Matthew 5:38-48 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘AN EYE FOR AN EYE, AND A TOOTH FOR A TOOTH.’ 39 “But I say to you, do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. 41 “Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 ” Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.
43 ” You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” NASU
Consider the last portion of verse 47 – “what more are you doing than others?” I am always amazed at how Jesus waded through the veneer and superficial and aimed at the heart of the matter in His dealings with people. He continually displayed the ability to penetrate the hardest of hearts with His searching, penetrating and probing questions and statements.
In the passage of our text we get a glimpse of how He looked at love and the actions of the world He challenged His followers with the incredible question of verse 47 – “What more are you doing than others?” He reminded them and us that if we love only those who love us and only do for those who can repay or reciprocate, “What are we doing more than others?” As I like to phrase it, “How are we different from the world?” The implied truth is that as a follower of Jesus, a Christian we are expected to do more!
As I study the life of Jesus, in the New Testament, and His disciples I quickly realize that they were different. They did more than others! The practiced what He preached and lived the precepts of God’s Word demonstrating God’s Grace and Love. There was a marked difference between the followers of Christ and those in the world. They were different. Not because of how they dressed or what they did not do, but what they did.
I challenge you to remember that our Lord Jesus came to earth at a cost to Himself beyond our ability to comprehend or understand. He came to do something for us that we could never do for ourselves. It was, as the Bible declared, “for the Joy that was set before Him” that He came. He endured the Cross, despising the shame because His mission was the Redemption of mankind. I must ask, “What difference has the Cross made in you?” I remember after being saved a few weeks some people that I worked with said, “You are different.” I did not beat them over the head with the Bible, but my personality, my character, and my view of life had changed. I was a New Person and they noticed.
It is evident from the Bible that Christians are different and if you allow me to suggest, special. The question that must be asked is “What makes Christians different and/or special?” If there was nothing different or special about the followers of Christ, then our testimony would be powerless and our lives meaningless. If there is no difference, then our Christianity is valueless and disappointing to us and God.
It is extremely clear that the difference between a Christian and a person who is not is pronounced and visible in our world as it was in that day. Our society has been so leavened by the teachings of Christianity that there are those who are yet unsaved who are “Christian in some of their attitudes.” But, even in light of that reality, there is something distinctively different in those who know Jesus as Savior and those who do not.
Let me give you an illustration that I heard decades ago. There was a young girl in India and her impression of Christians is particularly germane and powerful. She was asked to describe a Christian and she said, “The people who are different.” They could be taken in a myriad of directions but Christianity, to her, made people different in a positive way. Just as there is a difference between the person who is saved and the one lost there is a kinship between believers. Genuine Christians are more alike than any group in the world. I realize that our sectarian and denominational divides often place believers at odds with each other but if we take that which makes us the same and strip away our man-made differences we are very much alike. The more we become like Him the less our man-made differences matter and separate.
I will conclude with a question that will lead me into the next devotional. “What is Distinctive About Genuine Christianity?” I believe that to have any hope of answering that question and avoiding legalism or sectarianism we must turn to the Early Church and study them. I have said for years that if we want what they had we must do what they did, and I will add, be what they were.
I will pause here and address this further in another devotional. May God bless you richly as you enjoy this beautiful day He has given us.