Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount
- The Blessings of Christ’s Kingdom (Matthew 5:1-12)
- The Blessings of Christ’s Kingdom: Blessings One and Two (Matthew 5:3-4)
- The Blessings of Christ’s Kingdom: Blessings 3-7
- The Blessings of Christ’s Kingdom: You Will Be Persecuted, But Yours Is The Kingdom of God (Matthew 5:10-12)
- Sermon on the Mount: Be Who You Are In Christ (Matthew 5:13-16)
- God’s Word Will Always Stand And It’s All About Jesus: Matthew 5:17-20
- The True Meaning of Adultery (Matthew 5:27-30)
- Adultery and the Seriousness of the Marriage Commitment (Matthew 5:31-32)
- Be People Of Truth (Matthew 5:33-47)
- Giving Grace Instead Of Vengeance (Matthew 5:38-42)
- What Does It Mean To Love Your Neighbor? (Matthew 5:43-47)
- Our Only Hope Is Jesus (Matthew 5:48)
- The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father
- The Lord’s Prayer: Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed Be Your Name
- The Lord’s Prayer: Your Kingdom Come
- The Lord’s Prayer: Your Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven
- The Lord’s Prayer: Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
- Forgive Us Our Sins (Matthew 6:12)
- The Lord’s Prayer: Lead Us Not Into Temptation
- The Lord’s Prayer Activity
- Forgiven People Forgive (Matthew 6:14-15
- Fast Toward God, Not Others (Matthew 6:16-18)
- Live For What Will Last (Matthew 6:19-34)
- Judge Not, But Do Judge (Matthew 7:1-6)
- God Gives So That You Can Give (Matthew 7:6-12)
- Which Gate Have You Gone Through? Which Path Are You On? What Is Your Eternal Destination? (Matthew 7:13-14)
- Beware the False Prophet (Matthew 7:15-18)
- You May Think You Know Jesus, But Does Jesus Know You? (Matthew 7:21-23)
- All Other Ground Is Sinking Sand (Matthew 7:24-27)
To avenge means to inflict harm for harm done to yourself. I happen to love a series of movies called the Avengers. Since I watched the first one I have tried to keep up with the movies and I have loved them as have many, many people. Marvel has made billions of dollars with these movies.
Revenge. Without it, where would many of the movies that I dearly loved be? One of my favorites, The Count of Monte Cristo, wouldn’t exist. The whole movie is, itself, about revenge. In the end the main character finds out that there is more to life than revenge, but revenge is the story.
Revenge comes natural to us, there is something about it that seems enjoyable to us. I used to be bad about revenge driving. If someone cut me off I would drive ahead of them, slam on my brakes, and then go on. I was doing to them what they had done to me. It was “an eye for an eye”. But this is not behavior that a Christian should partake in. We are part of a different Kingdom. We have a different king and a different character.
We are to behave differently. We are part of God’s Kingdom and give grace even when vengeance is our desire.
Do Not Seek Revenge (Vv. 38-42)
As I have already said, revenge comes natural to us. It’s how we desire to respond when we feel that we have been wronged. Apparently, this is not new. It had become common in Jesus’ day for people to feel as if they could take vengeance into their own hands and they were within the bounds of the Law to do so. There was a principle that was to be used in the executing of the law by those in charge of executing justice (Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, Deuteronomy 19:21). These, however, were being used to say that it was okay for a person to seek personal vengeance. Again, Jesus is correcting a wrong interpretation of the Law.
We must first keep in mind what we said weeks ago. Jesus stated plainly that He did not come to abolish the Law but to fulfill. He again begins by saying “You have heard that it was said” and then quotes a portion of the Law. Jesus has repeatedly corrected wrong understandings of the Law after this phrase and He does it again here.
The Law was not about seeking to get your own vengeance upon a person. Jesus shows that quite the opposite is true. We don’t seek revenge for ourselves. Vengeance is a sinful reaction to being sinned against, or sometimes thinking that we’ve been sinned against.
Here is the truth of the matter. Police Officers, Judges, Mayors, Governors, Senators, Representatives, and the President have been put in place to carry out justice on the Earth, though they will at times do it imperfectly and we are to submit to our government (Romans 13:1). Part of that submission is, even when wronged, trusting that God will avenge you whether that be through the court of Law, some sort of calamity on Earth, punishment in eternity, or punished on the cross.
So Jesus here fixes the wrong view of the Law. People are not to take the Law into their own hands. They are not to get vengeance for themselves.
This is very applicable to every day life. How many times a week do you feel like those in charge of you have wronged you? How often do you feel as if you are getting into trouble for something that you didn’t do? Or, even more applicable, how often do you feel as if someone else is getting by with doing something to you that they should be getting into trouble for, or at least more trouble? We could also ask whether or not you even allow the authorities to get involved before you seek your revenge.
Read the examples given here in Matthew 5:39-42.
We are to be people who have been redeemed. The grace of God has changed us and made us new people. We trust that God will one day avenge all wrongs for us but are not seeking our own revenge. We are faithfully trusting in Him for perfect justice.
Interestingly, none of the people here seek their own revenge but respond graciously to those attempting to harm them. Which brings us to our next point.
I am currently having to read the biography of Adoniram Judson for my Southern Baptist Heritage and Mission class. Adoniram and his wife, along with a few other couples went to Burma as missionaries. These were the first Southern Baptist Missionaries, the first Baptist Missionaries from America to leave the United States, and the first missionaries to leave the United States period. Their story is at times fascinating, but at others quite unbelievable.
Adoniram was at one time wrongly imprisoned as Burma was going to war against the British. Adoniram’s wife, Ann Judson, was pregnant at the time though they did not know it. Ann made frequent visits to see him in the most horrid of prison situations. At times she walked miles only to be turned away. She spend her days begging, pleading, and attempting to bribe officials into letting her care for her husband. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it did not. While Adoniram was living among rotting food, rats, and other filth his wife was working constantly for the freedom of her husband.
The general had Adoniram and a few other white foreigners, some were British and some were not, moved out to where he wanted to make his last stand with the British. He also had a lion brought out to the area. The plan was that if the foreigners were made an offering at the battle ground that the Burmese would surely overtake the British. And where was Adoniram’s wife Ann. She figured out where they had left and she made the trek with her baby in tow to be near her husband and attempt to care for him.
Shortly after the lion died of starvation, because there was no way to feed it and no orders to do so, the British killed this general and the foreigners were released. Adoniram and his wife would soon be free to leave. But the problem that arose is that she had worked so hard for Adoniram’s release that she was weakened significantly. Burma was a hotbed for illness and many people died there of different diseases sweeping the countryside. Ann looked significantly weaker after the ordeal than when it had began and would soon become very ill. Despite all of the doctor’s efforts she passed away only a few months after Adoniram’s release.
If I had been in Adoniram’s shoes I’m not sure exactly how I would have responded. I may have been so incredibly angry at the Burmese people and unable to continue. But there is no inkling of that in his writings. He sought to give to them the grace of God. He went through a period of intense depression and seclusion, but he didn’t come out of this angry with the Burmese. He came out of it continuing to minister to them. He continued to work toward giving them a Bible in their language. He continued to preach the gospel to them.
People In The Kingdom Behave Differently (Vv. 39-42)
The people of God’s Kingdom are changed people. Do you remember the Beatitudes from a few weeks ago? There we saw that one of the characteristics of God’s people was meekness. There is a strength in meekness that resists the explosion of anger even when wronged. And it is part of the morality of God’s Kingdom people.
The morality of the Kingdom goes above and beyond that of the world. Not only are we to rest in God’s faithfulness and righteousness, but there is also a behavior that is different. Do not slap a person back when you have been slapped, may be a reference to the court of law. Whether it is or not does not matter. This goes against every inclination of the world. If a person wants to sue you and take your shirt, then give him your coat as well. And if a person forces you to go one mile with him, Roman soldiers would have people bear their stuff for them up to a mile, go with him two.
First, I want to say that Jesus is speaking in hyperbole to make a point. If someone really took off both their shirt and their coat then they would be running around in their underwear and that wasn’t really what He was after. He was telling His people that not only were they to not seek revenge, but to give people mercy even when they deserved the opposite. These are not case by case rules but a hyperbole that teaches us to behave as God does who “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45 NASB)
Here is the point. The Kingdom Ethic is one, not only of allowing God to do our revenging, but also being people who show grace to others even when they deserve a far different reaction from us.
This is incredibly difficult unless I remember Jesus and His role in my salvation. I was a sinner in rebellion against God, yet God sent His Son to come for my redemption. I am not the only person who is in this situation. Every person who has ever been redeemed is in the same position. And we can look at the worst of people and say to ourselves, “There, but for the grace of God, there go I?” It could just as easily be me being an awful human being to someone else, but the grace of God has seen to it otherwise. I remember being a bully before I was a Christian. I remember being terrible to people before Christ. It’s not as if I am now perfect but there has definitely been a marked improvement and had not God given me grace I would be a terrible, terrible sinner. It gives me the ability to endure suffering from one who doesn’t know better. It also allows me the opportunity to show, in a small way, the grace of Christ as I patiently endure suffering.
We are to be people who have the strength of the meek. We don’t stand by and allow ourselves to be overrun. Even Jesus gave answers to people when accused and confronted, but we are to be people who are giving grace where most people would want to give revenge.
Let us be people who are gracious, loving, and caring even when we are treated poorly. Jesus showed us grace and we show grace to others.
We Fall Short of God’s Standard
Like the past few messages, we read this and see how far we fall short. We understand that we are people who will not live up to this law. Our hearts will desire and seek revenge, whether it be on the road, in a grocery store, or in your family. And as has been stated repeatedly through the Sermon on the Mount, the first use of the Law curbs sin in the world. The second use of the Law is a mirror that reveals to us our sinfulness. And the third use of the Law is to reveal to us what a life that is pleasing to God looks like.
Here, as we think about the second use of the Law, we are struck with how far short of this standard we really fall. But this drives us to Jesus. If you are not a believer, then you should see that you fall short of God’s standard (Romans 3:23). The punishment for that is death, eternal death (Romans 6:23). But God has given us this gift and our sinfulness drives us to see our need for this gift (Romans 6:23). The response to this gift is repentance and faith. This is turning from sin and trusting in Christ. For the believer it drives us to appreciate the grace of Christ more and to lean on Him more and more throughout our lives.
Let the Law drive you to Jesus. That is what it is supposed to do. And let God’s grace help us to show grace even when vengeance is our desire.
R. Dwain Minor