February 22, 2020 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
Introduction: Today’s Gospel presents us with perhaps the most difficult part of Jesus’ entire teaching. But we find ways to deflect this teaching. In the past when I’ve asked Congregations, “how many of you have enemies?” Many, if not most, say they have no enemies. So, no enemies, no need to love enemies. Others say that these words of Jesus should not be understood literally, but rather figuratively or symbolically. So, if Jesus didn’t mean them literally, we don’t need to love our enemies.
When we have difficulty with our friends, we sometimes say, “with friends like you, who needs enemies” . Or sometimes we hear “I have enough trouble loving my friends, let alone my enemies.” But in saying these things we are admitting that we are not living up to Jesus’ ideal. Ours is not a time that encourages forgiveness or love of enemies. Ours is a time of law suits. Someone harms you, “sue them”. I saw a pretty woman go by in a car. As she sped ahead I noticed this bumper sticker, “I don’t get mad. I get even.” What else do we see in our present-day reality? President Trump attacks his enemies in the most loathsome way. He sees Moslems and Immigrants as enemies.
But we do have examples of a different way of life. Some time back, Terry Anderson, one of the hostages in Lebanon, when asked how he felt about his captors said, “I forgive them. I have to I’m a Christian.” Another powerful example has to do with a black man who was dragged to his death by people in a Texas City. His sister said, “I am a follower of Jesus I have to forgive them.” A college student was brutally beaten and killed on campus, his mother and sisters said “we forgive his murderer’s and are working to see that it doesn’t happen again.” Though the news is dominated by bad news, we do hear of Good News from different sources. But many people see these as examples of weakness, not of strength. To many, maybe to us, they are even seen as foolish.
My mother would at times tell me, “David you are your own worst enemy.” So, we need to examine our attitudes toward ourselves and toward others. Jesus’ teaching at times leads people to stay in an abusive relationship. People are abused physically, psychologically and sexually in relationships. This is not the time to turn the other cheek. This is the time to get out.
In our society, I believe that vengeance and getting even is sapping the moral fiber of the United States. In Jesus teaching we hear of a NEW WAY. It is a difficult way. We must forgive and remember, not forgive and forget. The fact that we live so far from the ideal of Jesus is one of the reasons we have Lent each year. It is a call to conversion, to having an encounter with Jesus, to the way he lived and the teachings he taught.
John R. Meier in his commentary on Matthew sums up chapter 5: In 5:20 : “I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” This is the more that calls for all exceding righteousness. This sincere, single hearted devotion to God, and others is what Matthew calls perfection.”To be perfect”, a word that, among the four Gospels, occurs only in Mt.not only sums up the love command, but also harks back to the beatitudes and the pure in heart in particular. Vs. 48 recapitulates the entire moral teaching of Chap. 5. To be perfect is not the ideal of the Monk, it is the obligation of every Christian.