Reading: Matthew 5:41-48, Psalm 23:1-3
Preacher: Rev Kevin Kim
This week, Kevin will continue to look at Matthew chapter 5. Starting with v 41 (go with them two miles), Kevin will explain what v 41 might mean to us in terms of ‘forgiveness’ and ‘Christian perfection’. Kevin will then relate the concept of ‘Love for Enemies’ in v 43-48 with the theme of ‘forgiveness’. This chapter asks the Christian to be perfect, and as the last measurement for Christian perfection, ‘love your enemies’ is mentioned. We have to love and forgive our enemies to be able to be part of God’s family. Kevin will bring a remarkable story of forgiveness of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was created by Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity in 1995 to help South Africans come to terms with their extremely troubled past. It was established to investigate the violations that took place between 1960 and 1994, to provide support and reparation to victims and their families, and to compile a full and objective record of the effects of apartheid on South African society. For instance, take the Craddock – the police ambushed their car, killed them in the most gruesome manner, set their car alight. When, at a TRC hearing, the teenage daughter of one of the victims was asked: would you be able to forgive the people who did this to you and your family? She answered, “We would like to forgive, but we would just like to know who to forgive.”
A man asked his wife what she would like for her birthday. She replied; “I would love to be eight again!” On the morning of her birthday; He arose and made her a great big bowl of Cocopops. Then he took her off to the local theme park. What a day it was! He put her on every ride in the park like The Screaming Monster Roller Coaster. Five hours later they staggered out of the theme park; Her head was reeling and her stomach felt upside down. Right away they drove off to a McDonalds where her loving husband ordered; A Happy Meal with extra fries and a refreshing milk-shake. Then it was off to the movies to watch the latest Walt Disney blockbuster;
Finally she wobbled back home with her husband and collapsed onto the bed exhausted. Feeling pleased with himself,
“Well dear what was it like to be eight again?” Her eyes slowly opened and her expression changed. “I meant my dress size you!!”
Last Sunday, we examined the first half of chapter 5 – v 39 Turn the other cheek and v 40 hand over your coat. Today I am starting to look at v 41 “going with them two miles.”
Jesus said, “And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two” (Matt. 5:41). Roman soldiers could force citizens of Israel or any foreigner to carry their backpacks for a mile. Cyrus the Great, the king of Persia, invented the postal system to carry letters and documents from one place to another. To make his system work, any courier could force anyone to carry the mail for one mile, but only one mile. The Romans adopted this system for their military to keep their soldiers from getting worn out from carrying heavy backpacks, which weighed about 30 kg.
Roman soldiers could compel any Jew to carry his backpack for one mile. Roman roads had mile markers, so it was easy to know where each mile started and ended. If someone refused to do it, he would be punished.
The Jews hated the Romans because they were Gentile foreigners running their country and they had to pay taxes to Caesar. Carrying a Roman soldier’s heavy backpacks for a mile added to their hatred. The distance was actually two miles because he had to carry it one mile to wherever the soldier was going,
and then he had to walk back a mile to get where he was previously.
When a Roman soldier told someone to carry his pack, the Jew would have to drop everything he was doing and go out of his way to obey his order. I’m sure every Roman soldier heard complaining by the person carrying the pack.
Now Jesus says, “Not only do I want you to carry it one mile, I want you to carry it an extra mile.” This was actually four miles (2 miles there and 2 miles back). We don’t carry Roman backpacks anymore, but the principle applies to every area of our lives today — in our relationships, at home, at school, at our
Jobs — Christ calls us to go the extra mile going above and beyond what is asked of us.
Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” In Moses’ law it doesn’t actually say “hate your enemy.” That is how it had become distorted.
To be holy was to be set apart. God was calling Israel to be different. He called them to a standard of living that would promote health and wholeness so that they could be a blessing to the world around them.
By the time Jesus came on the scene, the idea of holiness had become distorted and the Jews believed that they were an exclusive group, that God loved only them, and thus they had the right to hate everyone else.
God looks at the Jews — God looks at us – and says, How could you think that God only loves you?
Jim Elliot was one of five missionaries to Ecuador who were killed by the tribe of Indians they were trying to reach with the gospel. The Auca Indians were a violent tribe who speared all five men to death even though they had made friendly contact with the tribe earlier. Later on Jim’s wife, Elisabeth, along with Rachel Saint, the sister of one of the other men, went and lived with the Aucas and shared the gospel with them. They brought a message of love and salvation to the very men who had killed their loved ones. Many of the Aucas accepted Christ because of their bold and loving witness. Elisabeth and Rachel truly understood Jesus’ words in this passage – love your enemies.
This chapter asks the Christian to be perfect, and as the last measurement for Christian perfection, ‘love your enemies’ is mentioned. We have to love and forgive our enemies to be able to be part of God’s family.
God loves his enemies. God causes his rain to fall on the unjust. God makes his sun rise on the evil and the good. Every particle of this world is God’s own thing. So every single sip of good wine, every bite of delicious food, every moment of pleasure that the unrighteous experience is a grace.
Three is a remarkable story of forgiveness of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). The TRC was created by Nelson Mandela’s Government of National Unity in 1995 to help South Africans come to terms with their extremely troubled past. It was established to investigate the violations that took place between 1960 and 1994, to provide support to victims and their families, and to compile a full and objective record of the effects of apartheid on South African society.
For instance, there was an incident of the Cradock four. The Cradock Four were a group of four anti-apartheid activists who were murdered by South African security police in June 1985, named as such as all four were from the town of Cradock, Eastern Cape. – the police ambushed their car, killed them in the most gruesome manner, set their car alight. When, at a TRC hearing, the teenage daughter of one of the victims was asked: would you be able to forgive the people who did this to you and your family? She answered, “We would like to forgive, but we would just like to know who to forgive.” How fantastic to see this young girl, still human despite all efforts to dehumanise her.
Archbishop Tutu, who was the chairman of this truth and reconciliation commission, defined forgiveness as “the capacity to make a new start. Forgiveness is the grace by which we enable the other person to get up, and get up with dignity, to begin anew. In the act of forgiveness we are declaring our faith in the future of a relationship and in the capacity of the wrongdoer to change.” But Tutu also stressed that forgiveness and mercy are not the same as denial or forgetting. And so, in a later conversation, he explained:
Forgiveness doesn’t mean pretending things aren’t as they really are.”
To forgive is not just to be altruistic. It is the best form of self-interest. It is also a process that does not exclude hatred and anger.
If you can find it in yourself to forgive, then you are no longer chained to the perpetrator.
You can move on, and you can even help the perpetrator to become a better person too.
Our famous Psalm 23 says, ‘He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. That means the power of God can refresh, renew, and make him come alive. The
power of God helps us to forgive and reconcile with whoever. He will guide us on a plain, safe path where we can enjoy sweet peace and holiness. “For His name’s sake” is not on our own merit but by the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit who will enable us to dwell in His goodness and faithfulness.