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Connection Points: Rights

March 21 2014
March 21 2014

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38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 5:38-48

Explanation

The people in Jesus' day, just like ours, were very concerned about their rights. 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth' was used to exact justice if your rights had been violated, and even used to justify vengeance if you deemed it appropriate. By way of a few difficult illustrations, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that Christians should not be those who pursue their rights against others: When insulted, we don't insult back; when sued, we don't sue back; when forced into labor, we don't seek manumission; when a beggar asks, we don't close our wallets.

Jesus is framing something better for us than the principle of rights: The Principle of Love. To be sons and daughters of our Father in heaven is to love those enemies who would violate our rights. In this way, we follow the eldest Son of God - He was struck by the priests (Matt. 26:67), He was stripped of his garments (Matthew 27:31), and forced to carry his cross (John 19:17), so that he could give his life in love for his enemies.

Quotes

"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." - Lord Acton

"No baby makes it to the fifth year of life without being the recipient of lavish amounts of attention, provision, and love. In fact, so far from being absolutely corrupted by the absolute power parenthood confers over a new human being, many parents find themselves awakening to new capacities for resilience, sacrifice, and servanthood that they did not know they had before...It is an almost precise inversion of Lord Acton's observation: the more power we have over our children, the more we are williing to sacrifice for them. Love transfigures power. Absolute love transfigures absolute power. And power transfigured by love is the power that made and saves the world." - Andy Crouch, Playing God

Question for Parents

Giving up our rights in love is not a loss of power, but rather power exercised as it was meant to be. How has your role as a parent helped you to understand love and the Christian gospel? What are some very practical ways that you can lead your children to give up their rights for the sake of loving others?

Question for Children

Have you ever experienced someone giving up their rights to love you? What are some ways that you can do this for your siblings, classmates, and friends?


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