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Grow Up!

Matthew 5:38-48

“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.

“In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

“Grow up!”

Once again, reading this in the Message just feels different. These passages are hitting me in places that I don’t like to talk about at parties.

It’s fascinating to me that this passage, above most in the Sermon on the Mount, gets explained away whenever it’s convenient.

Here’s a secret:

I do it.

I make excuses to hate my enemy.

All. The. Time.

It’s not just a once in a while kind of thing. It’s a most of the time kind of thing. It feels so good to “get them” when they show themselves. Man, it feels like justice when I can stick it to people I’ve determined as my enemy.

Usually I explain it away in one of two ways. First, when I’m feeling super spiritual I will say something along the lines of, “I’m not hating my enemy, I am speaking truth to them. It’s for their own good.” When I’m being really honest I say, “Listen, I’m not going to be a doormat for Jesus. I’m standing up for my rights and for my family.”

Those are my “go-to” outs for loving my enemy. What are your outs?

We all have them.

More and more I am realizing that this love thing is at the center of being a follower of Jesus. If I want to grow in my Christ-likeness then I must grow in love. There is no way around it. This is the thing.

I am not good at loving, on the whole. I do well some times, especially if I know people are watching. But, in places that I don’t talk about at parties, I struggle.

As I grow older, I am becoming more desperate to learn how to love well.

Sometimes people ask what does it look like? What does it practically look like to love like Jesus. That kind of love is laid out for us in 1 Corinthians 13. Have you ever noticed it before? I mean, I know it’s read at weddings. But, have you ever realized that this is the way to live the Christ oriented life?

Consider it today…

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

Love never gives up.

Love cares more for others than for self.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.

Love doesn’t strut,

Doesn’t have a swelled head,

Doesn’t force itself on others,

Isn’t always “me first,”

Doesn’t fly off the handle,

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

Doesn’t revel when others grovel,

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,

Puts up with anything,

Trusts God always,

Always looks for the best,

Never looks back,

But keeps going to the end.

Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.

When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.

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