Obeying Jesus at the Most Fundamental Level

A simple thesis: ‘Jesus practiced nonviolent enemy-love to his own death and Matthew presents this teaching as a commandment to be obeyed by his disciples.’

Mt 5:38-39, 43-45; cf. Lk 6:27-36

Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) Jesus Teaches About Fighting Back

38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’

39 But I tell you, don’t fight back against someone who wants to do harm to you. If they hit you on the right cheek, let them hit the other cheek too.

Love Your Enemies

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’

44 But I tell you, love your enemies. Pray for those who treat you badly.

45 If you do this, you will be children who are truly like your Father in heaven. He lets the sun rise for all people, whether they are good or bad. He sends rain to those who do right and to those who do wrong.

Start from the biblical POV not your PPOV [Preconceived Point Of View]:

  • Lk 9:54-55 v. 56 in some manuscripts (“What spirit you are of”),
  • Mt 26:51-53 (Peter rebuked at Jesus’ arrest: “all who take the sword will perish by the sword,” cf. Lk 22:49-51: “No more of this!”),
  • John 18:36 “My kingdom is not from this world,” i.e., a government who’s heavenly, divinely ordained origin is coming to supplant the present worldly, evil age ones! NOTE:  mistranslated ‘my kingdom is not of this world’ = i.e., spiritual/heavenly location only!

N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope, p 18:

“Many Christians grow up assuming that [Jesus is] talking about how to go to heaven when you die [but] this is certainly not what [he] had in mind.”

  • Mt 5:9 (peacemakers are sons of God),
  • Mt 10:16-23 (call to endure persecution by testifying in the Spirit and fleeing). NOTE: Paul: Rom 12, 1 Tim 1:13; 1 Pet 3:9.

IN depth: the Beatitudes

  • Presents an “upside-down reality” where the usual order of things is reversed: the greater = lesser, anger = murder, lust = sexual acts, marriage = one-person fidelity [opposed to polygamy in OT], love the enemy!
  • Regardless we’re to build “a city on the hill,” OT light for the nations.

BUT we must be “born again.” What’s it mean?

  • Dying to “passions, desires”: Gal 5.24
  • Dying to this “world”: Gal 6.14
  • Suffering like he did: Rom 8.17-18; 1 Peter 4.1-2
  • So that we’re “transformed” into a “new creature/person”: Rom 12.1-2; 2Cor 5.17; Gal 3.28 [“you are all one” eis is masculine not neuter = “one man,” “a single person”]. Prelude to the resurrection-reward!

The paradigm shift, overruling and undermining Torah: Mat 5.38-48.

Hays, Moral Vision of the NT, pp. 324-25:

Torah “prohibits murder, but Jesus forbid even anger. [In Mat 5.38-42] Jesus actually overrules the Torah [i.e.,] Deuteronomy insists, ‘Show no pity,’ Jesus says, ‘Do not resist an evildoer.’ The Law’s concern for maintaining stability and justice is supplanted by Jesus’ concern to encourage nonviolent, long-suffering generosity on the part of those who are wronged. This extraordinary change of emphasis constitutes a paradigm shift that effectually undermines the Torah’s teaching about just punishment for offenders.”

  • A direct, overt rejection of the lex talionis (tit-for-tat, quid pro quo) paradigm of Torah. NOTE: Whoever lives by the sword will DIE by the sword: Matthew 26.52; Luke 19.27!

“[Jesus] doesn’t commend the disciple who takes up the sword to defend him against unjust arrest; rather, uttering a prophetic word of judgment against all who ‘take the sword,’ he commands that the sword be put away.”

“There’s no foundation whatever in the Gospel of Matthew for the notion that violence in defense of a third party is justifiable. In fact, Matt 26.51-52 serves as an explicit refutation of this idea.”

Did you know?

Rabbinic Judaism changed God’s Law from violent retaliation [Deut 19.15-21] to monetary compensation [b. Baba Qamma 83b-84a].