“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”
The way of Jesus Christ is often counter-intuitive, often counter cultural. The way of the world is to get back at those who have wronged us. And why is that? It’s because human nature instinctively drives us to defend ourselves and we feel a sense of entitlement to seek an “eye-for-an-eye.” The way of Jesus, though, is to forgo our entitlement and let go of our right to get even.
It’s hard, isn’t it? Think about the last time someone did something to you that was deserving of revenge. What did you do? Did you store up resentment? Did you take action to get what you deserve? Or did you turn the other cheek? Depending on your answer, I would ask you how you felt about your decision. Did it give you peace? Did it help your relationship? Did either of you benefit from your choice?
God isn’t just about do’s and don’ts or listing off rules to make us unable to do anything. He’s actually very concerned with our character, with our relationships, and with our spiritual maturity. Giving up the right to seek revenge, even when no one would fault you for doing so, isn’t about being weak. It’s ultimately about having the peace of God. It’s about having the character of Christ. And it’s about reconciliation with others.
This doesn’t mean to become a door mat or to accept abuse, but it does sometimes mean sacrifice. It’s not easy, but it wasn’t easy for the one sinless man who ever walked this earth to be executed for wrongs that He didn’t commit either. Next time you face the option of getting even or getting peace, pray for guidance. Choose the way of Christ.
John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God
God sent His light into the world in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus was the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature (Hebrews 1:3), and yet when He ministered here on earth people rejected Him. Even though He had existed since before time (John 1:1) and created the world (Hebrews 1:2), the people didn’t see Him for what He was and many made the wrong choice by not following the true Light. They chose darkness.
You and I are given the same choice today – to receive the light, Jesus, or to reject Him. To those who receive Him, that is not only to believe in His existence but to believe that He brings life through salvation by His death and resurrection, God promises the right to become His own children.
He will bring you into His family if you believe that God became a man and lived a perfect, sinless life, one you and I could never live, and that Jesus died to take the penalty for our sins and He raised back to life so that we can have life. Do you believe this? Have you chosen the Light over the darkness? Now’s your chance.
1 John 2:1-6 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
If we claim to be Christians, there ought to be something to show for it. If we aren’t walking a true Christian walk, obeying God, growing to be more like Christ, loving others; then we aren’t fooling anyone. If we love God, we’ll follow Him in everything we do.
All that said, we can try to obey in all things, but we will fail at times. We can’t be perfect, even though we should try to walk as closely to God as possible, with the help of the Holy Spirit. We’ll fail, but the true test is whether or not we admit to wrongdoing and ask forgiveness. If we say we don’t sin, again no one is fooled. We have to have a heart that’s humble enough to confess that we’ve sinned. This is what we’re called to as followers of Christ.
The best part is that we, as Christians, don’t receive God’s wrath for our sins, but we get forgiveness. Jesus already died in our place, He already took on our sins so that we don’t have to suffer the consequences. He made a way so that we have no reason to hold onto our sins as a secret and not admit to them. If we’ll just confess them, He’s faithful and just to forgive us (1 John 1:9). Jesus stands in the gap, advocating on our behalf, making our case. This isn’t just a message for seekers of truth; the gospel is for Christians too.
Ephesians 4:32 Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
If I asked you why Jesus had to die on the cross you would likely mention forgiveness. It’s true, the only way we can obtain God’s forgiveness is through a relationships with Jesus Christ. He paid for all of our sins, past, present, and future. But still we hold on to grudges against the people that have caused us harm.
How can we accept the forgiveness offered to us for every single bad things we’ve ever done and will ever do without being willing to show the same grace to people who do us wrong? Haven’t we done worse to God and yet been granted a pardon?
How arrogant we are when we hold onto the grace of God for ourselves and don’t pass it along to others. May we have eyes to see how wrong it is for us to do such a thing, how much it goes against God’s will for us. Who do you need to forgive right now? Have they really done something so much worse to you than you have done to the Creator who not only forgives you but does so through the sacrifice of His own Son? We owe it to each other to forgive, just as God in Christ forgave us.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.
Revenge is never worth it. Holding a grudge does nothing to help anyone. Bitterness is a cancer that eats away at the soul. God wants so much more for your life.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians deals mostly with unity within the body of believers, so it’s important to note that this refers to forgiving those who are our brothers and sisters in the Lord’s family. When we don’t forgive our own church family we can’t live the lives that God intends for us. The Church can’t function as it’s supposed to when we live with anger and bitterness towards someone.
Forgiveness, though, is a cure for many of the faults within the Church. Letting go of the hurts we hold on to brings healing that can release all of us from the shackles that we find ourselves in. Jesus didn’t die for our forgiveness just so that we can refuse to show the same grace to the people God’s placed around us. Forget about it. Let it go. Love those who have hurt you and pray for them – and yourself.
Ephesians 1:7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
The thing about the gifts of God is that they’re free. Completely and totally free. Our Father wants us to know that there’s nothing we could ever do to earn His redemption, His forgiveness, His deliverance, or His love. They’re free — for us.
There was a price for all of these blessings and we’d do well to remember that because it causes us to give thanks constantly. When we remember that our redemption was purchased by the blood of Christ, shed on the cross in our place, we can’t help but thank God for His grace. It’s a natural response to being given so much.
The cost of our freedom was expensive for the Son of God. He had to suffer and even die in order for us to be reconciled back to God. But the beautiful thing about it all is that He wasn’t forced to do it. He willingly gave His life for all of us and He’d do it all over again if He had to. But he doesn’t. It is finished, once and for all. It’d done. Paid for in full.
We mustn’t pass over the phrase “according to the riches of His grace” as though ti was not an important part of this passage. It may seem like just an ending to the statement, but in this lies one of the most important things we can understand about God. He’s not limited in how much He has to give. He has all things under His control. He has every blessing to give. He has everything we could ever need. And He offers to us from that abundance. We can trust in Him to deliver on His promises because He lacks nothing.
What do you need right now that you’re trusting God for? He’s able to deliver.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
Every single one of us has sinned. We’re all guilty before a perfect God and have no chance at perfection. We’re tainted from birth. That’s the truth. If it were the end of the truth, it would be a very sad existence that we lead. But, thankfully, there’s more to it.
Yes, we’re sinful. Yes, we’re unable to live up to a holy God’s standards and we’re headed toward death and destruction as a result. But there’s a hero to this story. There’s a Redeemer who sets us free from the condemnation that’s owed to us. We have been forgiven if we’ve put our trust in Christ Jesus.
But why do so many of us still live like we’re under that condemnation? Sometimes we’re our own worst enemies, piling on tons of guilt that isn’t ours to bear. Worse yet, some of us do so in the name of God, thinking it’s actually Him that’s given us this sentence to be carried out. But the Bible is clear, there is no more condemnation for us if we’re in Christ. We’re free from that bondage. If we’re living under self-imposed condemnation, it’s time to let it go and exchange it for the joy God wants us to have in Him.
Who is to condemn us? If it’s not from God and He’s the all-powerful, eternal Creator and Ruler of all things, then who can possibly do this to us and be in the right? No one. Trust in the Lord and freedom is yours. Condemnation is a thing of the past. Live like it.
Matthew 18:21-22 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.
The truth about forgiveness is that it can be really hard. Sometimes it requires that we keep forgiving the same people and the same hurtful acts over and over again. Anyone with kids want to give an amen?!
Forgiveness requires humbling ourselves. It’s a sacrifice on our part to keep forgiving, but it’s what God wants to see us do. He taught this lesson to Peter and the disciples in the parable told in Matthew 18:21-35. To forgive is to obey God. Look no further than Mark 11:25-26, Colossians 3:13, and Ephesians 4:32 to see this truth. Did you see what was said there? You MUST forgive.
Forgiveness might be hard, but it’s also freeing. Unforgiveness locks us up in a prison of our own making like the servant in the parable. Forgiving restores fellowship with others and with God. When we’ve really experienced being forgiven it’s easier to appreciate it and we’re more driven to forgive others because we know how it feels to be free in that way. To forgive frees both parties involved.
Sometimes, though, we might forget how much we’ve been forgiven and we need to be reminded. All that Christ has done for us to redeem us and restore us to a relationship with God is a beautiful reminder of how much He loves us and how much we should love others. God became a man and lived a perfect, sinless human life and died a painful and humiliating death on a cross to take on our sins and the punishment we deserved. Not only that, He credited us with His righteousness and then rose from the dead three days after His death to go and mediate on our behalf to the Father. Yes, we’ve been forgiven beyond what we can even imagine. The least we can do is forgive others.
This devotional is derived from a sermon message by Matthew J. Cochran. To hear the sermon, follow this link to matthewjcochran.com.