SCRIPTURE: Matthew 5:38-48
Reptile brain, monkey brain and human brain, these are three parts of our brain. Our reptile brain is our fight or flight impulse in danger. Our monkey brain is our emotional response. Still not logical, but intuitive, fear based, anger response, impassioned, obsessive decisions. And our human brain is our thinking before we do brain. Jesus is advocating our use of our God given human brain. We need our reptile brain to help us respond to dangerous situations quickly. We need our monkey brains because this helps us to empathize with others. But instead of striking back in anger, we must use our human brains, that help us to build relationships through forgiveness, prayer and
Justice is equal hurt for equal hurt, an eye for an eye, and tooth for tooth. When some one hurts us we have a right to hurt them back just as much as they have hurt us, but no more. My Systematics professor, Collin Brown, described forgiveness as giving up our right to hurt back as much we have been hurt. The NRSV has an odd translation of verse 39 "Do not resist an evil doer." Emerson Powery’s Sermon Brainwave’s commentary says, “Rather, Jesus has an alternative strategy for dealing with evil. His objective is to overcome evil with good." So not to be tempted to retaliate or engage in the endless cycle of revenge.
This is illustrated by turning the other cheek. We are not opening ourselves up to getting hit a second time but we are giving up our right to hurt back by offering the other cheek. This has been helpful in understanding forgiveness as an act of
strength and a not weakness. In forgiveness we choose not to hurt back in the way that we have been hurt. Then we don’t have to rely on our poor memory to forgive because forgetting is not a condition to forgiveness, but remembering that
we have chosen not to hurt back is. Then there are those, that no matter what we do, we seem to be at odds with
them. Sometimes we may even refer to these as enemies. At least Jesus doesn’t tell us not to have enemies, but challenges us to submit them to the will of God through our prayers for them. The greatest good we can desire for them is to know God and to have God's rule over their lives. But Prayer is double edged, as we pray for our enemies, we find ourselves subject to prayers for ourselves and our behavior and how we too are to be formed by the will of God.
The blessings of God's rule is for everyone. Knowing God as a parent is different from knowing God as the Judge of the Universe, the Creator of everything and decider of the destinies of life and death. Then the punch line of this passage is to be Perfect as the Lord God is perfect, Perfection not as justification before God but perfect as being complete in love,
growing in intimacy and maturity.
The Lamb of God brings deliverance and liberation that moves us from obedience of the law to the internalization of the intent of God’s will in our hearts. We saw this last week as Jesus tells us to resolve anger, work at reconciliation,
control lust, bolster covenant, act honesty and practice truth telling. This week Jesus challenges us to forgive, pray and love. I like to hang out with smart people because it makes me look smarter than I am. I went to the Maui Outstanding Piano Amateur Festival master class on Friday. Later Damira introduced me to a couple of the pianist who in their real
lives are professors in science doing research! They are like rock stars and made me look brilliant and talented just by being seen talking to them. How do you think people feel being in the company of Christians who are forgiving,
praying for their enemies and themselves, and perfecting their love for God and their neighbors?
Awesome community. What we learn about God hanging out with Jesus shapes our relationship with God. How we live with God and has an effect on how we live in relationship with our neighbor. We are not punished for the hurt we have caused God so we are able to give up our right, to hurt back those who have hurt us.
This draws me back to Allan Boesak and the first time I heard him speak. An antiapartheid leader in South Africa, he spoke at Keawala’i church and talked about seeing ‘the wounds’. When we can see ‘the wounds’ in people, then they become human again and our treatment of them becomes more human. But anytime we count people as being less than human by the color of their skin, their lack of education, economic status, where they come from, their religion, then it justifies our behavior to treat them as less than human. Jesus’ words gives dignity even to our enemies and gives us no excuse for
treating anyone less than a child whom God loves. Jesus takes down walls instead of building them, Jesus speaks truth instead of name calling. Jesus forgives instead of blames, and Jesus chooses love instead of power.
We have three brains. We can take quick action when we are in danger, but when the urgency is not so immediate, we can check in with our feelings and how what we are feeling might be determining how we are reacting. And if we have even more time, then we can even determine our actions beyond what we feel, such as loving an enemy we hate and praying for them or by holding back on our first impulse of revenge in order to seek the reason for the initial blows.
Then by admitting how we contributed to the situation we were in, we can ask for forgiveness and take responsibility for our actions to prevent this from happening again.
We are on the road of reconciliation. We are operating at a higher level, using
our human brain. We are choosing love over justice and participating in the rule
of God over our lives.