Thursday, February 16, 2017

Matthew 5:38-48 Love Surrenders Its Rights

KEY TEXT: Matthew 5:38-39, 43-45 "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.'  But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil... You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust"

KEY THOT: True love is not about asserting our rights. Instead, it is about giving up our rights in order to fulfill our responsibilities. Love is not about asserting our right to justice or love. Instead, it is about giving to others their rights: returning good for evil, and love for hate. It's only when we adopt this attitude of surrendering our rights rather than asserting our rights that we are behaving like true sons and daughters of God our Father. For our Father makes his sun to rise on evil and good people and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Love is not selective as to whom it will bless because love is not a reward for good behaviour but a response of a loving character.   

Here again, Jesus re-interprets the OT law of justice (lex talionis, law of retaliation) and the law of love (love your neighbour) in the spirit in which God intended it to be applied, viz., focusing on fulfilling our responsibility to give justice and love to others rather than asserting our right to get justice and love for ourselves. The natural and human way is asserting our rights, but the divine way is surrendering our rights. Jesus not only teaches this principle of surrender but his entire life is a demonstration of this principle: "though [Jesus] was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,  being born in the likeness of men" (Phil. 2:6-7).

Jesus surrendered his divine rights as God to take on the responsibilities of a lowly human slave (Greek: doulos=slave), a person and position without rights but only responsibilities. If we are to be like Christ, we ought to adopt the same attitude of surrendering our rights to fulfill our responsibilities. It's only in surrendering our earthly rights that we will receive the heavenly love and justice from God our Father: "Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Phil. 2:9-11).

Father, deliver us from the need to assert our rights so that we may receive from You true love and justice to fulfill our responsibilities to show love and justice to others as true sons and daughters of Father-God. Amen.

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