When we live as “salt and light” in this world, we make enemies. How are we to respond to them?
Jesus had a way of turning every issue on its head; this one is no exception. In this part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives the most counter-intuitive advice. To the natural mind it just doesn’t make sense.
- Offering the other cheek when an enemy has already struck the first one?
- Going a second mile voluntarily when only the first mile was required?
- Surrendering a coat to an enemy when all he demanded was a shirt?
- Giving things to thugs demanding them by force or moochers who want to “borrow?”
Human nature resists all these tactics. If we want to fight or quit before the job is done or keep an enemy in his place as an adversary, we need to ignore the advice of Jesus. However, if we want to have peace, complete a task, make a friend out of an enemy, and be a blessing to those who are cursing us, these things make perfect sense.
Getting Back what You Give
The Law of Sowing and Reaping is built into Creation. If you want corn, plant corn. If you want beans, plant beans.
- If you want to fight, hit back every time you are struck.
- If you want a business partner, go beyond what the job requires.
- If you want to win over an opponent, be more than kind to him.
- If you want to have what you need when you need it, be generous to a fault to those who do not deserve it.
When we, with God’s help, intentionally counter our fleshly, human impulse to strike back or hold tightly to what is rightfully ours and we do this in the Name of the Lord, the Lord goes to work in the life of our enemy. As foolish as this may seem, it works. We sow good when presented with evil. We change the subject from hate and selfishness to joy and generosity and faith.
“Coals of Fire.”
In Romans, the Apostle Paul echoes the Sermon on the Mount. As he does, he makes one of the strangest statements in all of the Bible. To plant these seeds of non-violence and generosity in response to the actions of an enemy, we actually:
“…heap coals of fire on his head.”
We can read all sorts of explanations of the meaning of this strange phrase most of them having to do with the essential nature of coals of fire to survival in the ancient world. It seems “coals of fire” is a metaphor for the conscience of the individual. People who are given to striking others or taking advantage or forcing their will on people have a conscience that has gone cold. To counter their violence with peace, their coercion with cooperation, their selfishness with generosity can reawaken that sleeping conscience. In the natural this may seem like a faint hope but it must be remembered: in the Sermon on the Mount we are talking about a supernatural life enabled by the Holy Spirit. Our obedience to the Word of God sows supernatural seed in the life of our enemy. We will be surprised what God can do with that!
“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Lord Jesus, You have called me to a supernatural life. Help me to turn the other cheek, to go the second mile, and to be generous all in Your name and for Your glory. Give me the joy of seeing enemies become friends. Help me overcome evil with Good as I sow good seed into the lives of people around me, especially those who don’t like me. I want to see the surprise on their faces when I counter their evil deeds with good ones. Lord, You will fight my battles. You will be my defense. I will be Your servant in this supernatural life. Amen.
Make Me a Blessing
Words: Ira B. Wilson: Music: George S. Schuler
1. Out in the highways and byways of life,
Many are weary and sad; are weary and sad
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
Making the sorrowing glad.
Make me a blessing, Make me a blessing,
Out of my life May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
I pray Thee, my Savior,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
2. Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
His pow’r to forgive.
Others will trust Him if only you prove
True ev’ry moment you live.
3. Give as ’twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.