Friday, February 24, 2017
There is a difference between the condition of Satan, and the condition of man. Lucifer (at the time), existed in a state of perfection and made a choice despite his long years, advanced knowledge, and perfect surroundings to break trust with God, to try things his way. He ignored the warnings of God choosing not to believe them, instead trusting in himself. This was completely done on his own. No one led him to these choices, and in fact, many tried to dissuade him from these choices. But in the end, Lucifer became Satan by using his freedom of choice to focus his love only upon himself. He degenerated to the point where he cared only about himself, and wanted to be like the Most High, craving His power to compel others and deny them any freedoms at all. It was Lucifer’s choice to become what he is.
Mankind on the other hand was new to the universe and existence. We were a young species having just been created out of the nothingness of our rock tumbling through the dark void of space. We knew nothing but truth, for God only ever speaks truth. We had every reason to believe that each sentient being in the universe would also speak truth. But Satan, in the form of a snake, lied to us, in saying that God lied. We were deceived. And then Adam made the choice to put himself with Eve, because his love for her was greater than his trust in the salvation of our God. He chose death because of love, not for himself, but for his wife.
The love of God for every one of His creations is constant and limitless. Salvation was offered to mankind, not because we deserved it. But because the circumstances of our fall were different than that of Lucifer. Eve was seduced by her own vanity, and the deceiving tongue of a talking serpent, something she had never witnessed before. Adam fell because he chose to, out of his great love for his wife, instead of a greater trust that our God could fix it. We were offered a second chance. Lucifer does not see this as fair. Satan at this point, sees it as unfair, unjust, and a complete hypocrisy to holiness. To rehabilitate mankind from his fallen state, back to a state of perfection, because of the circumstances of his fall just seems unfair and unjust. So the rallying cry of Satan has ever been, to give man what is coming to him, what he has earned by his life and his deeds. Satan cries out for justice.
And Satan seems to have transplanted that cry for justice deep within us. Even small toddlers on the playground complain when things are “unfair”. We attribute that “unfairness” to evil, and we are right. Things are unfair, because one person chooses to love or please himself, at the expense of another, and thus evil is reflected in the world and in the heart. But the cure for “unfairness” is something none of us could have expected. It begins with forgiveness. A trait hard enough to master. But then it goes beyond that. It demands that the party who was treated unfairly, offer even more, to the aggressive party. This is not only more unfair, it seems to make no sense. Wouldn’t that make the situation even worse for everyone? Well, therein lies the question.
Jewish society in the time of Christ, just like American society in our day, is built upon a sense of fairness. The ancient texts of Moses were so often quoted … “an eye for an eye”. Justice had been defined. How often has this text been quoted in our day to justify our thirst for vengeance. You do something to me, you can bet I intend to the same (or worse) to you. This is our idea of fair play. This is our idea of justice. But this does not end the evil that causes unfair acts, it only promotes it. Because how any of us see what is just, is a matter of subjectivity corrupted by years of bad choices, and a history of loving self. There is a different way to fix things, a way Jesus Himself lays out.
When Matthew (a former tax collector who had personal experience with the concept of justice or not) heard the words of Christ, he could hardly believe them. In his gospel, Matthew was attempting to show to his Jewish audience how Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament prophecy. But in recording what came next, he knew his audience would have a hard time with it. Many would either reject the words of Christ while choosing to listen to other things, or, they would reject Jesus entirely because of these ideas and words. Nevertheless, Matthew must record what was said in accurate detail.
He picks up in his gospel in chapter five, starting in verse 38 saying … “Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: [verse 39] But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Let’s get a few things straight. Jesus is not excusing the perpetrator of their crime. He is not in effect saying, we can all go around and start hitting each other when we feel like it. Instead Jesus is redefining the end of evil, by the beginning of mercy, forgiveness, and grace from the wounded party, to the guilty one. And what is more, Jesus is not connecting this first scenario to property that can be replaced. He is making it up close and personal to your very body and conditions of health.
There will be no eye taken for the eye damaged. There will be no tooth taken for the tooth we lost. If this is how you measure justice, then mercy has just killed justice. But love is not content to leave it there. Love goes farther. Love for the one who hit you, allows you to extend your other cheek. The exact words of Jesus were … that ye resist not evil. Those are hard words to take. Those words don’t just imply, they empirically state, you are going to have bad things happen to you because of evil. And when they do, you are to do nothing in return, not even block the punch.
To remain docile when you are attacked creates an interesting phenomenon. Anger feeds on anger in return. When it gets no fuel, it is nearly impossible to maintain. To fight, you need someone who fights back. When they don’t, it makes “you” the schmuck to just keep hitting them. Most folks lose interest in that pretty fast. Even the very evil ones. Why? Could it be, that the kingdom of Satan is built upon lies, and when truth is illuminated, his kingdom falls apart. Anger, and fighting, must find some sort of resistance to feed off of, to keep going. Or it quickly tires, gets bored, and looks for something else to fill the void that only Love could truly fill.
The end of evil does not come from force. The end of evil does not happen because of the fires of hell. Those fires cleanse the earth of those who refuse to be transformed. But the evil that has lived within you for so many years, is not extinguished because you fear hell. It is extinguished within you, because of the transforming love of Jesus who can literally re-create you from the inside out. Not just make you pretty on the outside, clearing up all your imperfections, giving you the instant diet, and making your health perfect – all that stuff is the side effect of immortality that Jesus gives you. The inside. The places deep within that crave sin, that want to do what we know we should not do. Those are the places that must be transformed to truly be perfect. And they are not afraid enough to change from fear. It takes something more. It takes more than justice. It takes the infinite Love of Jesus.
The recipe for ending evil, is that only Love defeats it. Beyond remaining docile, and humble, while you are attacked … going the extra mile for your attacker, seeing to his needs, even after he has beaten you. That is a love that changes hearts and minds, and puts evil out to pasture forever. That is what Jesus has done for you. That is what He can create in you, so that you can reflect it to others. But more than just our bodies should be sacrificed if we love enough. Everything we own should be a cheap price for the redemption of someone else. Jesus continues in verse 40 saying … “And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. [verse 41] And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. [verse 42] Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.”
Jesus does not ask if these actions against us are fair or just. They may not be. He does not ask us if these actions are convenient with us. He asks something far more. He asks that we value nothing we own, more than the relationship we could have with one we would bring into His kingdom. Greed cannot be satiated. Greed has no limits, no boundaries, no matter how much you have, greed would have you desire more. It is a bottomless pit. The antidote to greed is to value your goods merely as tools that could be used to make someone else happy. To be willing to give everything you own away, and count that as a blessing, is the antidote to greed. It ends evil within you. And it has great potential to end evil in others, as you point them to the Source of how you are able to live like you do in Jesus.
Jesus now hits the Israelite right where he takes the most pride, in his religion. And His words cut to the heart of the American Christian just as deeply. Jesus continues in verse 43 saying … “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. [verse 44] But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” The Jew was proud of his religion, and prayed usually for himself, and his family. The American Christian does the same. But the recipient of our prayers, asks us for something else, something new. He asks us to take a genuine interest in the salvation and well-being of our enemies, of the ones who “despitefully use” us, of those who “persecute” us.
When was the last time your heart broke over the pain your enemy lives in? When was the last time you were compelled to drop to your knees and lift their names up to heaven, asking God to save them, and save you? When your heart brakes for your enemy, for the one who lies about you, and tries so hard to destroy you, you have found a transformation ONLY Jesus can bring. Imagine what our country would be like if all those who hate Trump and everything he stands for, decided to make Trump the object of their sincere prayers. Imagine what our country would be like, if all those conservative Republicans, and Tea Party members who so hate Obama, or Nancy Pelosi, decided to make them the object of sincere prayer for their well-being, even if it was ahead of their own. Instead of these prayers, we offer biting criticism, and the language of insults and hate. And then we claim we are doing God’s work. Obviously, we have found a new god to take credit for us, because it is clearly not the instructions Jesus left.
Jesus continues in verse 45 saying … “That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. [verse 46] For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? [verse 47] And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? [verse 48] Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Here Jesus defines how love can reach perfection. By loving not just your family and friends, not just strangers you hardly know, but taking a real interest in the ones you hate, or that hate you. Our God loved us, while we were still calling Him our enemy. He loves us even when we do it still. He is not a fickle God, loving us when we are “good” and hating us when we are “bad”. He loves us all the time, wishing only that His love is allowed to take us away from the pain our sin causes.
His Love is the medicine we need to stop hurting ourselves with the badness we embrace. His Love is the motive we need to actually think about wanting to change. His Love is what will defeat evil forever. Not just the evil that is washed away in the fires of hell in some distant future, but the evil that once had such a strong hold upon you, your desires, and your actions in the here and now. That evil must also be washed away. And the only force strong enough to kill it is His love. When He is done with you. Evil will be dead in you. Dead, because YOU no longer want it. That is when the death of evil occurs. It occurs because His mercy killed the justice you deserve, and His love killed the evil you once embraced.
And the sermon was far from over …