For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 5:43-48; Love for Enemies (Theological Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,” Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5:44-55, “and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”

Theologians point to this statement as evidence of a doctrine called “Common Grace,” or the idea that “God’s love extends even to his enemies.” However, Common Grace is more than just an assumption that God does nice things for people. It vividly demonstrates elements of his perfect Person constantly acting on behalf of the holy and hell-bent alike.

First, as theologians Michael Horton explains, “God’s common grace restrains his judgment, sending rain upon the just and unjust alike…It is a kingdom of grace rather than of power and glory. It is the reprieve for repentance and faith…before the coming Day of the Lord.” As such, the simplest rain shower or tomorrow’s sunrise is testimony of God’s divine character, of his patience, mercy, and boundary-breaching love for all of humanity.

Second, it’s no accident that Jesus describes our sun with a possessive pronoun for God. It is HIS sun, and as its creator and owner, only he has the authority to decide its use. The fact that he freely lavishes life-giving sunshine on humankind, day in and day out, age after age, is constant testimony to our Maker’s generosity toward friend and foe alike. After all, no one can compel God to give a sunrise or to send rain. “God loves absolutely,” Horton says, “and without any compulsion from the objects of his love.” He does this of his own will and accord, without discrimination, and with faithfulness that has lasted beyond uncountable lifetimes.

Third, God’s Common Grace is permanently active, always expressing care and provision for those who love him—and those who hate him. It is he who keeps oxygen abundant in our atmosphere, who takes a buried kernel and turns it into a bumper crop of food, who instructs the body to recover from illness and bathes our lives in overabundant beauty. As theologian, Millard Erickson, reminds, “God inherently not only feels in a particular positive way toward the objects of his love, but he acts for their welfare. [His] love is an active matter…God supplies us with undeserved favors.”

Again, theologians call this doctrine, “Common Grace”—but to my ear that seems a misnomer. God’s unbridled generosity is a most uncommon expression of love in our universe. We are, every single one of us, truly blessed.

 

Works Cited:

[MAC, 1383; CHF, 265, 546; CHT, 320-321]

 

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About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 5:43-48; Love for Enemies (Cross-Reference Comparisons)

posted by Mike Nappa

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy…’”

This quote from Matthew 5:43 reveals—again—how religious leaders in Jesus time had unwittingly distorted the Mosaic Law they claimed to hold supreme. The distortion was not intentional or arbitrary—scribes and Pharisees were genuinely trying to discern and fulfill God’s Law. It was just that in their determination to understand truth, they sometimes reached false conclusions—with devastating results. Case in point was God’s sacred command to love our neighbors. In this case at least, Jesus decided to publicly correct that error.

In the first part of Matthew 5:43, when he said “Love your neighbor,” Jesus pulled a direct quote from Leviticus 19:18, which reads in full, “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

Notice anything missing?

Yep, it’s the second part of the common saying Jesus quoted: “…and hate your enemy.” Religious leaders over the centuries had added that little phrase, and taught it for generations until it eventually came to be accepted as truth on par with God’s Word.

Fact is, the Law didn’t command anyone to hate an enemy, and it specifically forbade hating any “enemy” who might also be a fellow Israelite (see Leviticus 19:17). What’s more, the wisdom of Solomon instructed kindness and generosity toward adversaries: “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you” (Proverbs 25:21-22).

Still, among Jewish thinkers in ancient times, it was a natural progression of thought to assume that the command to love your neighbor included the corollary command of hating an enemy. It was a well-intentioned application of simple logic. But it was simply, heartbreakingly, wrong.

 

Works Cited:

[NNI, 1150]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Factual Info)

posted by Mike Nappa

“If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic,” Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount, “let him have your cloak also.” With all this archaic talk of tunics and cloaks, it’s easy to overlook the devastatingly difficult demand of this little statement.

Consider:

• In Jesus’ time, most people wore a thin tunic—a long-sleeved inner garment akin to a modern day undershirt. It was the basic clothing item for men and women, rich and poor alike. Men typically wore shorter tunics, while women wore longer, ankle-length versions.

• Over the tunic, people wore an outer cloak made of thicker material (comparable today to a light jacket or heavy shirt). Among the poorer classes—thousands in Jesus’ audience—owning only one tunic and one cloak was the norm.

• A person’s outer cloak was considered nearly inviolable. Theft of even the poorest beggar’s cloak could, and most likely would, bring swift legal repercussions.

• A garment used as a cloak during the day commonly did double duty at night, serving as a blanket for warmth against the cold. Among the poor, it was their only blanket.

• Because a cloak was often used as a blanket, when a person gave his outer cloak as a pledge or collateral, it was required to be returned to him by nightfall. It was unlawful for a cloak to be kept from its owner overnight.

• By law, creditors were not allowed to take a poor person’s outer cloak as a collection for debt, regardless of the amount of debt due.

In the context of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount then, the cloak and tunic represented not just some random clothing, but everything a poorer person might own—literally “the shirt off his back.”

Jesus command here wasn’t simply “be generous,” but for his followers to be willing to be stripped nude, both physically and economically, in order to demonstrate love for a greedy, callous, undeserving enemy. It demanded a complete abdication of a person’s legal and moral rights in favor of kindness toward one who only intended harm.

This was a hard teaching in Jesus’ time—and it’s no less difficult today. How does it apply in 21st Century American society, particularly in the battleground arenas of politics and social activism? Maybe it’s time for Christians to find out.

 

Works Cited:

[BBC, 60; ZB1, 41]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Cultural Commentary)

posted by Mike Nappa

Why was Jesus so adamant about mentioning “the right cheek” when he gave his command for followers to “turn the other cheek”? The answer lies in the social norms of that time in ancient Israel.

In Western society today, one person spitting on another is a contemptuous, especially offensive insult. In the time of Jesus, being slapped on the right cheek was similarly offensive. The average person was assumed to be right-handed, thus the perception was that striking a person on the right cheek required with a backhanded slap. That action was one of the more egregious insults in the ancient world. It communicated utter contempt toward someone considered inferior. In fact, it was such a serious offense that both Jewish and Roman law allowed a victim of this kind of slap to take his abuser to court and demand restitution.

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek,” Jesus said, “turn to them the other cheek also.”

In this instance, Christ wasn’t simply speaking of cultivating a nonviolent attitude. In the context of that cultural setting, he was insisting that his followers instantly forgive—and refuse to retaliate—when others acted contemptibly toward them. Perhaps because this seems to be such an impossible demand for people like us, he later demonstrated this exact ideal during the hours leading up to his awful, humiliating, contemptible crucifixion and death.

 

Works Cited:

[WOM, 42; BBC, 60]

 

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About: For Bible Study Nerds™

About: Mike Nappa

Copyright © 2014 to present by Nappaland Communications Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Previous Posts

Matthew 5:43-48; Love for Enemies (Theological Commentary)
“He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,” Jesus said, as recorded in Matthew 5:44-55, “and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Theologians point to this statement as evidence of a doctrine called “Common Grace,” or the idea that “God’s love extends even t

posted 12:00:51pm Oct. 01, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:43-48; Love for Enemies (Cross-Reference Comparisons)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy…’” This quote from Matthew 5:43 reveals—again—how religious leaders in Jesus time had unwittingly distorted the Mosaic Law they claimed to hold supreme. The distortion was not intentional or arbitrary—scribe

posted 12:00:50pm Sep. 29, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Factual Info)
“If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic,” Jesus preached in his Sermon on the Mount, “let him have your cloak also.” With all this archaic talk of tunics and cloaks, it’s easy to overlook the devastatingly difficult demand of this little statement. Consider: • In Jesus

posted 12:00:31pm Sep. 26, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Cultural Commentary)
Why was Jesus so adamant about mentioning “the right cheek” when he gave his command for followers to “turn the other cheek”? The answer lies in the social norms of that time in ancient Israel. In Western society today, one person spitting on another is a contemptuous, especially offensiv

posted 12:00:30pm Sep. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Matthew 5:38-42; An Eye for an Eye (Historical Backgrounds)
The legal for basis for lex talionis (“law of retaliation”) that Jesus referred to in Matthew 5:38 was well established in Jewish history and in the Law of Moses. The “eye for an eye” concept first appeared in Genesis 9:6, just after the Great Flood when God told Noah, “Whoever sheds hu

posted 12:00:29pm Sep. 22, 2014 | read full post »


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