What Jesus Demands from the World
The Gospel Coalition 2015
What Jesus Demands from the World is the name of a book I wrote seven years ago. That’s one of the reasons this workshop is called “What Jesus Demands from the World.” I want to say something about how this book came to be, and then how that affects what I’m going to do now.
The Burden of This Book
In 2006, I went to Cambridge and spent five months at Tyndale House, four of which were working on this book. Why did I write this book? Nobody asked me to write this book. It doesn’t sell a lot of copies, as far as I know.
Jesus and Paul Are One in Message
I was driven by two things. When I was a doctoral student at the University of Munich from 1971–1974 — totally immersed in high level German, critical theory about synoptic issues and Johannine issues — in the air in those days was the tension between Jesus and Paul. The Christ of faith and the Jesus of history. Paul invented Christianity and Jesus brought the kingdom, and they do not mix.
This is a mega unbelieving approach to the Bible, which was, and still is in some places, fairly typical. I was living in that. I was working in that. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Jesus’s love command from the synoptic gospels. They called it early Christian paraenesis, which means early ethical teaching.
I came out of that saying that someday I want to write a book called “Jesus and Paul” to show they are one. They’re one. One vision of God, one way of salvation, one ethical plan. One in the deepest of ways. This is kind of that book. I said that I’m going to read straight through all four gospels at my little study cubicle there in Cambridge, and I’m going to write down every time I see an imperative demand. I’m going to write down every imperative. I found about 500 of them. Then I stepped back and said, “Wow, how am I going to make sense out of that?”
I decided to have 50 chapters so people can read one a week, every chapter averaging about seven pages so you could do one page a day, especially if it seems like heavy sledding. My goal was to handle Jesus so limitedly, not letting Paul talk, so that if it starts sounding Pauline that’s because Jesus is Pauline. It’s not sounding that way because I’m importing Paul.
“To teach the commands in such a way that something happens in heart and mind is a miracle.”
The book has eleven pages of Scripture index. There are over 1,000 Bible references in the index. The writings outside the gospels are referred to twice out of 1,000. That was totally intentional. I do not quote anything but gospels here, except for two references. My goal was this: If I can handle the gospels in a way that’s faithful to the gospels as they stand, and it starts to sound like Christianity, then that would serve the unity of the New Testament.
Obedience to the Great Commission
Practically, the book was driven by the end of Matthew. So between the resurrection of Jesus and the ascension, Jesus said,
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18–20)
I have always taken a deep breath when I have heard, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” In other words, what Jesus demands. So I said, okay do missionaries do that? Do pastors do that? Do pastors get up in the morning, do missionaries get up in the morning and say, “My job is to teach the church everything he commanded?” My answer is yes. As a servant of the church, a helper, that’s what I want to help with. I want to know all the commands and I want to systematize them into some kind of order.
That’s the other agenda here: helping pastors and missionaries obey the second half of the Great Commission. Now here’s the catch. It does not say in Matthew 28:19, “teaching them all that I commanded you.” What word did I leave out? Teaching them to observe. What’s the difference? You can teach the devil and unbelievers in university classes all that he taught. They can memorize it and stay unbelievers. But how do you teach people to observe?
Jesus said to teach them in such a way that they actually do it. Wow! It’s so easy to teach facts. Make a list, memorize the facts, study the relationship, understand the facts — but go to hell. To teach the facts, the commands, in such a way that something happens in heart and mind, that’s a miracle.
The question is, how do you teach all things to the nations so that they observe them? What kind of approach would you have? That’s where we're going.
A Different Teaching Than the Pharisees
Evidently, Jesus intended to teach in a way very different from the Pharisees. “The Pharisees tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23:4).
That’s bad teaching. Jesus thought he was going to do it differently from that. So what’s the difference between his loading us with dozens and dozens of commands in the gospels and the Pharisees not lifting a finger to help us? What’s the difference?
We Must Be Born Again
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28–30)
For my yoke is easy. Really? And my burden is light. Unbelievable. Have you ever read the gospels? “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Mark 8:34). That’s horrible. Crosses are horrible. They’re almost unwatchable when you watch them on television when Jesus gets crucified. What in the world did he mean? “My commands are light. My commands are easy.” Surely in that little text the answer is, “Come to me. Come to me. Come to me.”
Here’s my picture: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” I’m the oxen and I’m going to pull a plow. The plow is going to pull through heavy, hard soil. That’s hard work for an ox to pull because this plow is digging into the soil. That’s what pastoral work is — plowing and trying to make the soil good. So he’s going to put his yoke on me and teach them all things. Then he’s going to take hold of that plow handle.
So Jesus has his arms on the handles of the plow with me, John Piper, the ox, and his yoke is on my back. Then Jesus lifts me off the ground, and I’m dangling. I’m the ox. I weigh two tons and I’m dangling in the air while Jesus pushes the plow through the soil. “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light because you’ve come to me.”
The new birth brings us the easy yoke.
So if the key to doing all that he commanded is coming to him, I decided to make sure that at the front of the book are all the commands like that. “Come. Come.” There are a lot of them. “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7). I think that’s the most basic commandment in the gospels. “You must be born again.” Before any of your obedience efforts are morally worthy and acceptable you must be born again.
So being born again is the first command. Then there’s the command, “Come to me,” the command, “Believe on me,” the command, “Love me,” and the command, “Abide in me.” So these are now the first six chapters of the book, and you haven’t heard Jesus command us to do any actual actions because the coming is not a geographical motion.
Not Your Own Doing
If I said to you right now, “Come to Jesus,” you shouldn’t stand up. You shouldn’t move one muscle. No muscles are being moved in these first six commands. Be born. Repent. Come. Believe. Love. Abide. You haven’t moved a muscle, but you’ve just been totally changed. That’s the way it all starts. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:4–5). This idea of the new birth sounds Pauline because it is Pauline.
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)
Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.” (John 3:7)
So what does that mean? That’s a command. You must. Duty. You must be born again. So what Jesus demands from the world is that the world must be born again. What does it mean?
Born of the Spirit
“That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). So to be born again means to be born of the Spirit. What does that mean? “Be born of the Spirit.”
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit. (John 3:8)
That sounds like the Spirit is free. He does this wherever he pleases. It happens and we don’t know where it came from. The Spirit blows and I now love him. Yesterday I didn’t. What’s the difference? I have been born again. The Spirit blows where he wills, so the new birth is something God does to us, and yet it is a command that we must experience it. This is troubling. It sounds Pauline. Sovereignty, Reformed, that sort of stuff. Well it is. And it’s not unique to John.
“If you believe in Jesus, it’s because he caused you to be born again. Otherwise you’d be dead.”
And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:60)
There are living dead people and there are dead people. “Let the dead bury their dead.” Who are the dead? Everybody that’s not been made alive. “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24).
In the parable of the prodigal son the older brother, breaking his dad’s heart a second time says, “Why are you throwing a party for him? You never threw a party for me. I’ve served you like a slave all my life and you never threw a party for me.” The father looks at him, the Pharisee, and says, “This my son was dead, and is alive again.” This is not unique to John. It’s not unique to Jesus. Paul has it too because Paul got it from Jesus.
The new birth enables us to receive Jesus.
But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13)
So exegetically you have to ask how authority to become children of God through receiving Jesus works together with being born not of the will of man, but of God. I think given what Jesus says in John 3, the right way to put those two together is that the birth, not through the will of man but the will of God, enables the receiving of the Messiah, through which we are children of God. Now is that confirmed anywhere in the Epistles?
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God . . . this word is the good news that was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:23, 25)
The new birth, while it is a work of God sovereignly in me blowing by the Spirit wherever he pleases, my experience of it is that my eyes are opened. I see Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah. This is everything I’ve been waiting for. “I receive you. I welcome you into my life.” That’s how we experienced the new birth. We didn’t make that happen.
The new birth directs our praise to God.
When I talk to ordinary folks, the litmus paper that I use, just to see where they are, is for them to just tell me how God saved them. There are always two ways to answer that: One is that historically Christ died for me. The other is that experientially my mom talked to me, my pastor preached, or Billy Graham was on the radio — some kind of human present experience and past historical thing.
I want them to tell me how it happened. Every born again person loves to give God credit for that, don’t they? I mean I’ve never heard anybody say, “I was smarter than my lost sibling who hasn’t yet.” Instead, they say, “I was more lost is what I was, and I was just hating Jesus. I thought he was boring, and I was just partying. Then one of those weird guys with Campus Crusade, or Campus Outreach, or InterVarsity, or Navigators, or Reformed Fellowship, they just came up to me one day and they asked me about Jesus and that night I couldn’t shake it. I couldn’t shake it. I opened my Bible that my mom sent with me, I hadn’t looked at it for a year, and I started reading. I’m a new person this morning.” God showed up. The Spirit blew and he has been born of God. Outside the gospels, here’s the clearest statement of how faith and new birth relate to each other: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” (1 John 5:1).
John Stott in his little commentary says this just settles it for him. New birth precedes, empowers, and enables faith. So if you’ve ever embraced Jesus, received Jesus, believed in Jesus, it’s because he caused you to be born again. Otherwise you’d be dead. You’d be spiritually uninterested.
The new birth empowers our obedience.
Jesus’s first, most fundamental command is, “You must become alive. Without life given by the Holy Spirit, all of my commands will turn you into classic Pharisees or rebels. Those are the two options.
Without the new birth, a command comes and you can either say, “I can do this. I can do this and I will do it and God will like me for it,” or, “I hate this. I will never. That’s the weirdest lifestyle I’ve ever seen. No way.” Those are your two options. But with the new birth, you’re dangling. You are inhabited by supernatural power that is causing you to love a person so much that, like Tim Keller said, “Your duty has become your pleasure or your joy.”
We Are to Love God
“And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the great and first commandment” (Matthew 22:37). So that’s clearly one of the things Jesus demands from the world. Everybody in the world must love God with all their heart. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).
So not only the Father but also the Son. If you don’t love Jesus more than you love your mom and your dad, and your children, then you’re not worthy of Jesus. You can’t have Jesus. So we have to love God with all our heart. We have to love Jesus more than mom, dad, and our children, or we’re not going to be with him forever.
What’s the relationship between those two — love God, love Jesus? What’s the nature of the love? What is it like? How does it happen in your life? How important is it?
How are loving God and loving Jesus related?
The first question about how they’re related is totally relevant for Muslim evangelism because Muslims don’t love Jesus as the crucified and risen Son of God who died for their sins, rose again, reigns in heaven today, and will come and rule the world someday as the crucified one with holes in his hands. They don’t think he was crucified. The Jesus we have in our gospels is not Isa, the Jesus of the Quran.
“Jesus is the litmus paper of the authenticity of any claims for you to love God.”
They believe the Bible is a distorted book and that all of the original stories about Jesus that are true have been lost. This is street apologetics for Muslims, “You Christians don’t have the original book. It’s been lost.” Now there’s no historical evidence for that whatsoever. Bart Ehrman would say there’s no historical evidence for that whatsoever and he doesn’t even think we got the texts right as they stand. So these are the texts I go to when I do apologetics with Muslims.
Jesus and the Father are One
“Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me’” (John 8:42). Do you see the connection? “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I proceeded and came from God.” If you don’t believe that he proceeded and came from God, and love him as the Son of God who was sent into the world, then you don’t love God. “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am’” (John 8:58). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). If you don’t love Jesus, then you don’t have God as your Father.
If You Love God You Receive Jesus
“But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me” (John 5:42–43). So how do I know if you don’t have love for God? Because you don’t receive Jesus. Jesus is the litmus paper of the authenticity of any claims for you to love God. This was crucifixion language to the Pharisees. These are the most diligent God lovers in the world, and Jesus is saying to them, “The way for you guys to know if you love God, is whether you love me. And you don’t love me, you want me dead, so you don’t know God.” That’s the way I talk to Muslims, “Without Jesus you don’t know God.” “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
So what’s the relationship between love for God and love for Jesus? If somebody in your network, of any religion whatsoever, says they love God, and they don’t have the time of day for Jesus, they’re not telling the truth. They are either lying or self-deceived.
What is the nature of this love?
How many people have you ever heard say, “Loving God or loving Jesus is obeying Jesus.” They base this on John 14:15: “If you love me you will keep my commandments.”
That text says the opposite of that. An if-then sentence doesn’t say that the then or the if are the same. “If I’m hungry, I’ll eat lunch,” doesn’t mean hunger is lunch. “If you love me, you’ll obey,” doesn’t mean love is obedience. It means, in fact, that love comes before and enables obedience. If you love me, you will obey, but they’re not the same.
Love goes first — underneath, holding up, staying in the yoke, abiding, enjoying, treasuring, marveling, being entranced by, being filled with — and out of that, a good tree bears good fruit, and a bad tree bears bad fruit. So make the tree good.
Love Is Not Synonymous with Obedience
So what is this love? First, it is not synonymous with obedience. “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money” (Matthew 6:24).
What kind of language is that? Hate, love, despise, and devotion is real heart-laden, emotional, affectional language. That’s the way that Jesus talked about whether you love God or money. Are you sold out in such a love affair with money and what it can buy that Jesus is not your highest treasure anymore, or is Jesus so completely satisfying as your highest treasure that money is not in that idolatrous position? Those are your two options.
So the way Jesus talks about love is that it is not doing, it is treasuring. This brings us back to Matthew 10:37: “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” I love my kids. I’d die for my kids. I enjoy my kids. I treasure my kids. That’s the affectional, emotional dimension in language.
Love Is a Commanded Emotion
When I was a junior at Wheaton ages ago, Millard Erickson was my teacher in apologetics and we were reading Joseph Fletcher’s Situation Ethics, a very bad book. He knew it was bad, and he loved to assign it. We read it and we were supposed to critique and he would come into class and play the bad guy.
Joseph Fletcher argued that love cannot be an emotion. It can only be an action or an act of will. Why? It is commanded and you can’t command the emotions. Turn them on, turn them off, turn them on. They don’t work like that. That was his argument.
I’m just a brand new budding theologian who doesn’t know anything, but I grew up in a home where we read the Bible every day and believed it. One of the glorious things about growing up in a Bible-believing home where you read the Bible every day is that it affects your olfactory senses, your theological nose.
You smell stuff before you can understand how bad it is. Isn’t that wonderful? A lot of you are not theologically educated but you have great noses. You walk into a room and they’re talking, and you know that’s not right. And they say, “What’s wrong with it?” So you say, “I’m just not sure. I’ll go study up on it, but I know something’s wrong here.” So I’m sitting in that class and I knew that’s not right.
Do you know what was not right about it? The New Testament commands emotions everywhere. You can’t command the emotions? Give me a break. We’re commanded to be grateful. We’re commanded to hope. We’re commanded to be sorrowful and to weep. I’ve got a list of fifteen emotions from the New Testament, including Jesus’s teachings, where God commands the emotions.
God Must Fill Us with Love
This is why Augustine says, “Command what you will and give what you command.” Fletcher’s third premise in his argument is true: You can’t turn emotions on and off, which is why people think they can’t be commanded. It makes us feel helpless. You’re commanding me to be happy in Jesus, well then what do you expect me to do? Start jumping up and down and hope it happens?
No. He expects you to be born again, to be a new person. Yes, it’s beyond your control, and yes, we are desperate, and yes, we need to pray for revival in America. Nothing we do is going to turn this land around, or your church around, or your soul around. God will turn it around and we have to ask for miracles. We have to ask for the Spirit to fall on us so that we are changed.
So what is this love? It is an affectional treasuring of God above all things, a treasuring of Jesus above all things.
Where does this love come from?
Now, of course, the new birth would be one answer, but consciously where does it come from? Remember Luke 7, the story of the woman of ill repute that the Pharisee knew well was a woman of ill repute. Jesus is with Simon in his house and he’s reclining and he’s eating supper, and this woman comes in off the street. Everybody knows the kind of woman she is, and she kneels down. So she’s down there at his feet quietly crying, and her tears are falling on Jesus’s feet. And she pulls her hair down and she’s washing. Why is he letting her do this? The Pharisee is really upset.
“If we knew what it cost Jesus and how undeserving we were, we would love him much.”
Do you remember the story that Jesus told him? He said, “A man had two debtors, one owed him,” let’s just pick numbers, “$50,000, and another owed him $500. And he just said to both of them, ‘It’s all right, I’ll forgive you this time.’ Which of them would love him more?”
The Pharisee said, “Well, I guess the one he forgave more.” Then Jesus looked right at him and said, “I came into your house, you didn’t wash my feet and you didn’t give me a kiss of greeting. This woman has not ceased to cry or wash my feet since I have come. Therefore, her sins which are many are forgiven.”
She didn’t get forgiveness by washing his feet, that’s where you have to be careful here. She didn’t earn forgiveness by washing his feet. She showed her forgiveness. To reach back up to the word love, she’s the woman who just was forgiven $50,000. She is so absolutely overwhelmed by the gift of Christ that she loves him more.
So where does love for Jesus come from? One answer is that it comes from knowing how much your debt is and what he paid to remove it. If you’re walking down a beach, and you trip and you stumble on the beach, and you’re getting up, and somebody runs up and helps you up, you say thank you and you keep going. Not a lot of love there, just “Thank you. You’re nice.”
Then you’re swimming out about 60 yards and you are swept up by an undertow that you never knew was there. It’s got you under, your head comes up once, “Help!” The lifeguard is on his way, big buoy, swimming, and he catches you as you are thinking, “It’s over.” He brings you in, and you feel something different than the stumble guy. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” And if he died doing that, then it would be even more.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die — but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:6–9)
The whole thrust is that if we knew what it cost Jesus and how undeserving we were, we would love him much. “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37). So you can’t have Jesus if you don’t love him more. “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Corinthians 16:22).
That’s how important it is. No love for God means hell. It doesn’t say, if anyone does not believe in me as Lord. It’s love. If anyone does not love the Lord. That’s not a series of deeds. That’s new birth, a heart change, that embraces Jesus as our most loved treasure, or we perish. No competitors. If he’s number two, you’re lost. Jesus is radical, but he doesn’t put burdens on you that you can’t bear. He comes.
We Are to Love Our Enemies
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. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:38–48)
The first paragraph could be summed up with give, give, give, give, no questions asked, even for those who unjustly are taking. Sue you to take your tunic, give me your cloak as well. Demand you go one mile, go with him two. Give to the one who asks.
The second paragraph says to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, which forces you to ask: What are you going to pray? Well, “Hallowed be your name in their lives. Your kingdom come in their lives. Your will be done in their lives like the angels do it in heaven. Meet their daily bread, and forgive them for all their sins, and keep them out of sin and temptation.” That’s what you’re going to pray for your enemy. Salvation. And for every practical need met that can be met. That’s what you’re going to pray for your enemy. You pray for their good.
Giving Is Complex
Give, no questions asked. Figure out what their good is, pray for it, and love them practically to bring it about. Many times those two things don’t go together. This is why life is hard. This is why the Christian life is so complex.
I’ll give you some illustrations of what I mean when I say they don’t fit. You go to visit a suicidal person and they say, “I just can’t take it anymore. I’m pretty sure tonight’s the night I’m going to do it, and I would like you to give me the pills. Give me the freedom, just leave me alone, and give me the pills.” What do you do? You’re not going to give it to them even though Jesus says, “Give to the one who asks, do not withhold.”
“Love is an affectional treasuring of God above all things, a treasuring of Jesus above all things.”
Here’s another illustration: A child molester is discovered in the nursery at church, or maybe as a babysitter in your home. He is arrested, and you go to visit him in the hospital, and he asks you for forgiveness, “Give me forgiveness, and please give me my job back.” You will give him forgiveness and you will not give him his job back, even though he asked for it.
A third illustration: There is a poor person who’s got a subsidized apartment down the street with no washing machine. You watch this single mom dragging heavy laundry loads over three blocks to the laundry mat. She has no car, and you say, “I’m going to get her a washing machine. I’m going to save up until I have $700 and I’m going to talk to the landlord and we’re going to get a washing machine in that place, so she doesn’t have to do that.”
When you finally arrive at your $700 in savings, you’re walking there and somebody comes up and asks for the money. “Can I have the money in your pocket? I have lots of needs.” They give you stories. To whom will you give the money? In other words, there are competing demands that contradict each other, and Jesus certainly knew this.
I’m thinking of government as a sphere, parent and family as a sphere, economic structures of employment are a sphere, and the church is a sphere. In every one of those four spheres turn the other cheek in the Bible at times does not work and is not expected.
For example, it says in Romans 13:4 that the government “does not bear the sword in vain.” So if a thief smacks a cop on the right cheek, the cop should not turn the left cheek. This creates problems for the cop to be obedient to the Sermon on the Mount. When he goes home and a neighbor comes up and is angry with him because he parked his car again in the wrong driveway and hits the cop, he probably should turn the other cheek, and say “I’m sorry,” and be as conciliatory as he can. Those are not easy distinctions to make.
Or parents, if you say to your child, “Don’t ever say that to your mother again. Don’t ever tell her to shut up,” and the kid goes, “Shut up,” then you don’t turn the other cheek. You spank that kid. Spanking is not a contradiction of what Jesus meant but it sure sounds like it.
Another sphere is economics. You have twenty employees and you ask one of them, “Where were you yesterday?” He says, “I slept in.” “Well, we needed you.” “I know, I won’t do it again, but I’d like all my wages.” You don’t have to pay him. If you do not work, you don’t eat.
So those are four illustrations where the teaching of non-resistance is qualified by the Bible. Spanking is in the Bible. The sword is in the Bible. “Don’t work, don’t eat” is in the Bible. None of those are turn the other cheek moments. It is complex to know how to love your enemy because Jesus is saying to do what’s good for them, and Jesus is saying, give them whatever they ask.
Obstacles to Loving Others
So why did he talk like that? I think he talked like that, “Give. Give. Give,” because there are at least two great obstacles to loving our enemies.
One obstacle is that we love our stuff. Jesus says, “That’s not a good motive. You should not want your money that much.” That’s what that paragraph is about. You love your stuff and all those commands tell you how free are you? How free are you from your stuff?
Now, the other paragraph says, love your enemy and pray for him. What’s good for the guy named Larry who climbs the fence and lives under the bridge now and then about 50 feet from my house? It’s good for him to see a Christian freely giving, and it’s also good for him to hear a Christian stop and talk to him, to invite him home for breakfast.
I said to Larry one time, it was freezing cold outside and he was climbing the fence out from under the bridge, and I said, “Larry, it’s freezing cold, come on in. You could use the bathroom here and give yourself a breakfast.” He said, “That’s all right. It’s all right. I’m going to the hospital and they have bathrooms over there.” Larry’s a proud man and he’s got his lifestyle worked out, but we ought to seek to do what’s good, to share the gospel, to reach out and to make offers.
Observe His Teaching
So let me just draw an arc back to the beginning. The main thing I want to help you with is to teach them to observe everything Jesus commanded. You can’t just teach them to know. You must teach them to observe. The way to teach them to observe is to put them in touch with, in union with, Jesus Christ through the new birth, through the wonderful commands of come, love, abide, believe, and be born.
Then you get to lay down your life and work hard for the poor. These have to come first. They are the key to teaching people to observe everything he commanded.