“On Matthew 5:38-48: A Portion The Sermon on the Mount”


In the book Restoring Your Spiritual Passion, Gordon McDonald writes:

“One memory that burns deep within is that of a plane flight on which I was headed toward a meeting that would determine a major decision in my work. I knew I was in desperate need of a spiritual passion that would provide wisdom and submission to God’s purposes. But the passion was missing because I was steeped in resentment toward a colleague.

For days I had tried everything to rid myself of vindictive thoughts toward that person. But, try as I might, I would even wake in the night, thinking of ways to subtly get back at him. I wanted to embarrass him for what he had done, to damage his credibility before his peers. My resentment was beginning to dominate me, and on that plane trip I came to realize just how bad things really were with my resentment.

As the plane entered the landing pattern, I found myself asking God for power both to forgive and to experience liberation from my poisoned spirit. Suddenly it was as if an invisible knife cut a hole in my chest, and I literally felt a thick substance oozing from within. Moments later I felt as If I had been flushed out. I had lost negative spiritual weight, the kind I needed to lose: I was free. I fairly bounced off that plane and soon entered a meeting that did in fact change the direction of my life.”

Spiritual passion cannot co-exist with resentments. The Scriptures are clear. The unforgiving spirit saps the energy that causes Christian growth and effectiveness.

The work of forgiveness is difficult work. It is difficult. We can only repay evil with good, forgiving others and praying for those who harm us, to the degree that we can live into our God-given identity as blessed and beloved children of God. You cannot give what you don’t have; only those who have experienced love can in turn share it with others.

We need to know and believe and feel that we are loved, before we can love and forgive others. This is a basic truth. But this, too, is not easy. So many things, especially our perception of our selves, get in the way.

Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is a challenging sermon. These words of Jesus challenge us today—not only to love and forgive one another, but also to love and forgive ourselves. Perhaps the most challenging verse in this Matthew text is the last verse (v. 48): “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” When we hear that command, most of us hear an injunction to a kind of moral perfection. But that is not what Jesus is saying. “Perfect” in this case, stemming from the Greek word telos, means an “end,” a “goal,” or a “purpose.” The sense of this word is about becoming what is intended, accomplishing one’s God-given purpose in the same way that God constantly reflects God’s own nature and purpose.

If we harbor hurts in our own heart then certainly that hurt has been deep and valid enough! And, so, it is easy to carry a grudge against another.

--We hate rather than love,

--We wound rather than heal—especially when we ourselves walk so much of our lives wounded and hurt.

Jesus, endured the shame and humiliation of the cross on our behalf, and embraced death itself so that we might know, experience, and trust just how much God loves us. When we realize this we may have an abundant life. This Jesus not only commands, but he understands just how hard it is for us to forgive, let alone love, those who have hurt us. But as Gordon McDonald wrote: “It is good to lose negative spiritual weight—forgiving lets the poison ooze out. This is freeing!”