Subject: Redeemer Downtown Devotional: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 16, 2012

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Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost - September 16, 2012

These devotionals are to help you prepare for each Sunday to come in the Christian Calendar.* 

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 (ESV)
Forgiveness is a practice of relational living -- of being in relationship with other people -- that is absolutely critical to how we love our neighbors. Like hospitality and generosity, forgiveness of others is a seemingly ordinary practice that is actually an expression of an extraordinary reality: in this case, the mercy and grace we experience through Jesus Christ. In addition, as we live in the rough and tumble reality of urban life, forgiveness is a way to bring reconciliation to a city that is more familiar with retribution.

The phrase “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” was a legal principle that set Israel apart from many of its neighbors, whose judicial systems often showed preferential treatment to the powerful, with punishment of the powerful often disproportionately lenient and that of the powerless disproportionately severe. Here, Jesus calls us (“I say to you...”) in our personal relationships not to take retributive justice into our own hands -- or even to respond to insult with insult. Rather than invoking the principle of retribution, we are called to absorb relational hardship ourselves: a slap on the cheek, the loss of a cloak, or the hardship of laboring further in a relationship. In other words, we are called to forgive.

Jesus concludes by calling us to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Our practice of forgiveness, therefore, is based upon and derived from God’s practice of forgiveness -- of us. Jesus Christ bore the relational hardship of our sin by going the extra mile to the cross, of losing his cloak and experiencing radical nakedness, of bearing further physical assault on our behalf. Instead of inflicting retributive harm on us, He bore relational hardship for us. And in light of that hardship-bearing perfect love shown toward us, we have the resources to show hardship-bearing love toward others.
John C. Lin, Downtown Lead Pastor

O God, because without you we are not able to please you, mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Collect** from The Book of Common Prayer

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