistance. Living into this high calling can, in fact, lead us down some incredibly rough and rocky roads. In spite of the fact that it is not easy and while openly confessing that I have often fallen short of Jesus’ calling, I’m still convinced this is the best way to live. So I am want to ask:
— What about you, do you believe this is the best way to live?
— How have you been able to incorporate this teaching in your daily lives?
— What words of advice do you have for others who are struggling to live into the Lord’s will in this regard?
© Bill Williams
November 13, 2007