The desire to retaliate comes easily. But Jesus tells his followers that, at times, they will need to suffer being wronged. In fact, they ought to go the extra mile in self-sacrifice and generosity, seeking the good of others rather than insisting upon their rights.
The Sermon on the Mount presents us with a lot of challenging teaching as to how we ought to live our lives as Christians. It reminds us that if we are followers of Christ, we should realize the way we come to him is through being poor in spirit. We realize we come to Christ with nothing to offer. The way we get the kingdom is we realize we don’t deserve it. The way we find salvation is that we must receive it with empty hands. We must be morally and spiritually bankrupt. It is only then can we be filled with his grace and mercy. One sign that this spiritual transformation has happened and is happening in a person’s life is in the way they use their words.
JI Packer tells a story that illustrates the difference between travelers, those that are on a journey, and observers, those that observe and take notice of travelers. Observers may talk about the journey the travelers are on, they may talk of what the road is like, and where the road is going, but unfortunately they are not on the road … they see it and know it exists in theory. Travelers, on the other hand, don’t simply talk about it, they are on it. They deal with challenges like “Which way do I go?” and “How can I possibly make it another step?” They approach these questions very differently than the observers. It is immensely practical to them. The issue of marriage and divorce, for anybody, is not totally theoretical; nevertheless, there are some who are more like travelers and others like observers when they approach this topic, and Jesus has much to say about it.
The Sermon on the Mount is arguably Jesus’ most well known sermon. If you walked up to someone on the street and asked them what is one teaching of Jesus that you know, it’s likely they would draw from their knowledge of the sermon on the mount. Blessed are the poor…, Blessed are the peacemakers… However, as one person put it, “although it is one of the most well known, it is probably the least understood, and it’s certainly the least obeyed.” The sermon on the mount is challenging to live out and also challenging to understand.
In this passage, Jesus teaches us what kind of world we live in, how we are to live as his disciples in that world, and what the results are. Jesus calls his followers to live as salt & light in a decaying and dark world.