38“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. 46For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
I have always had an issue with Black History Month. I don't think it has really served it's purpose. At most it is Black trivia month and it hasn't really reformed education to address the true diversity of our nation's history. I add to this discomfort the fact that for the three Februarys that I have been a pastor at predominantly white churches. So how does a black pastor talk to older white folks about black history?
Well, this week, I am using this text to highlight an element of the civil rights movement, namely nonviolent resistence. I'll be showing a clip from the History Channel's "King" documentary where they discuss King's philosohy on nonviolence adapted from Ghandi.
While I want to highlight this part of the history, we also need to highlight that the Gospel asks us to go further than to not return evil against those who would hurt us, which is already an extreme. It asks us to return evil with love. The Leviticus passage in the lectionary (ch. 19:9-18) asks the same thing. It asks that we fight the evils of poverty and greed with the love of generosity.
As we continue a look at the sermon on the mount, it is striking to see what the Kingdom of God demans of us. Jesus sets the bar so high. Vs. 48 has always puzzled me. Is it simply a reminder that we can't live up to the demands of the law, or is it again a reference to the beginning of Lev. 19? Should we replace "perfect" with "holy" or "set apart"? I think the first interpretation lets us off the hook. Instead, I think Jesus is challenging us to a uniqueness.
Thoughts? What are you preaching on this weekend?