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Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:38-42 part 5
Before moving on from this point I want to discuss one last reading I found during my research on “offence”. This was Galatians 5:11 and it spoke of “the offence of the cross”. It intrigued me and I wondered what it had to do with my discussion but it actually has a lot to do with it.
The reference to the offence of the cross refers to Romans 9:30-33 which speaks of how the Israelites pursued righteousness by works, not by faith. So God rejected Israel because Israel rejected His way of righteousness. Instead of submitting to the way God supplied they chose to do it their own way. One truth we must never forget is that there is only one way, God’s way, and that is through Jesus. Deciding that you don’t like God’s way and wish to go another way is pointless because it will not bring you to God. No amount of effort or works on your part will ever bring you to God unless that effort and work is on the path God as supplied for you.
So how does that relate to Matthew 5:38-42? Jesus has shown us the way to righteousness. He has told us we must not seek revenge but should instead seek to forgive. We are not to allow abuse and these verses do not tell us that we are to do that. Instead, Jesus has told us to put our pride to one side and to choose not to take offence. We are to be respectful to others and not indulge in their power games. If we remain composed and focused on Jesus then we retain our power and Jesus is glorified in us and our actions. We are to not “stand on our rights” and behave in a prideful and territorial way. We are to willingly submit to those things we have no choice about. We are also to give generously to others.
Remember Philippians 4:13:
“I have strength for all things in Christ Who empower me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency]. (Amplified)
So never forget to take everything to Jesus and draw on His strength.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:38-42 part 4
In part 2 of these verses I mentioned Barclay’s first great rule of discipleship “Never resent or seek retaliation for any insult, no matter how calculated or deadly.” In cultures that have originated from Anglo-Saxon roots there is a tendency for conflict, when it is addressed, to involve using power to “win”. It is believed that to win an argument one person has to win and the other person has to lose. This is not the case, the best resolution of an argument is for all parties to win. But people use power in the form of put downs and actions in arguments. It is so much a part of our culture that we do it without thinking. With Jesus as our guide however, we can become aware of this behaviour and change it.
If the person who insults you has spent time calculating how to put you down then they are using power to try to win. So what is the appropriate response to this? Jesus tells us it is to “turn the other cheek”. Which means to choose to not return that insult with insult. When you respond this way, you are actually giving up your power. If you refuse to respond that way but choose to keep you power you will not be tempted to respond with an insult but may choose instead to tell the other person their words are inappropriate. So if someone says something particularly nasty, the wrong way to react would be to say something equally nasty back. In the Bible Jesus often responded by answering the comments with the truth and addressed his critics (John 7 gives several good examples of this). If you read John 18 onwards, that speaks of Jesus’ final hours after His arrest you can see a perfect example of how Jesus choose to maintain a dignified silence. He could have defended Himself but He knew that this was pointless, so he choose to meet their insults by holding on to His power and saying nothing. His accusers knew He was doing this and that certainly disturbed them. Look at Pilate and his fear of allowing Jesus to be killed!
It is easy to speak of resolving conflict, but it is helpful to have a practical example. Some time ago a man I knew was behaving in a bullying way towards my family. This caused us great distress and I had spent many hours in prayer, handing over my anger and hurt and seeking help on how to deal with this situation. One day I walked past him on the street and he made a rude comment. I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to stop and address him. This was not easy but I remembered Phillipians 4:13 and accepted the strength I had in Jesus. I told him that his behaviour was unacceptable and it was to stop. In doing that I accepted that he had power and so did I. I did not seek to be better than him or to demolish him as a person. He responded with another insult and I calmly and respectfully pointed out the things he had been doing and that it was unacceptable and had to stop. I responded to him in a way that was approved by Jesus. This man found that he had lost the power he thought he had over us. He now fearfully avoids my family and has ceased all bullying behaviour. The sad thing about that story is that I did not seek to rob him of his power. Rather I set boundaries around his behaviour that allowed both of us to have equal power, but his woundedness didn’t allow him to feel comfortable with that. I know that I can stand before God with a clean conscience over that incident. I also know that man, like so many other people in this world, does not know Jesus. What he saw that day was a Christian demonstrating Jesus to him. My prayer is that he can recognise Jesus in that interaction and will one day be drawn to Him because of my witness and that of others. I also pray that I may always be able to deal with conflict as appropriately so that Jesus may always be visible in my life.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:38-42 part 3
In my previous blog I wrote of taking offence and that it was all about our pride. I also wrote about the fact that some things done to us are not about offence but are wrongful, sometimes criminal, acts that should be addressed.
When I looked in my concordance for references to “offence” I found a number of readings from Proverbs. Proverbs 19:11 was discussed in my previous blog. The other two verses I particularly wanted to mention are Proverbs 18:19 and Proverbs 17:9.
Proverbs 18:19 speaks about an offended brother being “more unyielding than a fortified city” and that “disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel” (NIV). The message from this is that when a person is offended they are less open to resolving the conflict that has led to the offence. As Jesus wishes us to resolve our differences, this causes a problem. It calls for two responses. If you have caused another person offence then you need to address this before you can resolve your differences. The best way to progress is often to apologise for any offence you may have caused. Maybe he shouldn’t be offended, but he is and you want to resolve the conflict. Jesus calls His disciples to be peacemakers and to put pride to one side. If you are the one offended, take Jesus’ advice and put your pride to one side and seek to forgive the offence and resolve the conflict. Sometimes the conflict is only about the offence. Jesus asks us as His disciples to be responsible and to choose to put pride to one side to resolve conflict. This is not always easy to do, but Jesus requires us to choose to forgive those who hurt us. It is at those times that you need to spend time in prayer seeking Jesus’ comfort and guidance. Forgiving is not easy but with Jesus you can do it. Remember Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength” (NIV).
Proverbs 17:9 states that he who covers over an offense promotes love and that he who repeats what has happened is a troublemaker who separates close friends. So this is referring to the lesson of the Beatitude that “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9) and to 5:21-26 that speak of the murder of character caused by the gossip and those who spread stories about others. So the person who seeks to resolve conflict arising from offense is promoting love and the gossip is committing a crime that befits him for hell.
So we have considered the verses from Proverbs that admonish us to seek to resolve the conflict that has resulted in or resulted from offence. In my next blog I want to revisit the first great rule of discipleship I mentioned in my previous blog. “Never resent or seek retaliation for any insult, no matter how calculated or deadly.”

Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:38-42 part 2
The wording of the Message on these verses is worth reading and thinking about.
“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.”
Eugene Peterson, in his interpretation of these verses, expressed the intent of Jesus’ words. Jesus was not saying that we should not take someone to court or should not defend ourselves. What He was saying was that we should not do these things from the motive of revenge.
Barclay talks of Jesus introducing the new spirit of non-resentment and non-retaliation. He cautions us not to take the examples Jesus gave with a ‘crude and ununderstanding literalism’ because that was not the point of Jesus’ words.
So what did Jesus mean?
In verse 39 Jesus spoke of being hit on the right cheek by another person. If two right handed people are facing each other and one hits the other on the cheek, he will hit the other on the left cheek. The only way he can hit the other on the right cheek is to hit him with the back of his hand. According to Jewish law this was the ultimate insult. So Jesus was admonishing His listeners to not retaliate against even the nastiest insult and not to resent it. This is what is termed not taking offence. Insults are about pride and offence is about harm to our pride. Proverbs 19:11 speaks of a man’s wisdom giving him glory and that overlooking an offence is to his glory. It is never OK to tolerate abuse but abuse is not “offence”, it is abuse. Offence is about someone doing something that injures my pride. Frequently churches pressure members to ignore abusive behaviour. If a fellow church member is paid by me to do some work on my house and he keeps the money and doesn’t do the work, that is not offence. That is stealing and that is not OK. I have a right to take that man to court for my money back. If a “christian” man abuses his wife that is not offence, that is abuse and it is not OK.
Verse 40 is about rights. In Jewish law a man’s cloak was his and no-one had the right to take it from him. Jesus was describing His disciples as not having “rights”. This is not saying we should allow people to take our belongings and treat us badly. It is saying that we should not take offence at our rights. It is saying that the church official who is offended because someone has impinged on his territory needs to rethink his attitude because it is not in line with Jesus’ instruction. The disciple thinks about duty not rights and responsibility not privileges. The disciple thinks about Jesus not self.
Verse 41 is in a similar vein. The Israel of Jesus day was occupied by the Romans who could force citizens to perform tasks for them at any moment. A good example of this was Simon of Cyrene being compelled to carry Jesus’ cross for Him. So a man could be compelled by a Roman to carry something a mile. Jesus response was to put pride aside, choose not to take offense and willingly carry out that duty in a gracious spirit.
Barclay summarised this as three great rules of discipleship:
. Never resent or seek retaliation for any insult, no matter how calculated or deadly,
. Never stand upon legal rights or any other rights you believe you possess,
. Never think of your right to do as you like but of your duty to be of help.
The final verse talks about being willing to give to others because in doing so we give to Jesus.
In my next blog entry I will discuss the interaction between conflict resolution, offence and following Jesus through this.

Posted By Nan

Matthew 5:38
This is one of the most misquoted verses in the Bible. I once watched a woman on television whose daughter had been horribly murdered and was full of bitterness quote this verse to justify killing her daughter’s murderers. We first see this verse in Exodus 21:23-25. This was the “law of retaliation” and was meant to limit the punishment to fit the crime so that people were not excessively punished. It was actually intended as a law of mercy, to show mercy to someone who has wronged another. Remember, these laws were given to the Israelites as they fled Egypt. They had lived there 400 years and many did not know God. They had fallen into the habit of worshipping the Egyptian gods and had no concept of how God wanted them to live their lives. Therefore God spent a lot of time instructing them in basic rules. This law had existed in ancient societies prior to this but it was here that it was turned into a merciful law. It was tempered by other verses such as Leviticus 19:18 that told people they were not to take vengeance or bear a grudge against the “sons of your own people”. Proverbs has many references to not seeking revenge such as 25:21 about giving your enemy water if he is thirsty and 24:29 warning people not to do to others as they have done to you. Even in Leviticus 3:30 people are instructed to “turn the other cheek” to the person who “smites” you. (I have found these examples in Barclay’s Daily Study Bible, can you find any more?).
When Jesus came to live among us, He came to fulfil the law, not replace it (Matthew 5:17). By fulfilling the law, He gave it its full meaning by emphasising its deep, underlying principle and total commitment to the law rather than the external obedience to man-made definitions of the law. In this verse, Jesus invoked the law of love and corrected the popular misunderstanding of this law. He removed any concept of retaliation from that law because it has no part in the life of the Christian. Sadly, people who are not Christians, or are Christians with horrifyingly limited understanding of the Bible misquote this “law of retaliation” to justify capital punishment and harsh penalties. Killing someone for revenge, which is what the misuse of the “law of retaliation” amounts to, is an act of revenge not love and it doesn’t solve anything. Nor is it part of the life of the disciple of Jesus.
As I have mentioned in previous blog entries, this does not mean we should ignore conflict and never deal with it. Far from it. The disciple must deal appropriately with conflict, just as Jesus dealt with it appropriately. However, in dealing with conflict we must be seeking a peaceful, loving resolution not revenge. Conflict resolution is not about revenge, it is about love and accepting each party to the conflict has a valid reason to feel the way he or she does. It is about finding a solution that is fair to both parties.
In my next blog I will look at the rest of this section, where Jesus gives practical examples of his law of non-retaliation.



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