Topic: Jesus’ Unpopular Ideas
Today’s Scripture: Matthew 5:38–48
Key Verse: Give to the one who asks you. – Matthew 5:42
Bible in a Year: 1 Kings 14–15; Luke 22:21–46
The “law of retribution” (“lex talionis”), which teaches an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21), is sometimes mistakenly understood to promote personal retaliation. But in its Old Testament legal context, the law isn’t intended to encourage personal retribution but instead to limit the human tendency to exact revenge. Rather than permit individual vigilante actions of retaliation, a court of law was to ensure that punishment should fit the crime.
It gave the right for an offended person to take someone to court rather than seek revenge. Jesus doesn’t “correct” this Old Testament teaching—designed to preserve peace and justice—but calls those belonging to the kingdom of God to live by the principle of nonresistance or nonretaliation at the personal (not legal) level. This means that believers in Christ shouldn’t descend to the low standard of the perpetrator, returning evil for evil.
For fifteen years, Mike Burden held hate-filled meetings in the memorabilia shop he ran in his small town. But in 2012 when his wife began to question his involvement, his heart softened. He realized how wrong his racist views were and didn’t want to be that person any longer. The militant group retaliated by kicking his family out of the apartment they’d been renting from one of the members.
Where did he turn for help? Surprisingly, he went to a local black pastor with whom he’d clashed. The pastor and his church provided housing and groceries for Mike’s family for some time. When asked why he agreed to help, Pastor Kennedy explained, “Jesus Christ did some very unpopular things. When it’s time to help, you do what God wants you to do.” Later Mike spoke at Kennedy’s church and apologized to the black community for his part in spreading hatred.
Jesus taught some unpopular ideas in the Sermon on the Mount: “Give to the one who asks you . . . . Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:42, 44). That’s the upside-down way of thinking God calls us to follow. Though it looks like weakness, it’s actually acting out of God’s strength.
The One who teaches us is the One who gives the power to live out this upside-down life in whatever way He asks of us.
Reflect & Pray
How are you living out Jesus’ words of giving to those who ask and loving your enemies? What would you like to change?
God, help me to love others as You love me. Show me how to do that today.
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