Jesus Replaced the Old [Deuteronomy 19]
21"Thus you shall not show pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
38"You have heard that it was said, 'AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.'
39"But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also.
40"If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
41"Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.
42"Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'
44"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
46"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47"If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48"Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
One of the things I have struggled with is this love your enemy thing. I don't like it!!!! I want to belittle and retaliate when someone hurts me. Shock and awe would be nice, too!! There are some people in my life who are just plain mean and it feels so right to be mean back.
Under the Old Testament Law, retaliation was allowed as you see in Deuteronomy when it says an eye for an eye etc.. However, Jesus opened the way to another response under the New Testament grace system in Matthew 5 when He quoted the eye for and eye passage and replaced it with all those impossible standards that deal with loving your enemy. When I am not faced with any mean people, this passage seems perfectly reasonable tucked in the midst of the words of Jesus who loved everyone. The idea of loving everyone is awesome. But when someone does something mean or underhanded towards one of my kids or my family, I can't imagine how it would be possible to love them. I want to rationalize God's standard and come up with an exception to it for my situation by thinking things like, "Anyone would be angry in this situation. This is different!" Or, I might take the holier than thou route and do something nice for them, but with hatred just under the surface. There are so many ways to try to deal with this in the flesh that are not God and not grace. And these ways leave me feeling miserable in the end.
The bottom line is that God's standard is truly impossible. Without taking the time to exchange the anger, rage and malice I feel in those crummy situations for God's love, forgiveness, compassion and mercy, I will continue to do whatever fleshly things I do to imitate Jesus' response and feel so holy or fail and feel guilty... either way, I don't feel peace and miss God's amazing grace. Whenever I do the exchange and I see God replace my raging anger with His love, I am astounded. It is a most wonderful miracle that enables me to see God's powerful grace in my life!
God, we praise You that You are the source of overpowering love and for providing a better way to deal with our enemies through the grace of Jesus. Cause us to embrace the truth of Matthew 5 and acknowledge that we can't love our enemies, but You can. Keep us running to your for Your grace, love and peace. We can't, but You can!