TEXT: MATTHEW 5:38-48
YOUR LIFE IN CHRIST – A HIGH DOXOLOGY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

You are the salt of the earth!  You are the light of the world!  In the poisoned air of this hall of death your life is to be a high Doxology in part so that others may be converted to the Christian faith (Matthew 5:16)!  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.    

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount makes clear that pastor and people are called to remarkable purity and extraordinary service in their vocations.  You have heard it said so many things from so many voices about living your life – this and that about that and this!  But Jesus gives it to us straight!  His lips never lie to us – about lust or life or love or letting go of our “rights.”  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  All of Jesus’ commands here are one on one.  He is not forbidding the government to punish wrongdoing.  He is not speaking in the least against military might or capital punishment.  The Greek is absolutely clear and absolutely singular!

EVENTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY – FEB. 20, 2011
TEXT: MATTHEW 5:38-48
YOUR LIFE IN CHRIST – A HIGH DOXOLOGY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

You are the salt of the earth!  You are the light of the world!  In the poisoned air of this hall of death your life is to be a high Doxology in part so that others may be converted to the Christian faith (Matthew 5:16)!  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.    

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount makes clear that pastor and people are called to remarkable purity and extraordinary service in their vocations.  You have heard it said so many things from so many voices about living your life – this and that about that and this!  But Jesus gives it to us straight!  His lips never lie to us – about lust or life or love or letting go of our “rights.”  “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.  But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  All of Jesus’ commands here are one on one.  He is not forbidding the government to punish wrongdoing.  He is not speaking in the least against military might or capital punishment.  The Greek is absolutely clear and absolutely singular!

Do not resist one who is evil.  Well-expressed, this command forbids you as an individual from holding court in your heart and seeking revenge against someone who is evil.  We grown-ups are pretty good at keeping score and harboring things even against those who aren’t evil.  Jesus says “stop it!”  From an early age children demonstrate skill at “getting even” with siblings or friends and Jesus says “stop it!”   If anyone holds a grudge against any one of you and I know it I am to exhort them to grow up in Christ and “stop it!”  If you know anyone that holds a grudge against me, Jesus’ words compel you to tell them to grow up in Christ and “stop it!”  Do not resist one who is evil.  These words do not forbid your forcefully resisting someone kidnapping your child or assaulting your spouse or you.  But personally, you are to take some junk and get over it!

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. A slap on your right cheek by the 90% of us who are right-handed would necessarily be a back handed slap or a bit awkward left-handed slap.  In ancient times, neither was considered a bodily assault to harm.  Both were considered huge insults to humiliate! 

You are not to turn your neighbor’s other cheek – and tell them to take it.  You are to defend their body and their reputation vigorously.  But individually when someone insults you – you are not to get even.  Nor are you to cower!  Sacrificially, you are to face them and take some more junk if they throw it your way.  You, personally, are to be willing to be degraded rather than retaliate.

And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic (shirt) let him have your cloak (coat) as well.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.  As the attire of that day consisted in only these two pieces of clothing (tunic and cloak) Jesus’ demand is drastic.  You, individually, are to go naked rather than fight in court to protect your “rights”.  He is teaching you and me amazing contempt for the things of this world.  He is teaching us not to squander the clothing He gives us for our soul (or for the souls of others) to protect the clothing of our body. 

The “anyone” forcing you to go one mile is a “military” person putting you on a forced march.  You are to “suck it up” and help out when required to do so.  When pressed into service on an unwanted detour, Jesus leads us to the higher ground of the second mile.  At cost to yourself you are to do more than requested in the excellence of Christ-like disposition. 

Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.  We are to give to whomever, but not whatever.  We are to give in keeping with true need, not for bad motives (lust, laziness, malicious intent).  Luther said that Christ is not telling you to give what you have to any scoundrel that comes along and deprive your family and others you should help.  Rather, you are to give according to your responsibilities and respond to the many opportunities to extend mercy to others in need.

You have not been too generous or too cheerful in your generosity.  Jesus speaks strongly to loosen the greedy bands on our hearts.   These thoughts together with the others teach a radical rejection of self-assertion!  Disciples are to be above revenge!  Insults and injury are to be taken as opportunity for mission – not for making sure “my rights” aren’t violated or for getting even.  The slogan “no justice – no peace” is absolutely unfitting for the Christian.  Even when we are treated unjustly, the only getting even we are to do in Christ is getting even in love!

“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 

There it is – right at the top of Jesus’ authoritative teaching on the divine intent of the Torah!  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”   God’s love – agape love – is not so much an emotion as loving action and deeds.  Yet, we cannot turn this into “I’ll love them but never like them.”  I’ll do something decent for them if the opportunity is ever forced on me, but right now I won’t even think about them.  Good heavens we’re supposed to pray for them!

Dear Christians, these demands of Jesus can be and have been distorted into passivism or seed for social chaos or for political oppression.  In other texts, Jesus and His apostles help us see that such use would be deceptive distortions.  But what cannot be ignored or diminished is His radical demand for you individually to be an extraordinary, surprising, sacrificially self-giving person.  In the poisoned air of this hall of death your life is to be a high doxology.   – with your spouse – in this congregation – on campus – in your family – among your friends.  You are the salt of the earth!  You are the light of the world!

How will an unbeliever believe in the reality of the heavenly kingdom if we hammer one another for earthly goods or to get even?  The hope of our faith extends into eternity.  You have a greater consolation than insisting on your rights at all costs or getting even at the altar of “self.” 

Therefore, you are urgently to love without reference to worthiness.  If you are withholding your love from someone because you think they don’t deserve it – stop it!  Jesus here speaks to free you from such devilish and deadly calculation.  He speaks to free you from confining cliques of “correct people to love” and from your own curved-in heart.  I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.  What?  Like you Jesus, Son of the Father?  Yes, like me, for I have clothed you with myself in your Baptism (Galatians 3:27) and I join Myself to you with love incarnate at My Table. 

You see, Christ loved His enemies and prayed for those who persecuted Him even when they insulted Him and slapped Him and struck Him with their fists.  He prayed for His enemies even when soldiers forced Him to go the first mile carrying His own cross and the second mile while Simon of Cyrene carried it for Him.  He loved and prayed for His enemies even when they stripped Him of His tunic and His cloak.   “Father, forgive them,” He voiced, from the position of ultimate degradation and humiliation.  He even gave to the beggar next to Him who pleaded for His help and mercy.  What a gift – “today you will be with me in paradise!”  Christ loved and He prayed and He gave and He gave and He is still giving.

Risen, from the house of death, He is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities.  For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear him

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy!  Beloved, the good news is that your heavenly Father is Himself perfect (and holy) and shares with you His perfection and His holiness!  He doesn’t get even with you!  He makes you even with His Son – a joint heir of paradise.  All things are yours…and you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s.

The wisdom of the world is to boast in men but that is folly with God.  You are those who know your poor record - of reflexively watching out for yourself, of keeping score, of getting even (or wanting to).   You are those who know your love is too narrow and your prayers too limited.  You are truly aware that you are poor in spirit, so blessed are you, for yours in the kingdom of heaven! 

God’s deepest desire is that you know that He is at peace with you through Jesus who goes with you on your journey.  You may not feel it!  But in Christ, those feelings are wrong!  “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Recognition of personal poverty and provided riches in Christ is a pure gift.  He cleanses hearts from all sin.  Indeed, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” 

In the strength of His steadfast love for you, you are free to love your enemies.  In the strength of His intercession for you, you are free to pray for those who persecute you.  Because you are justified freely before God you are free to take some junk when treated unjustly and not retaliate – not even remember.  You are the salt of the earth!  You are the light of the world!  Your life of repentance and receiving God’s forgiving love is high Doxology to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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