As we come to the close of Matthew 5,
Jesus puts the highest bar of all before us.
You have heard that it was said,
“Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I tell you:
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.
Honestly, I haven’t done this well.
A relative wrote me a letter several years
ago listing all the reasons she didn’t like me.
I felt socked in the stomach for it truly took
me by surprise.
She’s been in my home so many times both alone and with family,
and I had no clue of the hatred she felt toward me.
I called her, met with her, apologized for anything I saw that had any truth,
and told her that if she knew my heart,
she’d know I was even worse than she realized.
She seemed to soften and I tried to put it behind me,
but I kept dredging up that letter in my mind.
I was wallowing in the mud, having imaginary conversations
where I defended myself.
I might have looked good on the outside, but oh, how slimy inside.
I know many of you have been truly hurt as well
by those for whom you have given sacrificial love.
That high bar Jesus puts before you looks impassable.
It’s natural to think:
But as Philip Yancey says,
“The reason grace is amazing, is because it is not natural, it’s supernatural.”
This study on Matthew 5, while certainly not one of my most popular studies,
has been so good for me.
I needed it.
The combination of memorizing Matthew 5, studying what some of the
godly scholars have said about it,
and hearing your insights
spurred me on to take a running leap at that high bar.
I had that relative over for a dinner, and found ways to bless her that
evening with words, gifts, food.
I prayed God would cleanse my heart, help me forget that letter,
and see her the way He did.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
I could see her suffering that night.
One of the questions I put in the bowl for our conversation was
“What are you thankful for this year that you could not have been last year?”
She pondered, shook her head, and said,
I’m seeing her differently, more compassionately, and God is doing a work in
my heart, a work that really needed to be done!
I’m sure I’ll need another bath soon, but honestly, right now,
it feels so very good (blessed!) to be clean.
Next week we will begin our month of giving thanks. It went so well last year and so helped our hearts, we will do it again. I plan to return to The Sermon on the Mount, Lord willing, during Lent.
On a personal note, I am in the beautiful Poconos of Pennsylvania giving a retreat to the best group of women from Manhatten — and our own Laura Dancer is here, She has rescued me by operating the tech, which has been full of challenges she has met beautifully! We also had a little time with Jackie Randall, who used to be active on our blog, and is simply a lovely person!
- What stands out to you from the above and why?
- Could you identify with Dee’s struggle in any way? If so, how?
Monday: Non-Retaliation and Active Love
John Stott writes that “While an eye for an eye may have been practiced in the courts of the judges, (where it belongs) the Pharisees had carried it into the person realm (where it does not belong.) But now Jesus says, “Do not resist an evil person.” The description he gives in this passage sounds much like the way of Martin Luther King. He practiced non-retaliation and active love. The first section we are looking at today gives illustrations of non-retaliation on a personal level.
3. Read Matthew 5:38-42 and list the illustrations Jesus gives of how we should respond to an evil person.
4. Think of how Jesus responded to evil in his last days, and what he was telling his disciples.
5. How did Paul and Silas live this out in Acts 16:25-34 and what was the result in the cruel
jailer’s life? (Notice when he finally washed their wounds.)
Tuesday: Love Your Enemies and Pray for Them
My husband was a pacifist, as was his closest friend, a Mennonite, David Wiebe. I remember on 9/11 David and Steve pondered what might have happened had we responded with love, building hospitals, schools, and shelters instead of reacting with violence. I don’t know — I haven’t resolved this myself, but I ponder it when I read these words of Jesus. I tend to agree with John Stott who quotes Luther in dividing this into the government realm and the personal realm. I am glad our government catches rapists and murderers. Stott said “You can simulataneously feed the thief you caught who broke into your home while calling the police.” An application was can be sure is right is to overcome evil with good, finding active ways to love those who have hurt us, and to pray for them.
6. What is the contrast in Matthew 5:43-44?
7. Can you share a way you have actively loved someone who deeply hurt you?
8. When Billy Graham was addressing the example of Matthew 5:27-28 about looking at a
woman lustfully, he said, you can’t help it when the birds (thoughts) fly over your head,
but you can stop them from making a nest in your hair. How might you apply this to
Wednesday: That You May Be Sons of Your Father
Many of you have seen this recent video that went virale, but if not, it is worth your time.
8. How is this young man reflecting His Father in heaven? Other comments?
9. Read Matthew 5:45.
A. When we love our enemies, whom do we resemble?
B. Whose “sun” does this verse say it is?
C. What is the point the last part of this verse is making?
10. When we studied the fool in Proverbs, we learned that is may be wise to draw boundaries. If your enemy is indeed, a fool, according to Proverbs, how can you both drawn boundaries and yet give active love?
11. Ask the Lord to show you how He would have you respond to someone who has deeply hurt you, or to an actual enemy. Share here.
Thursday: The Reward
12. What questions does Jesus ask in verse 46?
13. Is it wrong to do things because God promises a reward if we do? I think not, though eager to hear your thoughts. If it spurs us to do what is right yet painful, I think that is a good thing. What do you think?
14. What question does Jesus ask in verse 47? How might you apply this personally?
15. Describe the bar Jesus gives us in verse 48. How is this possible?
Friday: What Sinning in Anger Does To Our Souls
16. Listen to the following Keller message and share your notes and comments:
17. What is your take-a-way and why?