What does Jesus say about social justice? – Matthew 5:38-48 – Pastor Eric
Today, we see injustice happen, and we even might experience injustice. And we wonder, what does Jesus have to say about my injustice? Or how are we to deal with the social injustices of our day? What does Jesus have to say about social justice?
Social injustice is not a 21st century problem, but it is a centuries old problem dating back to Jesus’ day. Jesus understood that, and He addressed it in His Sermon on the Mount as there was deep racism and division during His own time and culture. Jesus challenges us with this truth:
(1) Don’t retaliate against your enemy instead serve your enemy like Christ did for you. Don’t hurt your enemy rather serve your enemy. Don’t harm your enemy instead give to your enemy. (Matthew 5:38-42)
Jesus is not preaching for absolute pacifism, a wimpy Christianity, or a doormat theology. God’s people ought to stand up for justice.
However, how we respond to evil might be entirely different than we think or do. Jesus offers a radical way of responding to people who are different than us, who don’t think the same way as we do, and even those who might mistreat us.
As Jesus has been throughout His Sermon on the Mount, He continues in correcting wrong thinking and theology. The religious leaders were taking the Old Testament out of context to justify their human desire for retaliation and fighting back. They believed that they could take vengeance into their own hands, but Jesus is telling them that is simply not right or true.
Jesus is reversing the perspective of the Pharisees and disciples to think about giving instead of taking, serving rather than retaliating, and charity over retribution.
Jesus follows up this hard and challenging principle with basically four examples each one different but with the same underlying principle which is overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
In all these four situations, Jesus is an amazing teacher, because He covers it all: an insult, a lawsuit, force labored, and privilege. Jesus teaches whether you have it good or have it very bad - your posture and your perceptive is never vengeance or retaliation. It is never about what’s in it for me or what is owed to me.
Jesus totally flips things upside down for us to say, “Not what can I get back, but what can I give?”
Certainly, this is not our normal human response especially when we have been hurt by someone else. We want justice. We believe that we are owed something, and we will fight back. We desire to avenge the wrong and further we desire to hurt the other person.
We want retaliation in those moments to yell back, to post a mean response, or have the last word. Jesus says, “No! That’s not my way. That’s not the way I do things.”
We recall the gospel, how we wronged God at one time and don’t deserve His love. We remember that we are beyond blessed, so that we might do the same for someone else - to serve our angry neighbor, serve our stubborn relative, and serve our difficult coworker. We are no less similar to those who pain us, and we have the power of the Spirit to love them in radical ways like Jesus has done for us.
(2) Don’t hate your enemy instead love them like Christ did for you. Don’t get bitter. Don’t get stuck in your sinful angry. Don’t be spiteful. Instead love. Show your enemy grace and mercy. (Matthew 5:43-48)
Verse 43, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
This word was a Pharisaical and hypocritical addition to the law, and this addition created a wider wall of separation between the Jews and the Gentiles for Jews to only love Jews and Jews to hate Gentiles and vice versa.
In that culture, the barrier stretched even further to separate good Israelites like the scribes and Pharisees from the “bad Israelites” like the poor and the criminal. Jesus corrects their false teaching, and when Jesus says, “Love your enemies,” He is not just making a suggestion. It is a command as it’s in the imperative form.
Jesus pushes us beyond what is lawful and beyond justice and He pushes us into grace. This is the hard part for any of us, myself included, Jesus goes beyond justice into radical love. Love not just your neighbor, but love your enemy, love your political opponent, love your ultra-right friend or ultra-left friend. Love your anti-Christian coworker.
We can love our enemy, because our identifying marker as a believer is God’s love. Our true identity is wrapped in His love. Plus, we can love our enemy, because God is sovereign and in control over all things even evil and injustice. Jesus is over all things both good and evil.
True love is giving without receiving. Gospel love is commitment to selflessness and kindness. God’s love carries no conditions as it is unconditional. It is committed to the very end, even painful and hard moments. Gospel love goes beyond boundaries. Gospel love goes beyond ethnic barriers. Gospel love goes beyond social and economic demographics.
In order to love our enemies, we must contemplate the gospel to know that we too were displaced children, and we too were enemies of God. Yet, God adopted us into His family through nothing good that we did or will do. Simply by His grace. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
Remember you are loved, so you can love someone else, even the unlovable. You are adopted into God’s family, so you can receive another into the family of God. You are blessed, so you can bless someone else even the hard to bless.
We live in a time when it seems and feels like our world is falling apart with so many injustices, but what a time it would be for the Church to reflect His good and gracious love.
What a time it would be for the Church not to be known for retaliation or hate, but the Church to be known for radical giving even to those who hate us. What a time it is for you and me to carry the cross of Christ, so that others will know what the cross of Christ really means.
So, take that step of faith to love, not hate, and to serve, not to retaliate. Ask for the Spirit’s power and seek the Lord to do the next right thing for the glory of our King.
Hosanna, Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone), Sovereign Over Us, Doxology