Sunday, February 20, 2011

"You have heard that it was said, 'An
eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'
But I say to you, offer no resistance
to one who is evil. When someone strikes
you on (your) right cheek, turn the
other one to him as well. If anyone
wants to go to law with you over your
tunic, hand him your cloak as well.
Should anyone press you into service
for one mile, go with him for two miles.
Give to the one who asks of you, and do
not turn your back on one who wants to
borrow. You have heard that it was said,
'You shall love your neighbor and hate
your enemy.' But I say to you, love
your enemies, and pray for those who
persecute you, that you may be children
of your heavenly Father, for he makes
his sun rise on the bad and the good,
and causes rain to fall on the just and
the unjust. For if you love those who
love you, what recompense will you have?
Do not the tax collectors do the same?
And if you greet your brothers only,
what is unusual about that? Do not the
pagans do the same? So be perfect, just
s your heavenly Father is perfect."
Matthew 5:38-48

These are difficult words to hear, even more difficult to follow. Who among us can actually say that we've done these things? We are accustomed to defending ourselves against attack, and most of us would say that self-defense is justified. Still, we cannot deny that Christ seems to be pointing us in a different direction. I think that this passage points to a movement toward total dependence upon God, toward an end to concern about safety and security. People in modern society, even those who are religious, are always looking toward securing themselves and their families against loss and destruction. Think about all the different kinds of insurance that exist, all the products that we buy that are designed to protect us from threats both natural and man-made. We pray to God for blessings, and yet our lives seem designed around the idea that we're alone and can't rely on His aid in times of trouble. Perhaps it's just human nature to live like this, to rely on ourselves and on those things that we can see and touch rather than putting our hope in that which is beyond our grasp and understanding. Still, this is exactly what Jesus is asking us to do in today's Gospel reading. The only way that we can live up to this calling is through the grace of God, because we certainly won't do it on our own.

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