You’ve Heard It Said

They’ll Know By Our Love

If all that were not enough, Jesus’ teachings call his followers beyond law to grace. The law provided a just remedy—an eye for an eye. Jesus said, but I tell you don’t resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” The intent of the eye for an eye law was that punishment would be equitable and fitting to the crime. It was meant to quell retaliation and escalation. But rights calling for such retribution could be set aside by the offended party. You didn’t need to demand an eye or a tooth. With three more examples, Jesus makes this a matter of holding loosely to one’s rights. If someone takes your coat, give them your scarf too. If someone forces you to go an extra mile, put two in while you’re headed in that direction. If someone wants to borrow from you, offer what you have. Don’t be so quick to be offended. Don’t be so put out of your way. Don’t be so selfish.

You have heard it said, ‘love your neighbor and hate your enemy’. But I tell you love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. That’s a hard teaching. I’ve had more than a few conversations with struggling married couples over the years where one or the other spouse tells me they aren’t feeling love anymore. I use this text to demonstrate love isn’t a feeling. We’ve come to think of love as something we’re passive to—it comes upon us. We fall in love—sort of like falling in a ditch. Just happened. We talk about feeling butterflies in our stomach. I’ve had fluttery feelings in my tummy. That’s not love. That’s gas! It’ll pass—pun intended. But Jesus makes it clear, love is an action. You don’t get warm-fuzzies where an enemy is concerned. It has to be a decision. The rest of the statement that Jesus gave tells us of the importance of this matter: … that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. 

People who knew my father tell me that they see and hear a lot of him in me. I suppose I did pick up a few of his features. I know that I picked up a bit of his temperament and some of his humor and vocabulary. Every now and again a phrase will come out of my mouth directed at my kidsa “Because I said so!”—it is like déjà vu, I remember my dad saying that. Jesus’ point is that when we take up this manner of love, it is a dead give-away as to who our Father is.  It so resembles Him that others will recognize it. God loves His enemies and cares for them. He causes His light to shine and rains provision on them anyhow. This manner of love is so very different from the norm. It stands apart.

For those who would follow Jesus, the calling can’t be taken lightly. It’s a matter of the heart, not just the lips. It’s not about externals but rather what’s going on deep inside. It’s a calling far beyond the letter of the law, to its spirit. It’s not about finer interpretation; it’s about radical implementation. Now we’re getting a greater sense of what it meant when we were told that those Jesus called left everything and followed him. This call to be a disciple and follower of Jesus would indeed be a departure from the everyday norm of life as we know it. One of these Christ-followers should stand out in the crowd.