Red Letter Year: 3/19

Matthew 5:33-48

“You have also heard that our ancestors were told, ‘You must not break your vows; you must carry out the vows you make to the Lord.’ But I say, do not make any vows! Do not say, ‘By heaven!’ because heaven is God’s throne. And do not say, ‘By the earth!’ because the earth is his footstool. And do not say, ‘By Jerusalem!’ for Jerusalem is the city of the great King. Do not even say, ‘By my head!’ for you can’t turn one hair white or black. Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one.

You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”


Imagine telling the truth and refusing to take oaths. That might seem innocuous at first, but think about it, think about all the oaths you take and imagine not taking them. Think of all the times people in our culture takes oaths to testify truthfully, only to tell obvious lies. Think about following Jesus’ command here and taking a stand for truth telling.

Imagine turning the other cheek. Not the same as taking a punch and not responding. Here you confront the assailant, not with a counter attack, but with an invitation. This is basis for nonviolent resistance which an approach steeped in the teaching and practice of Jesus and one of the most effective forms of social change ever seen.

Love your enemies. Pray for your enemies. Praying for them means thinking about them, considering what they need and want, then asking God to bless them. It means considering them as fellow humans, not just enemies. Loving them means just that (we can’t give some special meaning here that makes doing this easier). We live in a war culture, an adversarial culture. Our economies are founded on the production of machines that bring death to large quantities of people. We live in a culture of hate, a culture of death. Into this culture, the followers of Jesus must go as ones who love enemies, who pray for the light of the Son and the rain of the Spirit to descend on us and them together as children of the heavenly Father.

New Living Translation (NLT)

Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.