Micah 4:2-4 NIV

2 Many nations will come and say,“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,to the temple of the God of Jacob.He will teach us his ways,so that we may walk in his paths.”The law will go out from Zion,the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 3 He will judge between many peoplesand will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide.They will beat their swords into plowsharesand their spears into pruning hooks.Nation will not take up sword against nation,nor will they train for war anymore. 4 Everyone will sit under their own vineand under their own fig tree,and no one will make them afraid,for the Lord Almighty has spoken.

Matthew 5:38-39 NIV

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.

Matthew 5:40-42 NIV

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.

Matthew 5:43-45 NIV

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.

Matthew 5:46-47 NIV

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?

Matthew 5:48 NIV

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“A challenge that stands before us is that of entering the new age with understanding good will. This simply means that the Christian virtues of love, mercy and forgiveness should stand at the center of our lives…

We must blot out the hate and injustice of the old age with the love and justice of the new. This is why I believe so firmly in nonviolence. Violence never solves problems. It only creates new and more complicated ones… It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opposers into friends. It is this type of understanding good will that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is the love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

– Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Read Matthew 5:38-42; Exodus 21:23-25 and Romans 12:19-21. What was the purpose of the law of retribution? Instead of retribution, Jesus calls his followers to respond to personal, violent acts with mercy and unconditional love. What effect can this have on a tense situation? What impact can this have on the perpetrator whose heart is filled with hatred? Think of a time when you responded as Jesus commands. What was the result?

Are there exceptions to Christ’s command to “not resist an evil person?” When might it become necessary to use physical force to resist evil? When might using force to resist evil be the most loving thing we can do?

Read Matthew 5:43-45 and Leviticus 19:18. Jesus goes beyond the Law that requires love for a neighbor, and calls his followers to love their enemies. In what specific ways can we do this? What example does Jesus give of how God shows love to His enemies? In what way does loving our enemies point to people to the blessing of God’s future kingdom?

Read Matthew 5:46-48. In these verses, Jesus states that loving and showing kindness to only those who love and show kindness to us is nothing special. Even the most evil people do that. How is enemy love distinctive? Whose perfect love do we reflect when we love our enemies?

Practicing Obedience:

Bible teacher Scot McKnight writes: “There is only one approach to living the words of this text. It begins when we confess who is our enemy and it ends when we learn to love them as our neighbor.”

Ask yourself, “Who is my enemy?” Write down the groups and/or individuals that come to mind. Next ask yourself, “How am I turning my enemies into my neighbors?” Make a list of specific ways in which God’s love can flow through you to those on your list. Take action this week!