Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Great Big Pile Of Burning Coals

In our exploration of the deeper meaning behind the law of God we have dealt with some of the easier topics. Murder, adultery, divorce and oaths are rather light weight in comparison to some of the things Jesus is about to address in Matthew chapter 5. Perhaps these topics I have mentioned are some of the areas that we consider to be the "biggies" of sin because they are the more obvious, but don't forget that Jesus is dealing with the heart matters that underlie all of our actions. With murder it was hatred; adultery it was lust; divorce it was selfishness; and oaths it was lack of dependability. However, now we are about to enter the difficult parts of this demanding law that reveals the Father's heart and character.

Christians are very good at picking and choosing which parts of the Word we will adhere to. It is such a evolving revelation of God's heart that we forget sometimes that the beginning reveals the outward but the ending reveals the inner impact of following Jesus. Many Christians love to quote "an eye for an eye" from the law not understanding that Jesus gave us a greater responsibility than a simple act of revenge. "An eye for an eye" existed within the limited revelation of God but now Jesus was giving us the full revelation. He taught:

You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (Matthew 5:38-42)

Our human nature demands justice; if someone punches me I have the right to punch him back. If someone takes from me then I desire to take from him. If someone kills someone I love then I want to see him die as well. We justify this "giving in" to our nature with scripture from the Old Testament. We find it convenient to overlook the teaching Jesus gave us that reveals the deeper nature of the law. Come on, face it, we have always struggled with "turning the other cheek", of not resisting an evil person. Like the Pharisees we try to put some definitions on it so we can limit its impact on us, but its right there, as plain as day. It is hard to explain away.

It's even harder to explain it away when we see it on display in Jesus' living and interaction with people. The finest example we have is during one of the most stressful moments of Jesus' life. They came to arrest him and the world seemed to get turned upside down. His disciples tried to protect him against the armed thugs. There was yelling, pushing and in the heat of the moment someone's ear got cut off. It took Jesus to re-establish the calm again and in one solitary act of restoring that man's ear, Jesus revealed to us what it really means to have good character. It did not matter if this man stood there as an enemy, Jesus did not consider him an enemy. It did not matter that this man represented evil, he was still the object of the Father's love. This love compelled Jesus to show kindness to his enemy by healing his ear.

I doubt that these men who arrested Jesus had any idea that this would lead to his death, but they were still the instruments of evil. As they arrested and bound him I am sure our enemy, the devil, was squealing and dancing with delight. Later, as they spit on Jesus, slapped him, punched him, whipped him and scoffed him we tend to see him as a victim. Do we forget who he is and what was available to him? Do we forget the power that was his? Do we not think that the one who calmed the storm could easily blow off a few soldiers? He was the one who healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, restored useless limbs to life, raised the dead. What were these evil men to him? What they were is something we often forget; they were the objects of the Father's affection.

Why would Jesus teach us to "turn the other cheek", to walk twice as far as what was demanded of us, to give twice what was demanded? Why is he telling us to be generous in our suffering at the hands of injustice? Perhaps it has more to do with this:

   If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
       if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.

   In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head,
       and the LORD will reward you.
(Proverbs 25:21-22)

Our purpose is not to look out for "number one". He are not here to demand justice every time someone offends us. We are here representing the heart of the Father, which is hard to do when we don't understand some of the basic principles of his character. What we are talking about here is living a life of grace, where other people do come first in our thoughts and actions, when even being insulted and hurt will not stop us from demonstrating God's love and grace. Does our enemy deserve food and water from us? I doubt it, not according to our nature. But God's nature is different and his love demands it. We are not here for ourselves, we are here to help rescue everyone the Father loves, and that includes those that hate us and want to destroy us.

We need to lose the attitude that we are God's children so no one is allowed to touch us. Or the idea that people dare not touch the anointed of God. Do we actually think we are better than Jesus? We are not to look for revenge on anyone. We are to take the bruising, the name calling, the slurs and we are to pour kindness and love on it. We are to present the other cheek so it can be slapped too. We are to give more to our enemy than what they demand because we do not see them as our enemy but as objects of God's affection. The world may see it as weakness and our flesh may be calling out for justice but the Spirit in us is speaking peace and deep fellowship with God as his character shines out from us. This is where the Church is found and this is real spiritual maturity, far greater than any prophecies, any preaching, any teaching, any evangelism, any righteousness because this is the heart of the Father,

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