19 Jan. Matthew 5:38-48

19 Jan. Forgiveness - the key to making & keeping friends

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth'. But I tell you, don't stand up against an evil person. If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well."

"If someone wants to sue you in court and take your shirt, let him have your coat as well. If someone forces you to go with him a kilometre, go with him two kilometres. If a person asks you for something, give it to him. Don't refuse to give to someone who wants to borrow from you."

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbour and hate your enemies'. But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven."

"He causes the sun to rise on good people and on evil people, and he sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong. If you love only the people who love you, you will get no reward. Even the tax collectors do that."

"And if you are nice only to your friends, you are no better than other people. Even those who don't know God are nice to their friends. So you must be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect."

          (Matthew 5:38-48)



Continuing his 'Sermon on the Mount' in Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus urged a peaceful resolution to disputes.

The traditional Jewish way of dealing with those who hated you was (and still is) 'to give as good as you get': The Old Testament teaches ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth’ (see Exodus 21:22-25).

In contrast, Jesus advocated ‘turning the other cheek’: “If someone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other cheek as well” (Matthew 5:39). And if a Roman soldier forces you to carry his pack for one mile (the maximum permitted under Roman law), “go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:41).

The Jewish law taught people to love their Jewish neighbours (see Leviticus 19:18). But Jesus added, “love your enemies as well. Pray for those who hurt you” (Matthew 5:44).

Jesus taught that the only way to turn enemies into friends is to forgive them, and then love them into becoming your friends.

In Egypt today, this is the approach taken by Coptic Christians when their family or friends are injured or murdered by their Muslim neighbours. They openly forgive them, and pray that, by their show of love and forgiveness, their enemies will become their friends.

In contrast, when Jews in Israel today are injured or murdered by their Muslim neighbours, the Jewish authorities respond with "an eye for an eye" and stir up further hatred, which results in a demand for 'revenge' from their Muslim neighbours, who follow a similar policy.

Unfortunately, revenge only feeds a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat acts of murder and hatred. Following Jesus's advice to forgive and show friendship to your enemies is the one sure way of making & keeping friends.

The photo shows the Reconciliation statue inside the remains of the old cathedral in Coventry, UK (which was bombed and destroyed by the Nazis during the Second World War).

You can read more from Jesus's 'Sermon on the Mount' @ https://www.thebiblejourney.org/…/jesuss-teachings-on-a-hi…/



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