sponge-viscoseEpiphany 7, 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 19, 2017
Psalm 119:33-40, Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18, 1 Corinthians 3:10-23, Matthew 5:38-48

 Sermons online:
Text:                pastorjud.org
Audio:             pastorjud.podbean.com
itunes:             bit.ly/pastorjud

Did you hear the news last Thursday about the strange weather phenomena in Washington D.C.?  Every time a Republican stepped outside he would be drenched by a pouring rainstorm, but the Democrats could walk outside and remain dry; it only rained on the Republicans.  Or on Friday when, at noon, it was all gloom and darkness for the Democrats, but the Republicans all experience bright sunshine?  Did you hear about these happenings?  Of course not.  That would be ridiculous.  That is not how things happen.  When it rains it rains on everyone.  The rain does not distinguish between political parties or people’s backgrounds; it rains on everyone.  The sun shines on everyone; the evil and the good; the just and the unjust.  The sun rises on all people.  The rain falls on all people.  Jesus tells us in our Gospel reading today that your love for others should be like the sun and the rain.  You should love all people.  This is a hard teaching.

Jesus says, Matthew 5:38 (ESV) 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[1]

If I am in a heated disagreement with someone and they raise their voice at me, what is my natural reaction?  I want to raise my voice even louder; make sure they know I am not backing down.

What if, after I raise my voice at the other person, they shove me to show they’re not backing down?  What is my natural reaction?  I want to shove them back; harder.

We naturally want to escalate anger and violence to show that we are right; to show that we are not going to back down; we are not going to give in.  We want to let folks know, you can’t push me around.  Our natural way to retaliate is to strike back quickly with increased intensity.  And this brings a constant escalation of trouble.

An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth from Exodus 21 was meant to put a cap on that escalation.  If someone hurts you, you cannot intensify the trouble.  The attacker should be punished in the same way they hurt you; no escalation.  This is meant to keep a lid on violence.

One kind of television commercial is the type that has a head to head competition that shows one product to be better than another.  Some of the clearest are those for paper towels that show how one brand can really absorb a lot more liquid.  After defeating the competition, the paper towel is then shown working all over the house absorbing mess after mess after mess.

Think of all the sin and evil in your life and all the messes that sin creates.  Jesus is the one who comes to clean up all the mess.  In the waters of Holy Baptism Jesus washes you clean from all your sin.  Jesus absorbs all the sin from your life into Himself and carries that sin to the cross.  Jesus gets your sin and gives to you the gift of perfection, forgiveness and eternal life.  Jesus forgives you all your sins and He calls you to follow Him.

To His followers Jesus gives a new command, Matthew 5:38-39 (ESV) 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.[2]

This is a radical teaching.  If someone slaps me in the face I want to punch them back; that is my natural reaction.  Jesus calls me out of my nature.  Jesus says I should turn the other cheek to them.  I should not retaliate.  I should not resist evil.

To be clear, a slap on the right cheek is most likely done with the back of someone’s right hand.  This is an attack, but it is not a danger to your life or a threat to do you great bodily harm, it is a painful insult.  In the face of a painful insult, you, as a follower of Jesus, are to give in to evil and turn the other cheek.  This does not come naturally.

By nature we want to be mirrors for anger and violence, we want to reflect and amplify the hurt when someone hurts us.  Jesus calls on you to not be a mirror, but rather to be a sponge.  Absorb the evil that people do to you, don’t return it; just let it die with you.  Be a sponge for evil.  Be a sponge, so that wherever you are, by the time you leave there is less evil; less anger, less hatred.  Go through life absorbing evil.  Be a sponge, not a mirror.

This is a radical teaching.  If someone slaps me in the face I want to punch them back; that is my natural reaction.  Jesus calls me out of my nature.  Jesus says I should turn the other cheek to them.  I should not retaliate.  I should not resist evil.

This is a difficult teaching.  This is not the normal way to live.  But this is how Jesus teaches you to live.  Matthew 5:43-44 (ESV)  43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…”[3]

The sun and rain come to all people.  God’s love and forgiveness is for all people.  Your love and forgiveness should be for all people. “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.”

Jesus comes to earth to bring forgiveness and life to all.  Jesus life, death and resurrection paid the price for the sins of the world.  This gift is offered to everyone.  While many reject the gift it does not mean the gift is not offered.  God loves all people and you are called to love all people.  Even your enemies.  Even those who do harm to you.  This is a call to radical love.

If someone oppresses you, you are to return to them good rather than evil.  Be generous with those who beg and want to borrow.  Give in to those who want to oppress you.  Being a follower of Jesus means that, at times, you let people take advantage of you.

Jesus sets a high standard; an impossible standard.  You are called to a level of love that is beyond your ability to fully accomplish.  Love anyway.  When you fail, confess your failure and try again.  Knowing that you are a sinner saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, live out that love in your dealings with others.

You are wrapped in the love of Jesus.  You wear the robe of Christ’s righteousness.  You are in Christ.  You are righteous in Christ, but as a follower of Jesus there is no place for righteous indignation.  There is no place for hating others because they disagree with you.

Sometimes I fear social media can be a catalyst for negativity.  It is easy to get upset with things you see posted.  When you get all fired up about something someone has written on Facebook try this.  Before you write some kind of a response, take a moment and pray for the person who wrote the post.  Pray for those with whom you disagree.  Pray for those who hold a different point of view.

Pray for those who attack Christianity.  Pray for those who are opposed to God’s will in their lives and in the world.  Love those who hate you.  Pray for them.  It is an amazing thing that by praying for someone it takes away the hate.  There is still going to be disagreement, but the disagreement does not take away your love for the person.

Live your life letting the love of Christ spread from you to those around you.  Like the sun rises on all people and the rain falls on all people, let your love be for all people.  Don’t be a mirror; be a sponge absorbing the messes of life.  Love like God, because you are a child of God.

Amen.

[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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