Which Do You Prefer? Old Practices or New Practices?

(Matthew 5:38-48)

By Rev. Dr. Sergio E. Arevalo, Jr.

Eagle Rock Lutheran Church

Los Angeles, CA

February 23, 2014

 

Introduction

Let me share with you “The Parable of the Bread in the Barrio.”

In the barrio (village), there is only one small bakery owned by a Christian baker, and every moment there are a lot of people buying from his bakery.bakery1

The baker is very careful in the preparation of his loaves of bread, and he protects them very carefully. He even preserves his loaves of bread, especially pandesal, in glass jars or glass bottles (garapon). He places them in the store cabinet so that people might see his products.

One time an old enemy of the Christian baker passed by, and tried to flare him up in front of people. He told the baker that his pandesal are rotten and full of fungi and molds, and he encouraged the neighbors not to buy from his store. Of course he would answer back saying “Of course not! These are freshly baked and are made with careful preparation.”

His enemy did not stop and continued to bully him. The baker being a Christian remembered a saying, “If someone throws a stone at you, throw a loaf of bread to him.”

When the baker lose his patience, he threw loaves of bread at him. The bully was hospitalized. After the police investigation, they found out that the bully got several wounds from broken glasses. The police discovered that the broken glasses came from the bottles (garapon) of the baker’s pandesal. Indeed the baker threw his bread but they were inside the glass bottle.

That’s an example of “modern interpretation” of an old law.

Another Christian is saying, “If someone throws a stone at me then I’ll throw a flower at him. If that person repeats to throw a stone at me then this time I’ll throw a Flower Pot at him!”

Jesus discusses in our passage the Old Practices in contrast with new practices as taught by the Christ.

1. Old Laws vs Christ’s Laws (Matt.5:38-39).

During the Old days, when one would hurt other’s tooth, eye, hand, foot, etc. he could have corresponding punishment (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth; Exo.21:24; Lev.24:20; Deut.19:21).eyeisout1

But Jesus Christ’s teaching are different. Instead of revenge, he taught us meekness and love. “Whoever slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other to him as well” (v.39).

2. Hate vs Generosity (Matt.5:40-42).

Instead of hating our enemies, Jesus taught us this, “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat as well” (v.40). In our modern times, it means instead of hating them we must show generosity to them.

The practice in the Company A is like this: when a worker commits fault, the manager gets mad and the worker might be asked to resign or he might be terminated. However, Company B will do something to train and develop the worker instead of terminating him. Which company is showing hate? Which company is showing generosity?

3. Conditional Love vs Unconditional Love (Matt.5:43-46).

Jesus says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Even the tax collectors do the same, don’t they?” (v.46).

Jesus encourages us to love even the unlovable. Verses 44 through 47 show how to love those who hate us, those who curse us, those who despitefully use us, or those who persecute us:

(1) Bless them (v.44).

Eulogeo (bless) means “speak well of” or “praise.” Could we say good things or stories about our enemies and those who hate us? I know it is difficult even for Christians like us. I know we are all victims of our own emotion. Instead of praising people we curse them.

I remember the “Parable of the Holy Man in the Barrio.”dog1

He does not say any bad things or any negative things against anybody or against any thing. The barrio people know him as the holy man.

One time there was a dog that bitten a lot of people including children in the barrio. The barrio people were mad, and so they captured the dog and put in a cage. It was so happened that the holy man passed by the cage, and he saw a lot of people around the cage. Since the people know him as the holy man who doesn’t say any bad things to others, they tested him.

“Look! Holy man, what can you say about this dog that bitten a lot of people in the barrio?”

The holy man paused. The people were anxiously waiting for his answer. They thought they got him. Then the holy man whispered. The barrio people did not hear him, so they asked him, “What did you say, sir?”

The holy man said, “I say the dog is . . . cute, and he has very white teeth.”

(2) Do good to them (v.44).

loveyourenemies1Kalos (Gr.) means “good,” “well,” and “treat honestly.” In our introductory illustration, the Christian baker mirrors ourselves. When we have enemies or somebody is trying to hurt us physically or emotionally, our tendency is to fight back, and hurt them. That’s why the words of Jesus, “love your enemies” is revolutionary and torture to us!

However, if we want to be like Jesus we need to follow his will, “love your enemies.” “Loving our enemies” is not simply doing good, but it means treat our enemies honestly. If they are not honest to us let us be honest to them. It shows that we are different from them since we are followers of the Christ.

(3) Pray for them (v.44).

While very sick, John Knox, the founder of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, called to his wife and said, “Read me that Scripture where I first cast my anchor.” After he listened to the beautiful prayer of Jesus recorded in John 17, he seemed to forget his weakness.john-knox

He began to pray, interceding earnestly for his fellowmen. He prayed for the ungodly who had thus far rejected the gospel. He pleaded in behalf of people who had been recently converted. And he requested protection for the Lord’s servants, many of whom were facing persecution.

As Pastor Knox was praying, his body expired. People around him said, he ministered through prayer until the moment of his death (sermonillustrations.com).

(4) Welcome/greet them (v.47).

When we are mad at somebody, our tendency is ignoring him even though we are inside the church or we ignore him by not joining the church activities and worships. Sometimes we are not ignoring him, and we are smiling at him, but deep inside our hearts, our blood is boiling! If we are like that, Jesus says we are like the tax collectors who are corrupt in spirit.

If we want our church to grow in numbers and faith, we need to exercise radical hospitality. We need to welcome even those who are not welcoming us in their homes.

United Methodist Bishop Robert C. Schnase Photo by Mike DuBose, UMComMethodist Bishop Robert Schnase says that “Congregations that practice Radical Hospitality demonstrate an active desire to invite, welcome, receive, and care for those who are strangers so that they find a spiritual home and discover for themselves the unending richness of life in Christ. Radical describes that which is drastically different from ordinary practices, outside the normal, that which exceeds expectations and goes the second mile” (fivepractices.org).

In a practical way, during our monthly birthday celebrations, let’s invite our friends with specialized invitation cards, and let us entertain them as if we are having a birthday party in our church. Let’s have food and cake! Then instead of expecting gifts, the church will give small tokens of appreciation to our visitors that will remind the day of their presence and worship in our church. How about that?

 Conclusion

Jesus says that “he makes his sun rise on both evil and good people, and he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous” (v.45). Thus, Jesus tells us that the grace of God is offered for believers as well as for nonbelievers.

Pastors Charles Spurgeon and Joseph Parker both had churches in London in the 19th century. On one occasion, Parker commented on the poor condition of children admitted to Spurgeon’s orphanage. It was reported to Spurgeon however, that Parker had criticized the orphanage itself. Spurgeon blasted Parker the next week from the pulpit.Joseph_Parker

The attack was printed in the newspapers and became the talk of the town. People flocked to Parker’s church the next Sunday to hear his rebuttal. “I understand Dr. Spurgeon is not in his pulpit today, and this is the Sunday they use to take an offering for the orphanage. I suggest we take a love offering here instead.”

The crowd was delighted. The ushers had to empty the collection plates 3 times. Later that week there was a knock at Parker’s study room. It was Spurgeon.

“You know Parker, you have practiced grace on me. You have given me not what I deserved, you have given me what I needed” (Moody Monthly, December, 1983, p. 81).

If we have opportunity to share grace to others we should share it wholeheartedly. By doing that we follow what Jesus is telling us “So be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (v.48).

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