Sermon on the Mount

Loving Enemies

This devotional is written by Eppy Izere who has been a member of St Marys church for a decade . Originally from Rwanda, married to James and mother to Jarvis, Javan and Janice.

Matthew 5:38-48

38 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
Love for Enemies
43 "You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Reflection

‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’

Whereas this might sound barbaric, in the Hebrew law, "an eye for an eye", was meant to ensure fairness in the society and limit revenge to the extent of the injury. We see it in Leviticus 24:20; fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, and in exodus.21:24-25 .24 Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise…

 But Jesus is teaching us not to retaliate or fight back. He calls us to go against our natural instincts.

Personally, I find it is very difficult to imagine being slapped on my right cheek and instead on retaliating or running for my safety, turning my left cheek to my offender… But I am also reminded; the only way I can live up to God’s standards is by falling back on the grace of God.
I am also encouraged by Paul’s advice to the Romans, where he said,
"Don’t seek revenge yourselves, beloved, but give place to God’s wrath. For it is written, ‘Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.'" (Romans 12:19).

Loving your enemy and praying for those who persecute us is asking what most of us are not prepared to give. However, the ability to love your enemies is a gift of God made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

As a Rwandan, I have witnessed this. In my country, I have seen neighbours hating and killing each other and have also seen those who were persecuted and survived the 1994 Rwandan genocide, choose to love and forgive those who persecuted and killed their families.
Based on a true story, "Unforgivable movie ", shows the relationship between Alice, a Tutsi woman who lost her child and her hand cut off in the Rwandan Genocide in 1994 by Emmanuel, the Hutu man who attacked her and her family. After serving his prison term, Emmanuel seeks out Alice and confesses to being the one who cut off her hand. Alice extends him forgiveness and together, they run an Association, which provides housing and counselling for genocide survivors and facilitating reconciliation between them and their former attackers.

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