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The Imperative of Jesus: Higher Ground

Last Sabbath weekend, Southern Adventist University students, faculty, and community members from Adventist Peace Fellowship, Amnesty International, College Democrats, and Adventist Forum joined a peace march in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. That Thursday in the student newspaper, ‘The Accent,’ there was an article titled “Iraq War is God’s will; Respect all human authority.” This blog post is another view of God.
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:44-45
Christians understand Jesus as the fullest revelation of God’s character. It is through the lenses of Christ that we understand the whole of Scripture. Jesus the prophet, healer, teacher, the good news, lover of life, and the glory of God: Jesus, who shows the whole world how God’s grace is accessible to everyone.
Matthew 5:38-48 provides the theological framework of Christ’s imperative, calling us to higher ground. Three primary texts from Matthew reveal the heart of this message. This is a message needed more today than ever before as so-called Christian nations wage war in the name of a God who sent his only Son to instruct us on how to be blessed peacemakers.
“As you know, we once were told “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” but I tell you: Do not react violently against one who is evil (vs. 38-39).”
Jesus denies the right to engage in violent self-defense when an “evil-doer” violates your humanity. Often we feel a sense of entitlement when we are wronged; our human nature gets the better of us and drives us to seek our “pound of flesh.” Simply because someone wrongs us does not give us the right to return violence for violence. God certainly does not give us the right to do so. God knows that we have the power to fight back, but God doesn’t allow us the right to submit to the inclinations of evil. Jesus follows the prophet Amos in calling us away from the imitation of committing evil: “Seek good and not evil, that you may live…Hate evil and love good and establish justice in the gate (Amos 5:14-15).”
In response to evil, passivity is not what God requires of us. In fact, throughout Scripture God call us to be proactive “fighting evil,” however, he requires us to use different “weapons.” We are called to resist the enemy without showing enmity. God’s message through Jesus is clear: the imperative of higher-ground spirituality.
“As you know, we once were told, “You are to love your neighbor and to hate your enemy.” But I tell you: Love your enemies (vs. 33-34).”
To follow Christ is to follow the message that He has given us and to allow that message and the life of Jesus to influence and dictate our every action. Jesus teaches us that conventional love is not enough. He instructs us that the love we are to show our enemies is not about them, but rather that it is about God..
Moses taught that the essence of the moral life was to love God with one’s whole being and energy. In so doing, loving God means loving our neighbor. Jesus builds upon the Mosaic continuum and completes it. The “neighbor” also includes our enemies—all those who seek to harm us. It is precisely through loving our enemies that we are able to break the cycle of evil and all of its influence over us. It is only through God’s grace that we can “turn the other cheek” and feel and see as God does. Through the teachings of Christ, we are called to be as generous in grace as God is generous: without limits.
“God causes the sun to rise on both the bad and the good and sends rain to fall on both the just and the unjust (vs. 45).”
We are called to love our enemies because just like us, they are also the recipients of God’s grace. His rain readily falls upon them as it does on us. God challenges us with an invitation to live a better life and—through God Almighty—plant our feet firmly on higher ground.

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