Jesus’ Simplest and Hardest Teaching…

love enemiesOn Sunday we are looking at one of the simplest and most radical of all the teaching of Jesus. It’s this: Love your enemies.

Bertrand Russell, a Christian man who later became an atheist and deep thinker, once famous said:

“The Christian principle ‘love your enemy is good … there is nothing to be said against it except that it is too difficult for most of us to practice sincerely”.

What I think is interesting is that he doesn’t debate the beauty or rightness of Jesus’ statement. He debates its practicality or the average person’s ability to practice it. And I agree with him wholeheartedly, that this teaching of Jesus is difficult to practice. And it is difficult because it is counter cultural, it requires discipline, and most of  all, it requires inspiration as well.

So on Sunday I want to really explore and dream about how our lives might be different if we actually practiced this teaching of Jesus. As Jesus himself says, “everyone loves who love them back”. What might happen though if we became a community of people who took seriously Jesus’ teaching to love others. How might that shape and change us?

And so we are going to be diving into the world of neuroscience, our view of God, and of course, a few thoughts from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

My argument on Sunday will be pretty simple.

  • It’s not that loving enemies is easy: it isn’t.
  • It’s not that loving enemies makes sense: it doesn’t.
  • It’s not that loving enemies will make them be nice to us: it probably won’t.
  • It’s that loving our enemies is the way of Jesus Christ.

Loving our enemies is not easy,  it’s certainly not practical, and it won’t ensure you never get hurt again. Loving your enemies sometimes mean you end up on a cross; sometimes it means being left alone and abandoned, and sometimes it means that the entire world gets changed…

So that’s where we’re going, but why wait to hear it on Sunday. Why not practice it today? Why not try to love those around you today? It won’t be easy or simple, but it will be the way of Jesus. And that should be enough…

Following Jesus is Hard ~ Goodbye Violence, Revenge, and Retaliation

old-bible-1178354-mOn Sunday we explored the teaching of Jesus where he says to turn the other cheek. Jesus is incredibly clear, even if we wish he wasn’t, we are not called to resist an evil doer. Before we look at how, we wanted to explore why. Why are we called to live this way? Why are we called to practice non-resistance, non-retaliation, and love?

The easy answer isn’t actually the right answer. The easy answer is that violence, and an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind as Ghandi said. And that’s true but that isn’t actually why we are called to practice non-violence, non-retaliation, and turning the other cheek. We are called to live this way, not because an “eye for an eye” doesn’t work. We are called to live this way because this is who God is.

Jesus, as the perfect representation and revelation of God, practices what he preaches. On the cross he doesn’t resist the evil people, he turns the other cheek, and he practices what he preaches. This is who God is – one who turns the other cheek. So if this is who God is, this is who we are called to be. If this is the way of Jesus it needs to be the way of his followers.

So we don’t practice “turning the other cheek” because it is pragmatic or effective. We practice it because it is the way of Jesus Christ. Hauerwas says, “Jesus does not promise that if we turn the other check we will avoid being hit again. Non-retaliation is not a strategy to get what we want by other means. Rather, Jesus calls us to the practice of non-retaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took on his cross…In a like manner, Christians are to give more than we are asked to give, we are to give to those who beg, because this the character of God”.

This is our calling, and so on Sunday we heard Jesus’ challenge: to turn the other cheek this week. How this will work its way out in our lives will be different in each situation. Jesus himself recognizes this with the different responses he gives in the passage. The point is that Kingdom people – turn the other cheek – because their king did, does, and will continue to.

“We are concerned not with evil in the abstract, but with the evil person. Jesus bluntly calls the evil person evil. If I am assaulted, I am not to condone or justify aggression. Patient endurance does not mean a recognition of its right…the shameful assault, the deed of violence and the act of exploitation are still evil. The disciple must realize this, and witness to it as Jesus did. Because this is the only way evil can be met and overcome. The very fact that the evil that assaults him is unjustifiable makes it imperative that he should n to resist it, but play it out and overcome it by patiently enduring the evil person. Suffering willingly endured is stronger than evil, it spells death to evil.” Dietrich Bonhoffer

Sermon Notes:

Big Idea: Do not resist and evil person

Take Aways…

  • What if we actually did what Jesus said?
  • God’s blessing allows us to live differently
  • “The only proper response to this word which Jesus brings with him from eternity is simply to do it” Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Our calling is to not resist and evil doer
  • Jesus teaching shows us that that in God’s kingdom we will have enemies, encounter evil people, and we are not to resist
  • Jesus here is not teaching an ethic based on pragmatism, but on who he is
  • We are called to this life of non-resistance because we are called to follow Jesus
  • Jesus doesn’t let someone else’s violence dictate or determine his response.
  • Not-resisting evil doesn’t mean accepting evil either
  • “Jesus does not promise that if we turn the other check we will avoid being hit again. Non-retaliation is not a strategy to get what we want by other means. Rather, Jesus calls us to the practice of Non-retaliation because that is the form that God’s care of us took in his cross…In a like manner Christians are to give more than we are asked to give, we are to give to those who beg, because that this the character of God” Hauerwas
  • We are called to live this way of non-aggression, of peace, reconciliation, and grace – because that is who God is
  • Yes we are stand against evil but we are to do it in Jesus’ way
  • Can you commit today to trying this week – To practice turning the other cheek
  • “Cheek-turning is not advocated as what works (it usually does not) but advocated because that is the way God is – God is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. This is not a stratagem for getting what we want but the only manner of life available now, that in Jesus we have seen what God wants”. Hauerwas.

Adult / Group Discussion Questions: What stuck out to you from the sermon? What was challenging to you? How did God speak to you through it? What was new?What did you find hardest about this teaching? What did you find compelling? When has someone ‘turned the other cheek’ and really changed you? Who might you be called to turn the other cheek towards this week?

Discussion Questions for Young Families: Talk to your kids about today’s teaching. Teach them about how we are called not to retaliate, but turn the other cheek. Make it practical and real and share with them how Jesus did that for us so on the playground, at school, or even at home if someone hits us, or hurts us we don’t hit or hurt back.

Challenge for this Week: Commit to turning the other cheek

Turning the Other Cheek

323963_9429On Sunday we are looking at one of the most radical and deeply practical teaching of Jesus Christ. We are going to be looking at turning the other cheek.

Jesus says do not resist an evil doer, instead, if you are hit to turn the other cheek.

This is a radical and explosive teaching.

But here is the thing, this isn’t something we are just called to think about, or to meditate on. We are called to actually practice it.

Stanley Hauerwas and Will Willimon write this:

What impresses about the Sermon is its attention to the nitty-gritty details of everyday life. Jesus appears to be giving very practical, very explicit directions for what to do when someone has done you wrong, when someone attacks you, when you are married, etc.

And this is true – Jesus is interested in the nitty-gritty practical details of everyday life. That when we come up against an enemy, someone who hurts and harms us, we are called to turn the other cheek. But what does that actually mean? And does that actually even work – or isn’t that a naïve view of the world? That’s what we are going to really dive deeply into Sunday. The question I have for all of us is pretty simple: has anyone you know ever “turned the cheek” in a difficult situation? What happened? How did it change them? Did it change the other person?

And if you get stuck not coming up with anyone…you could always try looking at Jesus.