Enemy love (Matthew 5:43-48)

You can’t love your enemies unless you believe God will sort them out.

Open Matthew 5:43-48.

Picture yourself in the crowd on the mountainside listening to the Messiah talking about the restoration of God’s kingdom. For you, the word neighbour means your fellow Jews, those who belong in God’s chosen family, the people who will be part of the kingdom when David’s son reigns.

The word enemy means those who’ve attacked your nation: Canaanites, Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Arameans, Edomites, … The worst enemies were the ones that destroyed God’s nation, making you part of their empire instead: Assyrians, Babylonians, Ptolemies, Seleucids, and in 63 BC the Romans.

You’ve been raised to hate the monsters who debased God’s kingdom. They’re not just your enemies: they’re God’s enemies:

Psalm 139:21–22 (ESV)
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
22
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

That’s why you sit there like a stunned Saint Peter’s fish, incredulous of what Jesus has just asked you to do. Continue reading “Enemy love (Matthew 5:43-48)”

Retribution versus justice (Matthew 5:38-42)

If there will ever be justice in this world, how on earth will we get it? Jesus takes a radical approach.

Open Matthew 5:38-42.

Audiences love it with the hero gives the villain what he deserves. The villain has walked all over people in his quest for power. The hero fights for those who’ve been hurt, and brings the villain to justice. It’s the stuff of movies, novels, and comic books. It’s not the stuff of history.

Sometimes an Adolf Hitler is brought down. Other times a Joseph Stalin slaughters tens of millions and no one stops him. History often feels like the law of the jungle, where the most powerful beasts win.

That was Israel’s problem in the Bible’s story. God had established them as a nation under his reign, but the beasts invaded and crushed them. Jesus proclaimed the restoration of God’s reign, but how could the rulers be defeated? How would God give his people justice and restore his government? Continue reading “Retribution versus justice (Matthew 5:38-42)”

As true as our king (Matthew 5:33-37)

While asking us to be truthful, Jesus revealed how he understood the kingdom.

Open Matthew 5:33-37.

You know those “aha” moments where you finally catch on to what someone was talking about? Something they took for granted finally clicks into place for you. There’s one of those embedded in what Jesus said about avoiding oaths. Here’s a chance to see how he understood the kingdom. Continue reading “As true as our king (Matthew 5:33-37)”

Jacob’s life in God’s house (Genesis 35)

Jacob is invited to live in God’s house (Bethel). How well do they do?

Bethel—literally God’s House—is where Jacob is invited to live. But if they are to live in the house of their heavenly sovereign, they must purify themselves. After the skirmish with the Shechemites, the smell of death is on them and their clothes. Among the spoils are idols and talismans. When these impediments are gone, they enter Bethel. The surrounding cities are too terrified to seek vengeance on these servants of the heavenly king (35:1-5). Continue reading “Jacob’s life in God’s house (Genesis 35)”

God stands with his flawed people (Genesis 20)

When the people on your team cause a problem for others, whose side do you take? Which matters more: loyalty or justice? There may be a hint in the way God handles us.

We’re reading Genesis as the story of the kingdom of God. As people rebelled against God’s kingship they grasped power for themselves, turning violent. The heavenly sovereign permitted earthly government to avoid anarchy, resulting in nations. To bring the nations back under his authority, God established his own nation through Abraham. But he still takes responsibility for the nations: we just saw him act against the injustice of Sodom, and now we see it again as he acts against a Philistine king. Continue reading “God stands with his flawed people (Genesis 20)”

Capital punishment? (Genesis 9:6)

Genesis 9:6 (NIV)
Whoever sheds human blood, by humans shall their blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made mankind.

In re-establishing his kingdom after the flood, the divine sovereign made some concessions designed to head off the anarchic violence that wrecked the previous world: Continue reading “Capital punishment? (Genesis 9:6)”