Monday, February 9, 2009

Matthew 5:45-48 Be Distinctive Part II

As we observed the last time in Matthew, Christians are called to be distinctive and one of our distinctive should be in how we treat people. Being good to those who are good to us is pretty easy. Treating people kindly who have been unkind to us—that is not so easy. Jesus gives us clear reasons for doing just that as we examine these verses.

First of all, by loving our enemies as we are instructed in verse 44, we demonstrate the goodness and character of God. Ultimately, as we read in Psalm 1, the unrighteous will get what’s coming to them. Their judgment will be terrible, final, and they shall spend eternity separated from God in the fire of hell. Make no mistake about it, God may tolerate their sin and blasphemy now, but He will not suffer their disrespect forever. While the wheat and the tares grow in the field of this world, though, God provides good things that both enjoy. Therefore, since we are the children of God, when we are good to those who don’t deserve to be treated well we show ourselves to be “sons of your Father, who is in heaven”. Because He is our Father, some of His character should rub off on us and show people that we are truly His children. We should follow God’s example and show kindness to our enemies just as He sends the sun and the rain on both the righteous and the unrighteous.

Secondly, not only does loving our enemy’s demonstrate characteristics of our Father in heaven, but we also show ourselves to be distinct from the rest of the world. Jesus calls this audience to a sobering realization—if they only love their friends they are no different than “tax collectors” or “Gentiles”. Now, to a Jew, these were two of the most hated classes of people there were. The tax collectors (of whom the author Matthew was one) were considered to be the ultimate sellouts. They collected tax for the Roman government so they were seen as collaborators with the Roman’s. The Jewish people despised being under Roman authority or any foreign authority. Further, the tax collectors were allowed to collect more than the required tax and keep the excess for themselves kind of like a commission. When Jesus said “even the tax collectors do the same” that assessment stung. In like manner, when Jesus compared someone who greeted their friends as being no better than a Gentile that statement was also repugnant to His Jewish audience. The Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs. They held them in utter contempt. Therefore, for Jesus to make the comparison that Matthew records in verse 47 would have been particularly insulting to them.

There was a point to these comparisons Jesus made. In short, as we have seen in our study of chapter 5, we are unable to live a righteous life in our own power. There is no way, for instance, that I can show love to my enemies much less WANT to show love to my enemies apart from the power of God’s Holy Spirit living in me. I submit to you that truth is precisely the point that Jesus has been making for 48 verses. We are unable to produce the righteousness that God requires but God can produce that righteousness in us. While we are not yet mature and complete in Christ, Jesus says here that we “are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” One day, we will be able to live completely free from sin and we will be totally complete children of God. However, while we still live in this sinful world we must realize that we will have to make a choice daily, sometimes hourly, to live holy lives as God has called us.


Trish said...

Can I just say, "Ouch!"? I have been a Christian for 25 years and honestly a lot of times, I act more like a 4 year old. God help me change, help me be wheat in my local field of tares. Thanks for teaching the truth!

Joe Blackmon said...

Yeah, I know what you mean. It's hard to study through the Sermon on the Mount without getting some bumps and bruises.