God’s Word Goes Forth: Grow in God’s Wisdom
Matthew 5:21-48: In this passage, Jesus continues to interpret Scripture, and he offers six examples of life in community that portray God’s realm. He teaches about anger, adultery, divorce, vows, revenge, and love for enemies.
Today's Scripture: Matthew 5:44, 45a
But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the children of your Father in heaven.
21 You have heard that people were told in the past, “Do not commit murder; anyone who does will be brought to trial.” 22 But now I tell you: if you are angry with your brother you will be brought to trial, if you call your brother “You good-for-nothing!” you will be brought before the Council, and if you call your brother a worthless fool you will be in danger of going to the fire of hell. 23 So if you are about to offer your gift to God at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift to God. 25 If someone brings a lawsuit against you and takes you to court, settle the dispute while there is time, before you get to court. Once you are there, you will be turned over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, and you will be put in jail. 26 There you will stay, I tell you, until you pay the last penny of your fine. 27 You have heard that it was said, “Do not commit adultery.” 28 But now I tell you: anyone who looks at a woman and wants to possess her is guilty of committing adultery with her in his heart. 29 So if your right eye causes you to sin, take it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell. 30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose one of your limbs than to have your whole body go off to hell. 31 It was also said, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.” 32 But now I tell you: if a man divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness, then he is guilty of making her commit adultery if she marries again; and the man who marries her commits adultery also. 33 You have also heard that people were told in the past, “Do not break your promise, but do what you have vowed to the Lord to do.” 34 But now I tell you: do not use any vow when you make a promise. Do not swear by heaven, for it is God's throne; 35 nor by earth, for it is the resting place for his feet; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 Just say “Yes” or “No”—anything else you say comes from the Evil One. 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 mile, carry it two miles. 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.
What Jesus teaches constitutes a description of an alternative community – one that stands in sharp contrast to an imperial empire that values power, wealth, and status. Which of these teachings do you find most challenging? Why? Are these teachings relevant for today? Why or why not?
Lord God, you know that at times it is hard for us to put aside anger and how easy it is to seek revenge. Teach me to strive for peace and reconciliation, to live according to your will, and to pray for those with whom I may be at odds. Amen.
Nations embroiled in civil conflict