Sorting out our enemies

Sorting out our enemies

2 Kings 6: 15-23. Matthew 5: 38-48.


We have been looking at the Kingdom of God.

How it is a choice about living in hope or living in fear.

Not about being an add-on burden that we have to try to cram into our lives, but about being the central part of our lives that helps us live life to the fullest.

That often the kingdom is about reflection, looking at our life and seeing that often what we want is not what we need, that God gives us what we need and we should seek God’s path for us.

And that is so much the case when we talk about today’s subject.

Our enemies.

And how we deal with them.

There is an Arnold Schwarzenegger film called Commando.

It is your typical Arnie film.

It starts off with his daughter being kidnapped and Arnie, a single father, and an ex-commando is told that if he ever wants to see his daughter alive he has to kill a good politician. The fact that it uses a good politician is how we know this isn’t a film based on true events.

Anyway, these horrible terrorists are now Arnie’s enemies, and through the film he finds them, kills them all, saves his daughter and finds a girlfriend who will be a wonderful step-mother to his daughter…and they all live happily ever after.

I looked back in the history books and was surprised to find that it didn’t win an Oscar.

It’s easy to slag off films like that.

But films like that are part of our culture.

James Bond films, the good guy, gets revenge for society on what those bad guys have done to us.

In my dad’s day it was all the John Wayne films, the old cowboy and war films that he made, those horrible Indians, or evil cowboys or Nazi’s. They bad guys get their comeuppance in the end and we all live happily ever after.

In my children’s day it was the Harry Potter films, evil Lord Voldemort and his evil followers all die horrible deaths at the hands of Harry and the good guys and we all live happily ever after.

Not only films, look at 99% of detective programmes on the TV. The bad guys do bad stuff, and the good guys put them away into prison.

Even soaps. In nearly every soap there is the bad guy, the one that is up to no good, and we just watch and wait because we know at some point he (or she) is going to get exactly what they deserve. And we will be so happy on that day.

The trouble is, that it isn’t God’s way.

‘You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you.

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap you on the left cheek too.

And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well.

And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres.’

Now our gut instinct is to say, ‘That isn’t fair, that isn’t justice. Why should they get away with it?’

I don’t think that’s the way God looks at it.

I think God looks at it two different ways.

The first way I think God looks at it…is to see that an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth just doesn’t work. No matter how much we would wish it to be different, God knows that revenge doesn’t work.

September 11th 2001. The twin towers are destroyed and nearly 3,000 people die on that day. It is the biggest act of terrorism in America since Pearl Harbour.

And our gut instinct is that someone should pay, that this is an injustice that cannot go unpunished.

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

We invaded Afghanistan and Iraq.

In Afghanistan, according to Physicians for Social responsibility between 106,000-170,000 civilians have been killed due to the war in Afghanistan.

3,000 innocent people die in New York, and their inheritance is the death of 106,000 innocent people in Afghanistan. What revenge should the Afghanistan’s exact off of us?

What would and eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth look like in that situation?

Maybe it is already happening…90% of the heroin that is used in Europe is now made in Afghanistan. How many of our children will die because of heroin overdoes, how many families will be ruined because of the effects of having to live with addicts?

As for Iraq, that is still a mess.

In the films, John Wayne goes in and sorts out the bad guys and we all live in peace.

The after effect of what we did may have created Isis, completely destabilised the Middle East; particularly Syria, Libya, but not discounting the difficulties in Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt, and that doesn’t include creating the biggest movement of refugees the world has ever seen.

The influx of refugees in this country is shown in the strain in our health and education budgets.

And here is the really big question…

How did our revenge make the world a more peaceful, safer, place to live?

Jesus said what Jesus said because our way doesn’t work.

It may be instinct to want revenge, but it just doesn’t work.

Look at our first reading.

Elisha is being harassed by a superpower, Syria.

They seek to kill him.

And he has the chance to get his revenge, he could have wiped out all the soldiers.

But what would have happened?

The Syrians would have sent a bigger army the next time.

An army created with the sons and brothers of those who had died, each seeking revenge.

Though what Elisha did, in feeding the soldiers and then just letting them go, was completely counter-intuitive, the result was peace, a real peace.

‘You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But now I tell you: do not take revenge on someone who wrongs you.

If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap you on the left cheek too.

And if someone takes you to court to sue you for your shirt, let him have your coat as well.

And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one kilometre, carry it two kilometres.’

The second reason I think God wants us to act differently is that old thing I have said so many times about our heart being so small, the size of a fist, and what it can hold is so limited.

If it is holding onto hate, it can’t also hold on to love.

If it is holding on to anger, it can’t also hold on to serenity.

If it holding onto revenge, it can’t also hold on to contentment.

The examples that Jesus uses are very specific.

Jesus is telling people that no one, no one, can take away the dignity and humanity that God has given us.

And we should always react in ways that show people that the inherent dignity and respect that God has given us has not been removed.

If someone slaps us on the right cheek then that means they are superior to us, that we are thought of a lower, inferior person (people would always use their right hand to hit as it to use the left hand was the devils hand. So try hitting someone with your right hand on someone else’s right cheek. It can only be done as a backhand, the way a master would treat a slave who couldn’t defend themselves). Offering the left cheek is you way of saying that you deserve to be hit as an equal, that you will never see yourself as an inferior.

If someone sues you for your shirt that might be the only clothing that you have (except for the coat, and it was illegal to take everything as then you would be naked) so giving them your coat as well is showing the world what that person thinks of other human beings, that he is the type of person that dehumanises others. In a small village where everyone knows everyone, shaming someone by running naked behind them offering your only other garment would have the effect of forcing that person to give in, to show that they could be generous, and give you back your shirt as well.

When the occupying army forced civilians to carry the load of the soldier 1 kilometre they were very strict about that, the idea was to humiliate the civilians and let people know who the boss was, but at the same time not to do it too much as then you might get a revolt, which was the last thing the Romans wanted. So going that extra kilometre carrying a load would get the soldier in trouble, really big trouble, and the soldier would be begging the civilian to give back his load.

God wants us to have hearts that are full of the knowledge and love of his presence. That we are given a dignity and respect that no one can give away.

No one, except ourselves.

When we have hate in our heart, then we have allowed someone else to put in our heart something that destroys the humanity God has put in there.

When we let revenge in our heart, then we have allowed someone else to make us a victim and remove God’s dignity from us.

When we let anger in our heart it taints the love that we have for those we care about, because our thoughts are stuck on the object of hate rather than those we should care about, those we should love.

We may not have a great enemy out there.

But how many of have ourselves as our greatest enemy.

The one person who did something so stupid we struggle to forgive them.

The one person who has botched up our lives for no good reason.

The one person we hate more than any other.

This self hate is so bad that the third leading cause of death between 15-24 years olds is suicide.

We need to learn to forgive ourselves.

We need to learn to accept that we make mistakes and that is OK, accidents happen and we can move on.

We need to learn that our stupidity is not what defines us…no matter how stupid we have been.

We need to learn that we are not worthless or broken or ruined, but we are loved and cared for and precious.

I’m not saying that it is easy.

But I am saying that it is better.

The way of the Kingdom, the way of God, is a choice we make.

The choice of what we have in our heart.

Jesus asks us to have love…because the alternative isn’t worth it

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Alva Parish Church

Stirling Street


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