Allen Rea, pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church, Baxley
In this passage Jesus address two subjects: vows and revenge. We tend to merge those two together by vowing revenge. Jesus deals with these two issues in separate but sincere ways.
As Christians, Jesus cares about every aspect of our witness to a lost and dying world. He cares about what we promise and how we react. The Sermon on the Mount continues to prove that Christianity is not just what we believe, but also how we behave. We must strive to avoid even the remotest sense of hypocrisy.
In verses 33-37, Jesus deals with vows as He begins by quoting Lev. 19:12. Jesus raises the bar once again as he allows no vows from His followers. He will allow no vow against heaven, earth, or even our own head. In fact, anything beyond a simple confirmation or denial is sourced in the evil one.
Words are something to which we should pay careful attention. Our words will be judged (Matthew 12:33-37). Words are something we often fail to pay attention to. Instead of thinking before we speak, we tend to think after we speak. We are a wordy culture. Some people have a tendency to speak when they have nothing to say. Some people are silent when they have much to say.
Proverbs 10:19 says “In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise.” James also relays some wisdom about words. James’ letter is remarkably similar to the Sermon on the Mount. The first twelve verses of the book of James is devoted to the dangers of the tongue. His strong admonition is that “no one can tame the tongue” (v.8). This does not mean that we should give our tongue complete license, rather that we recognize that we are fighting against a strong foe.
The battle against the tongue is never done, but we must not give up the fight. A controlled tongue is a sign of a Spirit-filled life. Just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should say it. Ethics is not simply what you can do, but also asks if you should do it.
Just because you can say it, doesn’t mean you should say it.
In verses 38-42, Jesus deals with revenge. He begins by quoting Exodus 21:24. The key to understanding this passage comes in verse 39. Jesus commands us to not resist an evil person. Jesus uses several illustrations to enforce His statement.
He speaks of slaps, suing, shirts, and second miles. Meekness is associated with weakness in our culture, but that is simply not the case. For some reason, we want to be in charge of the judgment of others. We tend to want grace for ourselves and judgment for others.
A valuable lesson that I learned a long time ago that has served me well in ministry is someone else's sins does not give us the right to sin. Jesus’ commandments are not customizable to our situation. No revenge means no revenge, no matter the context.
In fact, once again Christ is our example. Peter admonishes us to “follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus yielded Himself to those that beat, bullied, and spat on Him. Jesus practiced what He preached. All that was done to Him and He prayed for forgiveness for the very ones that crucified Him (Luke 23:34)! Jesus did not deserve one ounce of the cruelty He received, yet He refused to defend Himself.
Our culture glorifies the underdog for being not only able to win, but also for the ability to get revenge. Christianity glorifies the One that “came to His own, but His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). No one in the history of the world was treated as badly as the Lord Jesus, yet He never avenged Himself and asked that we follow His example.
In a world that chooses to express itself with four-letter-words and does unto others before they do unto them, Christianity may appear weak. However, Christianity is not the weak road, but the straight and narrow road.
Christianity cannot afford to continue to be watered down. Diluting the only Way to God is not helping our culture. We need to infiltrate our culture. We must do this not necessarily so that votes go our way, but so that the Way will continue to have a witness in this world. Christians should not say what the world says nor seek to avenge themselves.
Jesus commands nothing less than what He modeled for us. The Sermon on the Mount continues to give us an island of integrity in the ever shifting sea of sin.