“Where should I begin?” you ask as you begin to tell a true story. Obviously, “At the beginning!” The beginning is where the beloved disciple of Jesus starts when he writes his account of the life of Jesus, the Gospel of John, as you see in John 1:1–5.
at the beginning–with the Word. John uses the term “Word”
to refer to Jesus. It is not until v.14 that the identification is
made. The Word is the eternal Son of God. Logos was used in
Greek culture to refer not only to the spoken word, but also to
unspoken word, thought, or (in philosophy) a basic underlying
principle. Although John uses a term recognized in Greek circles, his
primary influence is not Greek philosophy. For readers and hearers
with a background in the Old Testament, the opening verse recalls
Genesis 1 and the activity of God’s word in creation. God’s speech is
active, Psalm 33:6, and effective, Isaiah 55:11. The term is also
related to the concept of wisdom, cf. Proverbs 8.
gifts are often wrapped with love and given to people close to you.
Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 5:43–48 about whom to love.
your enemies. Love your neighbor—and your enemies! Jesus’ quote
(“you have heard that it was said”) includes Scripture, Leviticus
19:18. Jesus is certainly not abrogating this Old Testament command,
for he quotes it as one of the two great commandments, Matthew 22:39.
But sinful people that we are, we take what God says and try to limit
the scope of his command. In Luke 10, after Jesus tells the expert in
the law to do what he had summarized—love God and love your
neighbor—the man asks, “who is my neighbor?” Jesus responds
with the parable of the Good Samaritan. The next step in limiting the
scope of what God says is to insert something that God does not
say—love your neighbor, but hate your enemy. Even Leviticus 19:33
goes on to command that you treat the alien well. We resonate with
that kind of reaction. It is easy to find excuses why I don’t have to
love this person. But
Jesus commands you to love your enemies.
you seen a bumper sticker, “I don’t get mad, I get even”? Last
decade a book was published with title, Don’t Get Mad: Get Even.
Look at what Jesus says about revenge in Matthew 5:38–42.
not get even! Understand how “an eye for an eye” expresses God’s
justice. The principle to which Jesus refers is stated in Leviticus
24 as well as Exodus 21 and Deuteronomy 19. Very similar expressions
have been found in the Code of Hammurabi and in ancient Egyptian
literature. It is sometimes called lex talionis,
or the law of retribution. Why did God give this principle to his
people? On the one hand, it guards against excessive punishment. But
as you look at the contexts in which it occurs in Scripture, it also
seems to emphasize that just appropriate punishment must be
administered. God is not a respecter of persons, and neither should
the administration of justice be partial or biased. The living and
true God is perfectly just. He defines justice and his final judgment
is perfectly equitable—because he does it. Vengeance is ultimately
his. That is one reason we don’t have to get even. “Retribution is
never for the purpose of placating personal revenge but for the
purpose of satisfying justice. Justice is not vindictive though it is
vindicatory.” (John Murray, Principles of Conduct,
p. 174) Notice how Jesus introduces his reference, with “you have
heard that it was said,” not, “it is written.” He is not
abrogating God’s justice but calling you to a higher standard than
the way the principle was taught and used.
What is your reaction when you hear a promise that is prefaced by, “If I am elected, I shall…”? In Matthew 5:33–37 Jesus tells you what he thinks of promises casually made and lightly broken.
was said long ago? God expects his people to keep their vows. Though
he doesn’t quote exactly, he has passages such as Leviticus 19:12;
Numbers 10:2; and Deuteronomy 23:21 om view. God generally did not
require his people to make vows, but if they voluntarily made vows,
they were required to keep them. The teachers of Israel recognized
that vows made to the Lord were to be kept. Similarly, the ninth
commandment forbids false witness. That opposes not only perjury, but
any kind of lying.
have all witnessed words something like this: A minister says,
“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the presence of God and
these witnesses to join this man and this woman in holy matrimony.”
The the couple speak: “I, M—, take you, N—, to be my wedded
wife, and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to
be your loving and faithful husband in sickness and in health, in
plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall
live.” and, “I, N—, take you, M—, to be my wedded husband,
and I do promise and covenant before God and these witnesses to be
your loving and faithful wife in sickness and in health, in plenty
and in want, in joy and in sorrow, as long as we both shall live.”
And then you hear: “By virtue of the authority committed unto me as
a minister of the church of Jesus Christ, I now pronounce you husband
and wife, according to the ordinance of God and the law of the State,
in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. What
God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” That ought to be
the beginning of a life-long commitment to being together. But, as
Jesus points out in Matthew 5:31–32, too often that is not the