Three weeks ago I published a blog post titled, “Loving Our Enemies.” It was Jesus who told us to love our enemies in his Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew 5-7. Jesus also had a lot of other things to say about personal relationships which are found in a section of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:21-48. Here are those verses from The Message Bible (MSG):
You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
Or say you’re out on the street and an old enemy accosts you. Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move; make things right with him. After all, if you leave the first move to him, knowing his track record, you’re likely to end up in court, maybe even jail. If that happens, you won’t get out without a stiff fine.
Adultery and Divorce
You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt.
“Let’s not pretend this is easier than it really is. If you want to live a morally pure life, here’s what you have to do: You have to blind your right eye the moment you catch it in a lustful leer. You have to choose to live one-eyed or else be dumped on a moral trash pile. And you have to chop off your right hand the moment you notice it raised threateningly. Better a bloody stump than your entire being discarded for good in the dump.
Remember the Scripture that says, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him do it legally, giving her divorce papers and her legal rights’. Too many of you are using that as a cover for selfishness and whim, pretending to be righteous just because you are ‘legal.’ Please, no more pretending. If you divorce your wife, you’re responsible for making her an adulteress (unless she has already made herself that by sexual promiscuity). And if you marry such a divorced adulteress, you’re automatically an adulterer yourself. You can’t use legal cover to mask a moral failure.
And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.
Love Your Enemies
Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, gift-wrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.
You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.
In a word, what I’m saying is, Grow up. You’re kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.
We live in a very different world today then we lived in even three or four decades ago. Morals and values have drastically changed across the landscape of America, and there is a concerted effort to “silence” the voices of those who don’t “go along for the ride” of the current tide in our society today. And it’s not just a war against Christians in general, or other religious folks. It’s roots go much deeper and involve the history of the United States.
This backlash is very reminiscent of the days leading up to World War II in Germany when Hitler was in control, and continued in East Germany after the war during the Cold War years (1950-1990) in the form of the Stasi. Those who were part of the Stasi made a concerted effort at manipulating the masses and getting rid of those who didn’t “fit in.” The Germans sent them to concentration camps during the war. After the war the Stasi ruined the lives of many German citizens through deception, manipulation, intimidation, surveillance, coercion, serious breaches of privacy, and they operated “above the law” (source here). The following are a couple of quotes from two articles on the Stasi:
Living in East Germany during the Cold War (1950-1990) meant being watched. By your government. By your neighbors. And even, at times, by your own family. The East German secret police, one of the most intrusive and oppressive spying operations ever assembled, collected millions of files on people it suspected of being enemies of the state. (Quote source here.)
The Stasi (modeled along the lines of the Soviet KGB) became a highly effective secret police organization. Within East Germany it sought to infiltrate every institution of society and every aspect of daily life, including even intimate personal and familial relationships. It accomplished this goal both through its official apparatus and through a vast network of informants and unofficial collaborators, who spied on and denounced colleagues, friends, neighbors, and even family members. By 1989 the Stasi relied on 500,000 to 2,000,000 collaborators as well as 100,000 regular employees, and it maintained files on approximately 6,000,000 East German citizens—more than one-third of the population. (Quote source here.)
We have enemies in this life that we are not even aware of most of the time, which makes Jesus’ statement regarding enemies and how to deal with them even more important. How we live our lives and interact with others we come into contact with on a daily basis is crucial because, as you can see from the statements above, you never really know where they lurk in your life. That is not to say that we should become obsessed over who might be an enemy (they rarely show themselves for who they really are at least until after the damage is done, and even then they remain or at least try to remain well hidden). For the most part, we won’t recognize them. That is how the Stasi operated, and the stuff of the Stasi has existed down through the ages, too, and it is found in the history of other nations as well as the same tactics which are still being used today–covertly, of course, just like it has always been.
As an example, it’s might be easy to spot a colleague who is trying to get our job (especially if they verbally told us they wanted it), but it’s often not easy to spot the reason why we were fired if we had done nothing wrong regardless of that employee who wanted our job (and who might have gotten it after we were fired). Workplace bullying (see links here and here) is rampant with this type of stuff going on, and there is usually a concerted effort by other staff that is going on behind the scenes, too.
This life is so much bigger then just our own individual lives. There are always bigger agendas going on around us that we know nothing about. We like to think that we are in control, but the fact is that we have very little control over anything but own our attitudes and reactions to people and what they do to us whether it is good, bad or indifferent.
Jesus showed us how to live in order to navigate this world and our relationships with others in the midst of battles that are often unseen (e.g., and that are other people’s agendas), yet they go on behind the scenes of our lives and directly affect us. This does not mean from the world’s perspective that we will always “win” according to the world’s definition of “winning.” Martyrs down through the ages are a clear indication that “winning” as the world views winning is not always the case for believers. It’s about perseverance, endurance, and genuine love for others including those who have done us great harm, and who couldn’t care less about how we feel about what they did to us or how it damaged us. That’s a hard pill to swallow but it’s a reality about this world in which we live.
I visited a church this past weekend, and there was one song that they sang at the beginning of the service and again at the end of the service with a chorus that states, “There is Power in the Name of Jesus” (the song is titled “Break Every Chain”). The world laughs at stuff like that but for those of us who truly believe, there is power in the name of Jesus. So when Jesus makes statements like he did in his Sermon on the Mount, we should pay attention. He’s not trying to be a “killjoy” in life; he’s telling us to live this way for our own protection and for the benefit of others, too.
When I was growing up there was a lot more talk in the church about this world being a battleground. The Bible in both the Old and the New Testaments state that fact very clearly, yet so often in the past several decades we treat this life like it is a playground. We rationalize the way we live by saying things like, “God wants me happy.” Or we tell God what we want him to do for us and ask him for his blessing. And we don’t pay much attention to the Sermon on the Mount or anything else he has stated in how we should live, but we expect his guidance and protection anyway. In John 14:15-18, Jesus said:
If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.
“Keep my commands” isn’t an option. We can’t excuse off the way we live if we are trying to get over on someone else by spreading gossip about them, seeking revenge, or trying to destroy them in any way, and then expect Jesus to give us the Spirit of truth as we’ve already rejected the truth by our actions. It is the antithesis of Christianity to live like that.
There is one particular verse from the verses quoted at the beginning of this post that I want to focus on, and that is Matthew 5:41. Here is that verse from the NIV:
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
The following information is taken from an article posted on March 29, 2016, on Linkedin on the topic of Matthew 5:41 titled, “The actual meaning of walking the extra mile and what I learned from it,” written by James D. Anand, Associate Dean, Media & Entertainment, Business Design at WESchool (in India):
Walk the extra mile. That’s an expression I have heard the most in academics and realm of management, I think. It is usually meant to go beyond one’s ability or to make a special effort to accomplish. As they say, stretch oneself. Walk the extra mile is not just to walk more than required.
It is a biblical expression. Biblically, Jesus is believed to have used it during his sermons as per the book of Matthew 5:41, “whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.” Scholarly versions of this verse refer to a practice of impressment by the Roman law on Jews. Any Roman soldier could order a Jewish civilian on the way to carry his baggage, mainly containing armory, for one Roman mile. A Roman mile is roughly 1.45 kilometers. This was a painful task, as the poor unlucky fellow would carry 40-50 kilograms of weight [between 88-110 lbs]. Once the mile is over, the servant could drop it and get relieved. I guess a protest might have lingered over this rule by many. This surely was of a concern to the Jewish community and that’s the reference of Jesus in the context of teachings on human behavior.
In the process of disambiguation of this expression, I learned 3 things.
Even if others treat you unfairly, how you behave is more important. Treat them generously is the message. We could walk with the soldier one more time, one more mile, generously.
This walk would result in a rapport with the soldier who is actually a servant of the people. Walking that extra mile with implied patience would let us know about him more. One could walk conversationally. This is more useful in personal life.
It’s one of the very impressive management learning. The extra mile would be the walk of a business designer with his customer. Walk of a consultant with the client. Walk of a designer with the user. It is the customer service. It is user study. It is unconditional. This is the building block of a star.
To walk the extra mile is not exactly to walk extra. It is actually more than an extra mile’s walk. Generously. Conversationally. Unconditionally. (Quote source here.)
And, it is during that second mile that we might be able to turn an enemy into a friend. The result is not up to us, but if we act generously, conversationally, and unconditionally with an enemy, who knows but that it could turn around the relationship. And even if it doesn’t, we have done our part according to how Jesus would want us to interact with any enemy; in fact, with anyone.
So, let’s be people who are willing to go that extra mile…
Generously . . .
Conversationally . . .
Unconditionally . . . .
YouTube Video: “Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture: