Lesson 5 – Growing from Anger to Love


Scripture text for lesson:  Matthew 5:38-48.

Introduction

Jesus will turn to another aspect of a Christian’s life in Matthew, chapter six; therefore, the foregoing chart is for our summary work of chapter five before we get into this last lesson of Part III.  The aim of this lesson is to understand the dynamics of developing the attributes of a son of God that demands Christians love our enemies.

John, the Baptist, was the forerunner of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  His mission to Israel was “to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous – to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”  Luke 1:17.  Israel had not been the “fruit producing” nation God had in mind when He made the separation between Abraham’s seed and the Gentiles (Gen. 12:1-3; Isa.5:1-7).  The reason The Christ came into the world was to eliminate the separation between the Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:11-22).  God wanted the fruit He planned before time from all the people born in the world (Rom. 8:28-30; Eph. 1:3-14; Heb. 2:10-12).  Fruit is all God ever wanted from mankind.  Jesus came to prepare the field for producing fruit for God (I Cor. 3:5-11).  The fruit is children in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:21, 22; 21:7).

Jesus’ mission is to bring children to God.  He preached the kingdom to bring them to repentance.  John, the Baptist, said, “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”  Luke 3:8.  Jesus sacrificed His physical body on the cross to give mankind the opportunity for a second start in life.  An old man can be born again (John 3:3-6).  Jesus told the Jewish leaders God would take His kingdom away from them and give it to a people who would produce fruit (Matt. 21:43).  He gave this commission to the churches of Christ (Matt. 28:18-20; Rom. 16:16).

God has called people from Satan’s kingdom into His kingdom (Acts 26:18).  This is how we should understand the word church.  The church is the people who have been given an opportunity to be fruit producers for God (Matt. 28:18-20).  Members of the church and young children are citizens of God’s kingdom.  Jesus has been given the rule over God’s kingdom.  We, as members, have the responsibility of joining Jesus in His mission to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).  Christians are the fruit Jesus will bring to God providing we are fruit producers while we still live on earth (Matt. 7:21-23).

Jesus did not come into this world to establish a better worship service than that which God had set up in Jerusalem for the Jews.  Very little has been said about a worship service in the New Testament.  Jesus will instruct us about the proper attitude in our worship to God in Matthew chapter six.  Worship is not the mission Jesus ordained for the church.  Worship is a response to God for the way He has prepared the earth and other people for the satisfaction of our physical needs.  We also worship Him because He has given us a hope of satisfaction for our higher needs.

Those who promote the doctrine that worship services are the mission of the church are false prophets.  People who accept worship as the mission of Jesus Christ will be in serious trouble on the Day of Judgment.  These same preachers who promote the Sunday morning worship service as the mission of the church also tend to suggest that becoming a Christian and regularly asking God to forgive our sins will give us a home in heaven.  This is a lie and every serious Christian should understand that our judgment will be about fruit production and not grace (John 5:28-30; Rom. 2:5, 6; II Cor. 5:10; Matt. 25:31-46).

This introduction has been presented in this manner because of the challenge Jesus will set before us in our text.  People who tend to believe the mission of the church is worship and the word “saved” means we are going to heaven without being fruit producers will not pay much attention to the scripture in our text.  In fact, it is generally looked on as being too idealistic for the church.  It is not idealistic.  It is a big, big step in becoming salt and light.  All fruit producers have become salt and light.  Their aim is to inspire others to become salt and light.

In our previous lessons in chapter five we have studied about how to develop a healthy personality and maintain strong character for our own personal happiness.  We have learned how to attain satisfaction for our inherent needs and how to maintain a family.  Our family is the source for children in God’s eternal family.  We also learned how to maintain fellowship with those we call “brother.”  Matt. 5:21-26.

However, in this study we will meet the people Jesus was talking about in Matt. 5:10-12.  They are not the brothers and sisters we assemble with to worship God.  These are the people we meet as the “church disassembles.”  I Cor. 14:23.  These are the people to which Jesus commissioned the church to preach the kingdom of God.  They are mature people in the world realm.  Some are mean because they have not found satisfaction for their innate needs.  They are people like some members of the church at Corinth before they were washed, sanctified and justified (I Cor. 6:9-11).  In order to evangelize the people in the world we will need to be able to love those who hate us.

Multitudes of people are going to hell if the church does not accept the challenge of accepting the kingdom of God on Jesus’ terms.  When we accept His kingdom we must become fruit producers for it.  The people in darkness have the problems God declared will keep them out of heaven.

But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murders, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.  Rev. 21:8   

Please note in our previous lessons how Jesus taught us how to help people with some of these same character defects.  We now know how to help them.  This is not a mission we can hire someone to do for us.  It has a threefold purpose for us, personally.  One purpose is that by doing love we can become love.  God’s love is perfected in us (I John 4:12).  A Christian cannot develop the fruit of the Spirit without first doing it (Gal. 5:22, 23).  For instance, we cannot be kind without doing kind things for others.  We cannot develop the characteristic of love (agape) without loving somebody from whom we do not expect a return.  Secondly, it will bring satisfaction for our innate desire to achieve something.  Thirdly, it is the way we become fruit producers so we will have something to talk about on Judgment Day.  People with ungodly traits may not appreciate our efforts and this is why we need to study our text.

The Greek word for this quality of love is “agape.”  For a full and proper definition of “agape” please read First Corinthians, chapter thirteen.

Lesson

The cinemas and society in general project people as weaklings who will not strike back at their enemies.  Men who are sensitive to the needs of others are often portrayed as “sissies.”  Consequently, some boys who want to prove they are “manly” may curse, drink and live immorally.  These habits work against strong character, as we have studied in our previous lessons.  The “he-man” philosophers project the idea that a person needs to be a little bad to be strong.

The motivation underlying the fear of being too good is a desire to be strong.  People have a fear of being weak.  Strong character is not necessarily the function of any type of external behavior, good or bad.  It consists of the power with which a person behaves.  The force of one’s conduct is the measurement of the strength of her or his character.  People admire strong character in other people and in themselves.

No one admires self-centered people.  They are not thought of as having strong character.  The person who can and will sacrifice his or her own interests for their friends is admired by all; that is, if they are not seeking something in return.  This is the kind of love Jesus spoke of in our text.  We cannot speak about strong character without love.  The difference in good behavior motivated by fear and strong character that produces righteous behavior is love.  It has the strength to be unselfish toward both friends and enemies (Rom. 5:6-8).

Christians may not be prepared to discuss the proper manner of dealing with the evil person in Matthew 5:38-42, until we decide we truly want to develop the character and personality of a son of God.  God had “set the bar” for Jesus’ original audience, the Jews, at the level of “love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  Jesus raised the “bar.”  Why?  The answer takes us back to our discussion of character.

Character is the test of our personality.  Personality is the test of our happiness.  This is why Jesus started His sermon by teaching eight healthy emotions that characterize a son of God.  The way Christians can know we are developing these emotions is by the strength of our character.  Spiritual growth is moving from glory to glory (II Cor. 3:12-18).  In this scripture Paul told the Corinthian Christians the veil of the old covenant had been removed so spiritual growth into the likeness of Jesus could begin.  Paul could have been commenting on our text.

Jesus did not think it was too idealistic to raise the bar for Christians to “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt. 5: 48.  The Apostle Paul attributed it to the new covenant (II Cor. 3:4-6).  The new covenant has been offered through the Priesthood of Jesus Christ (I Tim. 2:5, 6; Heb. 8:6).  The Priesthood of Jesus Christ offers the blood of Jesus as the sacrifice for sin.  It not only has the quality of a sacrifice to remove sin, it removes the guilt of sin from the conscience of those who accept the new covenant (Heb. 9:11-15; 10:1-4).  Consequently, the Priesthood of Jesus Christ has made arrangements so God, Himself, by the Person of the Holy Spirit can fellowship Christians (Gal. 4:4-7; I Cor. 3:16; II Cor. 13:14).

Since all peoples’ spirits came from God and our spirits are designed in the likeness of God, Christians adopt the Person of God as the goal for the growth of our spirits (Heb 12:9; Jas. 3:9).  Jesus showed us the Person of God and simultaneously revealed the law of life (John 1:3; 14:9).  As this development begins to happen in Christians we are becoming “salt and light.”  In this manner we become fruit producers for God.  Jesus explained it like this:

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.’ 

By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.  Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.  John 7:37-39

God expects Christians to reach the potential of all human beings because of the ministry of Jesus.  Pagans and legalists cannot reach their potential as sons of God.  However, all peoples’ spirit came from God.  Consequently, they have no other potential but to be children of God (Isa. 43:6, 7).  This means many people may fail to attain humanity (Eph. 4:17-19).  They function on the “animal level” of existence (Jude 10; II Pet. 2:10-12).  Christians develop as children of God or we fail God’s expectation of our potential to be fruit for Him from this world (Heb. 2:10).  Christians are the field for the seed of God’s word (I Cor. 3:6).  His word is the message of the kingdom of God and how people were created to be children in His eternal kingdom (Matt. 13:19, 37, 38; Luke 8:11).  The program is for members of the church Jesus purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28; I Cor. 3:10, 11).

God is love; therefore, He is capable and willing to love His enemies (I John 4:16).  He has demonstrated His love for His enemies (John 3:16-18).

This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:19-21

Christians have come into the light (I John 1:5-7).  In fact, we are the light of life “in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”  Phil. 2:15, 16.  As Jesus said, “Men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.”  He did not classify them as “fools” and write them off (Matt. 5:22).  He did not call the “more than twelve legions of angels” His Father had put at His disposal (Matt. 26:53).  He loved them by turning the other cheek as He has taught us to do in our text.

Understanding why people are evil might help us to be willing to experiment with loving our enemies.  Jesus said, “They will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.”  All mature people have become sinners.  Christians are merely justified sinners (Rom. 5:18).  However, some people are evil sinners.  Many of the evil things they do, they do to keep their sinful nature from being exposed to the public.  Cain killed Abel because his own deeds were evil (I John 3:12).  When people, and this includes Christians, who know they are harboring a weakness, which is sin, but refuse to admit it to themselves and God, they become dangerous.  They become dangerous to themselves, spiritually, and they may do harm to anyone who even suggests they have a sin they are trying to hide.  From our study of anger in Lesson Two, we learned one thing that fires off anger is “wounded vanity.”

Please note; “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  John 3:17.  If Jesus had merely pronounced condemnation on the world, He would not have been the “Savior of the world.”  He saved the world by loving the world.  God will send Jesus again and He will condemn those who did evil things to Christians and failed to repent of their sins (II Thess. 1:6, 7).  Forgiveness stimulates love (Luke 7:47).  Jesus brought love into the world and stimulated multitudes of people to love.  This is God’s principle for the forgiveness of Christians’ sins.  We cannot expect to receive forgiveness of our sins against God and the people “who have been made in His likeness” unless we forgive them of their trespasses against us (Jas. 3:9).

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.  But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  Matthew 6:14, 15

   The forgiveness of people who sin against us is not a simple matter.  It is especially complicated when the sin they committed against us was intentional and they will not repent.  Christians will encounter evil people who will “strike us on the right cheek.”  It may not be a physical blow; however, it will sting us deep down.  This will be a defining moment in our Christian life.  What will we do?  We do have a choice.  We can glare at them and do nothing.  We can strike back, if we dare.  We can smile through gritted teeth and go away to plot revenge on them and all who look like them.

What we do at this moment will depend on the attitude we have developed before the encounter takes place.  Jesus has taught us the attitude we should have already developed (Matt. 5:10-12).  If we have the emotion Jesus possessed when they struck Him, we will turn the other cheek.  We will be “Christ like.”  We “will be called sons of God.”  Matt. 5:9.  We must have already built our foundation before the flood came; otherwise, our character will be debauched with anger (Matt. 7:24-27).

Christians cannot practice “cheap forgiveness” and expect to have the matter finished.  The matter may be stored away; however, it will likely make its presence known in some unintentional or mysterious ways.  For instance, we may hold a grudge against all people of this person’s race for this evil committed against us, although we may be unaware that it is happening.  This is the seat of ethnic clashes.  The hi-technical world we live in is debauched by “stored away hate.”  Instead of using our resources for the betterment of mankind, nations are overloading their citizens with taxes to win the arms race.  There are no borders in this kind of war.  We may have arrived where Paul told Timothy civilizations would arrive at some point (II Tim. 3:1-5).  The Clash of Civilizations is a theory, proposed by political scientist and writer, Samuel P Huntington.

In order to finish the matter with evil, Christians must identify the deeds done to us as evil.  We cannot affirm our relationship with the person who did the evil to us unless we first identify the deed as evil.  After we name the evil, then we must forgive the person of the act whether they repent and ask our forgiveness or not.  This may be what Jesus meant by “going the extra mile.”  In any case, we must not harbor the wrongs done to us.  This will weaken our character.  We must keep the incident out there.  If we do not finish the matter, the evil committed against us will control us.  We forgive from the heart the person who sinned against us.

Affirming our relationship with one who has sinned against us without giving forgiveness of the specific sin is “cheap forgiveness.”  We must identify the thing done to us as evil.  Then we need to make a rational decision to forgive or not to forgive the person.  Jesus chose to forgive.  He named the sins of the world and made the decision to forgive us.  His decision to turn the other cheek and go the extra mile sent Him to the cross.  We have the same choice to turn or not to turn.  We can choose to take up our cross and forgive, regardless of the consequence, and identify as a son of God.  On the other hand, we can decide to strike back.  This would be a bad choice because it will not allow assimilation of the characteristics of our self with Jesus’ laws of life.

Many preachers try to win disciples by avoiding the “tough call” of God for Christians to develop as sons of God.  The “chin tickling” approach may make disciples for them; however, it does not make disciples for Christ (II Tim 4:2-5; Luke 6:35, 36; 9:23, 62).  God’s program to develop children “in Christ” is discipline by tribulations (Heb. 12:4-13).  Most people readily accept this concept in everyday life on earth; however, when it comes to God, somehow, they think they are going to heaven on a “cloud of grace.”  God gave us grace through Jesus so that Christians can be at peace with Him (Rom. 5:1).  Because we have peace with God, we can hope to share in His glory (Rom. 5:2).  It is at this point we “rejoice in our tribulations” so we can begin our spiritual growth toward “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  Matt. 5:48.

Question for Discussion

  1. God offers programs to help Christians attain satisfaction for the needs He created within us.  List some of these programs.
  2. What is the relationship between the emotional attitudes taught by Jesus and our innate needs?
  3. How does the strength of a person’s character function in your answers to the foregoing questions?
  4. Why is it important for Christians to understand that Jesus’ mission on earth was not to promote a better worship service than God had ordained for the Jews in Jerusalem?
  5. What is the relationship between “producing fruit in keeping with our repentance” as John, the Baptist, taught and being “salt and light” that Jesus taught?
  6. In what sense is our text a “step in another direction” from our previous lessons?
  7. What is the value of the exercise produced for a Christian when someone rebuffs us?
  8. How do cinemas and fiction books profile and cast a male person who will not strike back when they are rebuffed?
  9. How has this impacted the thinking of the societies thoughout the world?
  10. Why did Jesus not promote this popular world view?
  11. How does the world’s view of “self-centered” people clash with their view of “striking back?”
  12. Why might a person not be ready to fully discuss and accept the teachings of Jesus in Matt. 5:38-42, until they have fully accepted His teaching in 5:43-48?
  13. In what sense did Jesus “raise the bar” about whom God’s people should love?
  14. How can a Christian know he or she is developing the emotional attitudes taught by Jesus?
  15. How does character and personality function together?
  16. In what manner did the glorification of Jesus’ death enhance the fellowship between Christians and God, over the fellowship God had with the Jewish people?
  17. What is the potential status of all mature people on earth?
  18. Why do people try to avoid the light Jesus shed on life?
  19. How does forgiveness stimulate love?
  20. Explain the complications in a Christian’s forgiveness of a person who has sinned against them but will not repent and ask their forgiveness.


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