Transcription details: Audio 03 18 2018
Input sound file: Audio 03 18 2018
do you feel this is true? We live in an age of uninformed, self-righteous, emotional reactivity. If you pay much attention to the news, if you find yourself on Facebook, doesn’t it seem that the less people know, the louder they get?
Here’s the thing we do know people have many reasons why they think they are entitled to be angry. They’re upset. They’re disturbed. They feel the world is going to hell in a handbasket and they know it’s someone else’s fault. It’s not easy to be one of these people. People have many reasons why they feel entitled to be angry. You will be tempted to react to their emotions. When that temptation comes, what will you do? There is a big difference if you realize that you have a choice. You have the choice of being generous, you have the choice to be a victim. But the one thing that everybody who is angry has in common is they perceive themselves to be a victim and they’re looking for someone to transfer that victim status too.
How will you react to that temptation? Will you choose to be generous, or will you choose to be a victim? Here’s what Jesus said. Mathew chapter five is about the new holiness that Jesus wants to teach to people. Here’s the old holiness. You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That’s the Old Testament Law. The point of this Old Testament Law is to limit revenge, so it is an improvement. Revenge used to be if you step on my toe, I will kill everyone in your family. In fact, there’s still some people who think that’s the right response when someone hurts them. So here’s the thing about this eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Does it work?
Let’s imagine you’re on a long trip, and you have these three kids in the back seat of your car, and one hits the other. “Mommy, he hit me.” “Well, hit him back, but him just as hard as he hit you.” “Mommy, he hit me again.” By the way, does this ever work? You take those three kids in the back of the car. Do they ever get to a point where, “Mommy we can stop now because we’re all even [laughter].” Now, this is an improvement, but with human beings being the way they are, this doesn’t work because the last person to be hit feels like a victim. And see, here’s the reality of feeling like a victim. You want revenge and when you feel like a victim, that’s just going to stir you up to worse and worse and worse. And so in response to this problem, here’s what Jesus says. “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
By the way did you know that the day after Valentine’s Day is National Happy Slap Day?[laughter]. I don’t want to explain what Happy Slap Day is, but the thing that we need to understand is– when I first read this I thought strike was a fist. It’s not. It literally in Greek means, “slap.” It only appears twice in the entire New Testament. The Greek word is [“rhapizo”?]. Wrap, slap, “rhapizo.” Now what does this mean? Is Jesus saying that we should let other people harm us? Should we be victims? God is not interested in increasing the number of victims in the world. But we can see that Jesus is exaggerating a little bit to make a point because He goes on to say this, “If anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.” Verse 42. “Give to him who begs from you. Do not refuse him who would borrow from you.” What does this mean?
Well, I would like to tell you that I’m 63 years old, and I can’t tell you why, but I still have every coat that I’ve grown out of over all those years [laughter]. About 20 years ago, I actually gave the winter coat that I had while I was in high school to one of my children. But I still had it because you never know, I might be that small again. So if I’m out and say, “Give me your coat or I’ll have my lawyer come after you,” to be honest, I could say, “Well, go ahead and have this coat. I got a Visa card. I’ll have a new one tomorrow. Oh and by the way, I’ve got some other old coats. Do you want them, too? I have a reason to go shopping. I have plenty of coats. Why do I care?
And if anyone forces you to go one mile, do you know what that is? Roman soldiers had the right that any Jewish person they grabbed carry their pack for a mile, and of course the Jewish people really resented this. Here’s what Jesus says. “If one of them ask you to carry it for a mile, go ahead and carry it for two miles. What do you care? You’ve got time.”
“Give to him who begs from you.” Well, maybe they need it. If somebody needs a blanket, we got a whole bunch of them. Maybe to give and be generous is not as much of a problem as we think. We don’t like the attitude, but to be generous may not be that much of a problem for us. There’s a big difference between being generous and being a victim if you had a choice, which one would you choose? I want to tell you that if you allow another person to make you a victim, you’ll feel bad all day. But if you can turn it around and be generous, you will probably feel good and maybe even just a little bit superior. But there’s also a third choice. Because Jesus wants them to repent, to rethink, to look at things with a new perspective. There’s a third choice, which is that you can be like Jesus. Here’s where Jesus is going with this. This is the next scripture, the next command. And we’re not going to actually get to this until after Easter. But where Jesus is going is this is a part of him saying, “You’ve heard that it was said and you shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy but I say to you,” Jesus says, “I want you to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Those who might demand your coat. Force you to go farther than you feel like, who ask you to meet their needs. Jesus says, “I want you to love those people. I want you to pray for them.” So to understand this verse of turning the other cheek, we have to understand that the reason Jesus asks us to do this is it’s a part of learning how to love someone who for one reason or another, at that moment in time, is not very lovable. If you’ve been a parent, you understand this. Those wonderful children, sometimes not very lovable. Of course, this does not apply to grandchildren, right Kim? Because if they’re not lovable, it’s just like, “Hey, take your kid back. You’re the parent, it’s your turn.” We learn how to deal with people. That’s one of the things our families teach us. We learn how to deal with people that are not very lovable by getting along with people in our families because sooner or later, everybody’s going to have a bad day. I sure hope today’s not your turn. But this is where Jesus is headed. You don’t turn the other cheek so that that person can hurt you. You turn the other cheek because Jesus wants you to figure out what it means to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.
And here’s why, Luke 23. And when they came to the place which is called The Skull, or Golgotha, there they crucified him and the criminals, one on the right, one on the left. And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.” I want to tell you, that other person, they don’t know what they’re doing. They never do. They never do. And then look at the very next thing that happens after they nail him to the cross. They take his clothes and divide them among them. And they take his robe, and they gamble for it. Wow, that sounds familiar. If anyone would sue you and take your coat, let them have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Remember, they forced Jesus to carry his own cross verse 39, “But I say to you, do not resist one who is evil. If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” At the courtyard of the high priest, they blindfolded Jesus, and they slapped Him, and they said, “Prophesy to us, who hit You?” This is the only other time that word for slap appeared in the New Testament. Do you think that Jesus knew that He be treated like this? Do you think that He knew? Give Him [inaudible] from you. You have refused Him. He was barred from you. If you have 5 loaves and 2 fish, you know it just might be enough for everybody to have some. We always have the choice to be like Jesus. Even though we understand that to be like Jesus, it doesn’t mean that Jesus always got His way. We always have that choice. Many, many, many, many years ago when I was a very young man, I preached a sermon. My oldest son was six years old. It was at the Grace United Methodist Church in Quincy, Illinois. And I talked about how sometimes to be faithful means we have to be willing to suffer like Jesus suffered. And I talked about how the Emperor Nero took Christians, covered them up with tar, put them on a pole hanging at the valves, and he lit them on fire to light his [picnics?]. One of the most horrifying examples of persecution I know. My six-year-old son turns to his mother and said, “Mom, I’m sure glad we’re not Christians [laughter],” and you know that was a shocking statement. We asked him, “What do you mean by that?” later, and he said, “Well, we’re Methodists. Thank God, we’re not Christians [laughter].” But friends anything that happened to Jesus can happen to you, any kind of bad day that Jesus had. You know there may come a time to where you’re going to have the same kind of bad day. What’s your choice going to be on that bad day? You always have the choice to be like Jesus or you can choose to be like the kids in the backseat who can’t stop smacking each other. One of my father’s favorite stories– he really liked Dale Carnegie [inaudible]. Some of you may not have ever heard the name, Dale Carnegie. But back in the ’50’s, Dale Carnegie came into a hotel with someone else, and the desk clerk was incredibly short and rude with him. And after they walked away from registering for the room– Dale Carnegie, by the way, had been very nice to the desk clerk. As they walked away, the other man said, “Mr. Carnegie, I can’t believe that you did not put that desk clerk in his place. I can’t believe that you let him get away with treating you like that. How dare he do that?” And this is what my father like to quote, he said that Dale Carnegie looked at the other man and said, “When he treated me that way, I just assumed that he had had a bad day.” All of a sudden, they all currently was able to not take that personally. You always have the opportunity to be like Jesus and look down from whatever cross people put you on and say, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they do.” They are stupid. They are arrogant. They are wrong. They are everything you wouldn’t want to say about them that’s negative, but you know something, they don’t know what they do. They never do. But if you can make the choice to be like Jesus, sometimes you can change everything. The interaction where they’ve all currently that day changed the sort of day that that part of what has happened because someone did not respond to Him at that time. Or I can introduce you to my niece, Jenna. I’m guessing in this picture, she’s about four years old. That’s my two nephews and my niece, Jenna. At this moment in time, Jenna is studying to be a nurse practitioner. She is pretty much of a genius. She’s grown up now, but she’s every bit as pretty as she was when she was four. What I want to tell you, we would go on vacation with my brother’s family, and we spend the week together. And all the boys, five boys, they would go off and do something disgusting and dirty and uninteresting to me. And I would sit down and I would play cards with Jenna, and I have to tell you a secret, I let her win [laughter]. It wasn’t very hard to let her win when she was seven because all I had to do was smile and not play the right card in rummy and she snapped it up and laughed, and I had so much fun letting her win. She really enjoyed it too every time. Every year we come together for vacation, she’d say, “Uncle Dave, can we play cards?” Well, unfortunately, after about five years of this, she was such a smart kid, I didn’t have to let her win [laughter]. Couldn’t really stop her and when she won, didn’t find it’s much interesting to beat Uncle Dave in cards, but it was so much fun to let her win. And you know something, when you’re dealing with someone who’s difficult, when you’re dealing with someone who’s childish especially if they’re really a child, it’s astonishing how wonderful it feels to be generous and let them win. Because here’s the truth, you don’t need to win every game. You don’t need to win every argument. You don’t need to win every time. And as soon as you get that, I guarantee you’ll have a much better day if you don’t have to win with every interaction you have with another [inaudible].
Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we get so upset. We get so worried. We get so afraid. We get so anxious. We get ourselves to the place where we’re having a bad day, and we want to fight because we allowed the world to make us a victim. And when you’re a victim, all you can do is fight back. But, Lord, we have the option always of choosing to be like You. When someone else is having a bad day, we have the option of choosing to be generous, choosing to be kind, choosing to become the kind of person that would be able to love their enemy and pray for the people. Lord, help us to do what we need to do to honestly defend ourselves if we’re really going to be harmed and help us also understand Lord that that other person’s opinion doesn’t really harm us, can’t really hurt us unless we let it. Help us, Lord, to remember that we have the opportunity to be like You and to be kind and generous, Amen.
Here’s why I have chosen this morning with the help of others, they’re all about Jesus on the cross, what it means for Jesus to be on the cross, how Jesus helped us through it all. This was about the fact that Jesus is there to talk to us. We don’t have to turn against other people. We can turn towards Him. Let’s stand and sing. [music]`