Scripture Reading: Matthew 5:27-48 (NRSV)
Wow, there are five topics here that would each make for a good blog by itself.
Just as Jesus changes our emphasis from murder to anger (identifiable to all), here Jesus changes the emphasis from adultery to lust. Well there goes all my superiority over those who have broken their wedding vows…
This is the hard stance that the church took on divorce for years. It was first given when the gender discrepancy regarding power heavily favored the men. Notice that the verbiage surrounds men divorcing women. It wasn’t even considered that it could go the other way.
With oaths, this is an expansion of another of the ten commandments: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16, NRSV). This deals with personal integrity and harkens back to the old handshake days. My word is my bond.
Protesters often tape their mouths
to show they’ve been silenced or ignored in
an attempt to restore the power dynamic.
To be struck by a person on the right cheek was likely a back-handed blow to demean and put one in his or her place. Masters struck slaves in this way. To turn your other cheek to the abuser forced this person to treat you as an equal. This is about standing up for one’s dignity. If you lived in a land occupied by foreign soldiers, there were lots of opportunities for you to be slighted.
For Jesus then to ask his listeners to love their enemies and pray for those who are persecuting them, is not said in the abstract. It was far more concrete than what most Americans live with in the 21st century. Yet we often get caught up in loving only those who love us.
We are polarizing in the world today over lots of issues. The nuances are lost and people are forced into one camp or another that may not truly represent them. We see it most often in our politics. What would it mean to extend love or even respect to someone across the aisle?
What would it mean to listen to someone offer a different opinion without thinking about your response while they talk?
What if relationships were not a contest in which there were winners and losers?
What if we tried to identify and name all of the things we had in common with someone who seems philosophically opposite to us?
Prayer for the day:
God, I am thinking of a person that I don’t like very much.
Often if I do manage to pray for my enemies, I pray that they will change.
Today, I simply pray that you would bless them and their lives.
Let them see goodness and know happiness today.
I pray this in the strength of Christ. Amen.
Photo by Nathan Rupert via Flickr.com. Used under the Creative Commons license.