Last Sunday Pastor Mike spoke on the topic of retaliation in reference to Matthew 5:38-42. And yet again, Jesus, as He has done in all of His teachings during the Sermon on the Mount, shocks us with His invitation to look deeper into God’s heart. In this passage we look at justice and mercy.
When Jesus says, “You have heard it said…….but I say……”in verses 38 and 39 of the passage, it sounds like He is reversing what has been taught for generations under Moses’ Law. But as Mike pointed out, this wasn’t a reversal of the Law as much as it was the use of hyperbole to help us understand God’s fuller directive for us to love others.
God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8); He doesn’t change from the Old Testament to the New Testament. His character is the same; His will for us is the same. So why does Jesus feel the need to make such a shocking re-direction of the Law as He does here? One idea would be that the people of His time had taken this piece of the Law and looked at it from only one angle, while being blinded to the other angle. More specifically, they understood the teaching about justice, but didn’t see the part about mercy.
Mike then quoted Micah 6:8, which to me is one of the most beautiful, succinct and powerful truths of scripture:
God has shown you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you,
but to act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?
Doesn’t that kind of say it all? All over the Bible God is referred to as a God of justice. He hates lying lips and falsehoods. He hates oppression of the poor and false testimony. He hates deception. But He is also a God of mercy: He requires us to forgive those who wrong us and to help those in need. As always, we meet the tension between truth and grace. It seems we never get free of this tension. But how do we determine whether we are to act in justice or in mercy? When someone begs money from us, do we just give it without any further discernment? And if we are to refuse, how do we know that is God’s will for the situation?
I think the answer lies in the last phrase of Micah 6:8…… to walk humbly with your God.
If we walk humbly with our God, we get to know His voice better. We get to know His heart better. We get the loving instruction we need from a good, wise Father. Can we hear specific direction from Him on a given matter of our daily lives? I think we can. This was certainly an expectation from many of the people we read about in the Bible. For just one example, look at David. Of course, God’s voice is sometimes very quiet or perhaps He leads us by an inner sense of peace or intuition. Very few people I know have ever heard an audible voice. But as we continue to walk with God, to pray to Him, to converse with Him, to get godly counsel and to read His word, we will be able to be more confident that we know His will when we make decisions in our life, when we need to decide whether to walk a mile, or two, or twenty, with someone who asks us to go with him.