Victoria Fellowship Church
International & Interdenominational
Bible Study Worksheet – February 5, 2017
Theme: Building Blocks for Godly Living
Topic: True Love
Text: Matthew 5:38-48
Key Verse: Matthew 5:44: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (NIV)
Last Sunday, we discussed what a “God-Centred Integrity” means and how it differs from the world’s understanding of integrity. Our learning from that study include the following:
- Our integrity is about how honest and trustworthy we are in relation to what God expects us to be. It is not measured by our education, intellect, career success, or victory in law courts.
- Jesus’ statement that the Christian’s righteousness must “exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees” means that our integrity before God is not measured by how well we comply with the laws and regulations.
- We should be so known for our integrity that those who know us never doubt that are speaking the truth as best as we know it. When that happens, our “yes” will always be taken as “yes” and our “no”, “no”.
This Sunday we will be discussing what “True Love” means, especially with regard to those that seem most unlovable. Jesus spoke extensively about this, commanding us to refrain from retaliation when hurt and to love those that are really mean to us. We will be discussing how we can obey these commands. Our key learning from the study should include the following:
- The principle of “turning the other cheek” is about giving those that hurt us a second chance. If we have turned hostile to someone because they hurt us, we need to rethink. God gave us several chances before we submitted to the lordship of Jesus Christ. He expects us to do same to others.
- Many have come to know Christ in response to the love of those who should ordinarily not love them – those they have hurt. However, God does not promise that our loving acts will always be met with a positive response. Ours is to do what God commands, regardless of the response of others
- The command to forgive relates to personal relationship and does not apply to the law enforcement and legal institutions which God has instituted for the protection of victims of wrongdoers who are determined to frustrate avenues for peaceful resolutions.
- God is not impressed by a grudging forgiveness – a so-called forgiveness that is granted to avoid a sense of guilt. God wants our forgiveness of others to be a product of our love for them, a nd to be reflected in our subsequent relationship with them.
Critics of the Bible accuse the Christian faith of teaching docility – that to be a Christian, we must reduce ourselves to doormats for everyone to trample on. Imagine being taught to turn the other cheek when struck on one, and of forgiving people seventy time seven times (Mat 18:21-22)! These are fair questions when the words of our main text are considered against the fact that a civil society must have and enforce laws that punish violators, Christians serve in the military – a profession where killing is a core business, and so on. The need to punish law breakers is instituted in Scripture: “For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Rom 13:4) The first thing to note about the message in our text is that Jesus is here addressing personal relationships between two people. Civil laws exist to protect us from situations where relationships between people break down beyond amicable settlement. Jesus here teaches two principles: First, that God’s love should make the Christian give those that hurt them a second chance. Secondly, that the Christian should go several extra miles – including suffering and taking insults – to make peace.
1. What inner struggles arise in a Christian when wronged and he or she is in a position to[ retaliate?
Jesus outlined the process the Christian should follow when wronged; it does not include “getting even”, even though that may be the dictate of our natural instincts. His recommended approach starts with responding in forgiveness and love (vv43-48). Jesus does not guarantee that the person that hurt us would respond positively to our godly gesture; indeed, the response could even be more hurt. When we feel frustrated by a negative response to our peaceful moves, we should remind ourselves that obedience to God does not always bring immediate resolutions. Apostle Paul recommends the next step – take the matter to the Church, if the person is a Christian. He suggests that if the other party remains disagreeable, we should consider accepting to suffer a loss – 1 Cor 6:1-9. Choosing to accept a loss is not mandated and should be done prayerfully because it could have an overall negative effect, not only on the offender, but also on the society.
2. What are the dangers of us trying to “get even” with those that hurt us?
3. Discuss how it is possible to forgive those that hurt us but not with love.
We noted that God recognises that our best initiatives to make peace with those who hurt us will not always result in peace. So, God has instituted the human legal system that should ensure justice and protect the innocent. A considerable part of Deuteronomy 21-25 is devoted to instructions to the Israelites on resolving issues between two people. Modern legal systems refer to the body of laws that deal with relationships between two people as The Law of Tort. It is not wrong for the Christian to seek redress in the law courts. Indeed, without such provision, the society could fall into anarchy as people get frustrated by wrongdoers who have no interest in amicable resolutions and we then all resort to whatever force we can muster as a remedy.
4. Should the law courts also apply the principle of “turning the other cheek” and repeated forgiveness of offenders? Why?
Father, You have called us to a standard of personal relationships that challenges our natural instincts. We ask for your grace and power to live up to that standard every day, in Jesus’ name. Amen.