There is a saying I have heard more than a few times. “I don’t get mad. I get even.”
Have you heard that one? In this crazy society where every kind of nonsense plays out in the broadcast media and on social media, the craving for revenge is just another news day.
And for some really weird reason people want to become victims so bad that they will arrange it for themselves. The right wing and the left wing are at each other’s throats. People are digging up the sins of our ancestors and they want to make us pay for them. It seems that there is no longer any forgiveness.
The Old Testament laws of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth have made a come back.
There are a lot of days that I wish I could unplug from all of it. I’m thankful that at least our little town is a refuge from the madness.
This is the kind of world that Jesus was born into. The Romans were the occupiers of Israel, and every Jew hated them. The Jews hated the Samaritans, too. And every kingdom hated each other.
The Law of Moses had become very strict and quite punitive. There were severe penalties for such infractions like infidelity, fornication, and many other things that seem quite common today, even though they are still sins.
This is the world that Jesus was born into. The people of God were yearning for their Messiah, the savior who would come and restore Israel to it’s rightful place in the world. They longed for a King who would rid them of their enemies once and for all. The wanted a warrior who would vanquish all who would threaten them.
Instead of the Warrior King, they got the Prince of Peace.
Instead of revenge, the Messiah talked about forgiveness and love. And it’s not just God’s love for his people, it’s the command to love your enemies.
Then Jesus gives three ways to do that: do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.
This is radical stuff! As usual Jesus turns the accepted world upside down. He changes the tune. He has his own agenda.
The familiar story of Joseph and his brothers is one of forgiveness, too. His brothers had thrown him into a pit, them sold him to some traders on their way to Egypt. When the famine hits and the brothers go to Egypt to buy some grain, they never could have imagined what would happen.
At first Joseph seems to play with them and they become very afraid of him. Then he tells them he is their brother, whom they thought was long gone. It turns out that Joseph has become a counselor to Pharaoh and has the control of the resources of the land. He turns out to be the savior of the family.
Does he carry a grudge against his brothers? It would seem reasonable if he did. His brothers had dealt shamefully with him, and he had every right to be angry. Instead he tells his brothers to bring their father and their families and flocks and herds and all that they have to move to the land of Goshen where they could thrive and live in peace. I like how he told his brothers not to quarrel along the way!
Joseph forgave he brothers for their treatment of him. It’s really a wonderful story about the LORD can turn something bad into good. Rather then Joseph being dead, he was alive, and he loved his family.
Now back to the teaching of Jesus. “To him who strikes you on the cheek, turn the other cheek, and from him who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.”
Jesus is not telling the people to be passive and push overs. He knows that revenge is a never ending cycle, where a fight will escalate from both sides until a real tragedy occurs. It is better to be strong enough to walk away
You probably remember my story of the accident I got into in Grapevine some years ago, when a random guy got in my face supposedly to protect a woman from me. He yelled at me and got very aggressive. I asked the guy if he would like to hit me if it would make him feel better.
Thankfully, he did’t hit me, but he just walked away. I don’t know what I would have done if he had. I am not a fighter, so the fight would have been over pretty quick!
“And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them,” Jesus says. This has sort of morphed into the Golden Rule, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Rather than doing things to others, it means that if you want to be forgiven, you must forgive. If you want to receive mercy, you show mercy, if you want to receive love, you must show love.
If you would like to be fed if you were hungry, then feed others who are hungry. If you would like others to help you in your time of need, you must be willing to help others in their times of need.
You get the idea. But if you do good to others in order that they will do good for you, even the sinners do that. When he says sinners, those are they who have not given their lives to Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins. You must give without thought of what you will get.
Jesus offers these three as well; judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.
These are commandments for Christians, and they should be practiced by everyone, but many who claim that Name, would rather have revenge.
People watch us, you know. They watch us to see if our behavior matches our words. When it does, then we are a living testimony to the power of the love of God. All too often, those who profess to be Christians take advantage of others, and abuse others, and they will be will be judged by God.
We who call ourselves Christian must be a testimony of love and forgiveness. We must reach out to others with the love of Jesus.
Jesus said, “give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” Amen.