Seeking Justice (Matthew 5:38-42)

Photo by Rene Böhmer on Unsplash

Jesus lived and ministered during the Roman occupation of Israel. Occupied  nations are  typically consumed with hatred toward their captors, and the conquering nation looks with suspicion on their new subjects. It is difficult to find justice in such cases. But while in that environment, Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

It is impossible to ‘turn the other cheek’ if you believe that you are entirely on your own and life is only the few short years between birth and the grave. If that were true Jesus would be doing us all a great injustice in giving us this instruction. But if you understand that God is your Father, and that in the life to come you will live forever, then what is the stuff you have? Your Father – who makes all things by simply speaking – can more than replace anything you lose through His providential circumstance. And what is your life and body? Do they not belong to God more than you, and if so, will not God – who is your Father – wreak vengeance on those who harm you? 

NT Wright wrote, “When the Messiah appears, the one who is your life, then you too will appear with him in glory.” It is not that “‘one day you will go to be with him’. No; you already possess life in him. This new life which the Christian possesses secretly, invisible to the world, will burst forth into full bodily reality and visibility.” “There will be a new mode of physicality, which stands in relation to our present body as our present body does to a ghost. It will be as much more real, more firmed up, more bodily, than our present body – as our present body is more substantial, more touchable, than a disembodied spirit.” Wright says, “We sometimes speak of someone who’s been very ill as being ‘a shadow of their former self’. …A Christian in the present life is a mere shadow of his or her future self, the self they will be when the body which God has waiting in his heavenly storeroom is brought out, already made to measure, and put on over the present one.”  

Wright is correct. God is purposing to give the mortal body of His disciples immortality, and to replace the corruptible nature of our physical selves with incorruptibility. He has promised everlasting life – abundant life, no less – to those who follow Him. Therefore the disciple of God does not need to fear loss of any kind. Not loss of tunic or cloak or wealth. Not loss of time or respect or dignity. Not loss of health or even loss of our body in death. Rather, the one who inflicts such losses on God’s children needs to fear, and fear greatly. For what shall become of them when our Father demands an accounting? 

“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.” So it will be. 

Therefore, let us not resist the evil person, but as Solomon suggested, “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Amen. 

Never look for right in the other man, but never cease to be right yourself. We are always looking for justice; the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount is—Never look for justice, but never cease to give it.

Oswald Chambers

APPLICATION: Intentionality 

Purpose today to give to those who demand from you, and to unflinchingly hold to God’s character under persecution.

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