Be The Bigger Man

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 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

At the time, this was radical teaching. Actually it’s fairly radical teaching today as well.

No one like to think they’re being taken advantage of. No one likes to believe that others would respect you if you gave in to their whims and demands. In fact, “might makes right” has ruled many societies over the centuries.

Our natural desire in those situations is to strike back and retaliate. In a foreign country many years ago a friend of mine was being confronted by someone much smaller than he was. Knowing what he knew about the culture and the role of a foreigner shown throwing a punch, my friend put his hands behinds his back so as to not appear in the least threatening. He was not struck literally, but the implication to me was clear: if the other man hit him, my friend would in no way retaliate because he was in a lose-lose situation. While it took every ounce of energy to hold this position because of his natural tendency to lash back, it was the right thing to do.

Similarly, our mindset should be similar. Retaliation or striking back (physically or verbally) is not appropriate or warranted despite what we really want to do.

Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:4

We are to be the “bigger man” with our non-action.

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Underpromise, Overdeliver

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. Matthew 5:33-37

This passage is as simple as it gets. Words mean things. When we use them casually to promise things, people take them to heart.

Recently I told my 6-year-old niece I would come visit her the next day. Work crowded in and I wasn’t able to show up that day. She was clearly disappointed that I didn’t make it. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it was something I had said I would do but didn’t.

I can think of dozens of similar situations. Likewise, I can think of those situations where someone else promised something casually but never made good on the promise. I recall the disappointment I felt as well.

I recall a phrase in the American lexicon that has not been used much anymore: “he’s as good as his word.” People used to strike large business deals with the shake of a hand and not 100 pages of legalese. We’ll never go back to that as a society as long as lawsuits prevail, but we can certainly put the principle to work on a one-to-one basis.

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The Children of Divorce

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Matthew 5:31-32

Divorce is a very difficult matter and should never be taken lightly. It’s difficult because usually both parties cannot see any other solution. You hear the phrase “irreconcilable differences” in relation to divorce.

Jesus opposed divorce to protect the union of a man and his wife. Because marriage is sacred, divorce should be the farthest thing from the mind of two caring individuals.

Broadly interpreted, Jesus considered adultery, homosexual sex, incest, and bestiality as constituting grounds for divorce, as well as someone who no longer wishes to be married because of Christian faith (1 Corinthians 7:12-16) and abuse. 

My heart breaks when I hear of couples breaking up for reasons other than those mentioned above. We can do nothing about it, of course, except to help pick up the pieces as there will surely be shattered pieces, especially as it relates to innocent children of the divorced parents. Unfortunately, even in the best of divorce cases, the children get the worst of the deal.

Right now you’re probably thinking of some of those children you know whose parents have been through a divorce. Even years later they need our prayers for peace and for a sense in what healthy marriages look like. If they are to have healthy marriages themselves, they’ll need this insight.

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Taking Bold Actions for Our Own Sake

29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.
30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. Matthew 5:29-30

Jesus’ words here are shocking and bold. The serious nature of sin warrants harsh words. He uses hyperbole to make his point: the lack of self-discipline in the life of a Believer can lead to dire consequences.

More pointedly, if there’s an area of our life that’s causing us to sin, eliminate it.

If there’s a temptation, we need to remove it as a temptation by any means necessary.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

It’s that simple.

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The Offense of Lust

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27-28

The offense of lust Jesus is referring to begins in the mind. It’s not the act of adultery itself, as wrong as it is, but its initiation point that is the issue at hand. It’s the act of wanting something that isn’t yours and probably never will be. Ligonier Ministries defines it as such:

“Lust may be defined as the desire to engage in or enjoy illicit sexual activity. Given this definition, a whole host of things qualify as lust, including the viewing of pornography, adulterous fantasies, homosexual behavior, incest, sexual abuse, rape, bestiality, and other perversions. In prohibiting lust, our Creator prohibits all of these things.” 

But all of it starts in the mind as it begins to fantasize about what could be.

Lately I’ve been encouraging this audience to continue memorizing Scripture. Just as memorizing Scripture restores the spirit when we think on pure and holy things, dwelling on lustful thoughts affects the mind and spirit in a destructive, harmful way.

Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

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