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Christlikeness: Going the Extra Mile for an Enemy


Christlikeness

From Christ's Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 5:38-42

"You have heard that it was said, 'An EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.' But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you."


More than not, when I read the words of Christ, I am amazed at how counter-intuitive His commands are to a sinful, human perspective. Yet, the instructions He gave us are precisely how He lived on earth; Christ was sinless. Although we can never obtain perfection here in this world, we are expected to strive toward Christlikeness in the temporal realm (1 Peter 2:21-25). Therefore, we must live counter to cultural values, folklore, and traditions.


Within personal human relationships, imagine giving up position and perceived rights to an enemy. In our culture of independence and "rugged individualism," most would never accept the notion of suffering for an enemy's benefit. But that is what Christ did for us. He came into enemy territory and surrendered His life for the depraved that some may become children of God (Philippians 2:5-8).


Alternatively, human values follow a different set of norms. Perhaps, if we encountered an enemy who wronged us, we would seek to restore our dignity and pride.  What if we were slandered or made to give up possessions?  Would we take personal vengeance or countersue?  Our traditions and perceived entitlement would have us say "yes" just about every time.  Unfortunately, in the sinful human view, God does not own vengeance in all situations.  The loopholes of human logic are laced with personal pride.


Christlikeness

In the highlighted biblical text of this post, Jesus refers to "EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH," taken from Exodus 21:24, Leviticus 24:20, and Deuteronomy 19:21. God's laws sought to ensure that the punishment met the crime in criminal cases. In short, the discipline should be proportional to the infraction; vengeance was never to be taken into one's own hands.

Christlikeness

Moving on, in Matthew 5:39-42, Jesus gets to the point of His message by exhorting us not to resist an enemy when our dignity is attacked (v. 39), we are sued for our assets (v. 40), or our liberty (v. 41) and personal property (v. 42) are imposed upon. Thus, in personal interactions, His instructed response to "enemy fire" is the exact opposite of human inclinations. Christ's command goes directly to humility and the death of pride.


Opposing human perceptions of "right," Christ tells us to go the extra mile when forced by the enemy. Consequently, we can relate this command to His example as He carried a cross for us, beaten and battered beyond recognition. The King of creation uttered no threats while He suffered for the undeserving (1 Peter 2:21-25).


In Romans 12:14-21, the Apostle Paul expounds on Jesus' example of godly love and humility. He urges us to bless those who persecute us and not take revenge. By treating an enemy with the Lord's compassion, we, in effect, "heap burning coals on his head." This means that when we lovingly help our enemies, it brings shame to them for their hate and animosity.


Going the extra mile for an enemy is one aspect of the difficulty in following Christ (Matthew 7:13-14), and it is unimaginable without the assistance of the Holy Spirit. This notion flies in the face of so-called entitlements and human pursuits. But think how we can glorify God with this disposition of Christlikenss. May we follow the Lord's commands.

 

Matthew 5:43-48

"You have heard that it was said, 'You SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect."


Matthew 7:13-14

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."


Matthew 16:24-25

Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it."


Romans 12:14-21

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, "Vengeance IS MINE, I WILL REPAY," says the Lord. "But IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD." Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


Philippians 2:5-8

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.


1 Thessalonians 5:15

See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people.


1 Peter 2:21-25

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO committed NO SIN, NO WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.






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