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Matthew 5:38-48

Love Wins

  • Matthew Dodd
  • Weekend Messages
  • July 1, 2018

We all know the emotions that consume us, the thoughts that race through our minds when we’ve been wronged. When wronged, what thoughts have filled your mind? What words have come out of your mouth? What actions have you taken? How do you respond to your enemies? In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus explained what He expects from His disciples when they’re wronged so that love wins!

  • Sermon Notes

Love Wins

Matthew 5:38-48


ILLUS – A Good Revenge Story!

1.We all know the emotions that consume us, the thoughts that race through our minds when we’ve been wronged.

2.When wronged, what thoughts have filled your mind? What words have come out of your mouth? What actions have you taken? How do you respond to your enemies?

3.In Matthew 5:38-48, Jesus explained what He expects from His disciples when they’re wronged so that love wins!

Matthew 5:38-48


1.In Matthew 5:20, Jesus declared that perfection is the standard for entrance into the kingdom of heaven. He said, “For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.” 

2.The scribes and Pharisees were hailed as the standard of righteousness. But Jesus said their standard was not good enough because they only focused on an external obedience to the Law.

3.God’s standard examines the heart! God desires true righteousness where obedience flows from a heart that is filled with faith because it has been transformed by His love and grace through Jesus.

4.Now we come to what has been called the highest point of the Sermon on the Mount; verses that are the most admired and most resented because they challenge us to love when wronged. How do we love when wronged?

I.  Seek the Highest Good (38-42)

In verse 38, Jesus quoted from Leviticus 24, regarding the legal recourse a victim had against someone who injured them.  

Leviticus 24:19-20, If a man injures his neighbor, just as he has done, so it shall be done to him: fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth; just as he has injured a man, so it shall be inflicted on him.

  • This is the called “Law of Retaliation”, lex talionis.
  • This and other commands were given to help Israel’s judges render just judgments.
  • The goal was to protect the innocent and ensure “the punishment fits the crime”.
  • “The Law of Retaliation” also prohibited taking the “law into your own hands”; personal revenge.
  • Jesus confronted the scribes and Pharisees because they wrongly applied the “Law of Retribution” to personal relationships to justify personal revenge. 

A.   Do not seek your own revenge

  1. The scribes and Pharisees should have known personal revenge was forbidden in their Law.

Leviticus 19:18, You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people… I am the Lord.

     2. Jesus elevated the standard in verse 39 when He said, “do not resist him who is evil”.

a.“Resist” means to “oppose” or “to set oneself against someone or something”.

b. Here, “evil” means a person who is evil; an “evil one”, not Satan or a “concept” of evil.

c. What was Jesus teaching? Jesus was not commanding us to sit by while we or a loved one is threatened. Self-defense is permitted to subdue the one who seeks to harm us until the authorities have arrived.

3. In verses 39-42, Jesus provided four real-life scenarios to clarify His point.

a. If an evil person slaps you on the cheek, turn the other cheek. (39) In that culture, getting slapped on the cheek was the highest form of insult and was punishable by a very heavy fine.

ILLUS – Today, in many Arab cultures, the most extreme insult is having someone throw their shoe at you.

APPL To turn the other cheek does not mean that we forfeit the right to call out the injustice and seek an apology. Notice how Jesus responded when struck by an officer of the high priest.

John 18:23, Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”

APPL – It means that we must not exchange insult for insult. Don’t add fuel to the fire. Seek the highest good!

1 Peter 3:8-9, Be humble in spirit; not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.

b. If an evil person sues you for your t-shirt, give him your jacket too. (40) The “shirt” was an inexpensive undergarment. The “coat” (cloak) was a more expensive outer garment. The Law prohibited keeping someone’s cloak overnight. If you lost your cloak, you had the right to get it back.

Exodus 22:26-27, If you ever take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you are to return it to him before the sun sets, for that is his only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else shall he sleep in? And it shall come about that when he cries out to Me, I will hear him, for I am gracious.

APPL – Here, Jesus declared that Christians should not imitate those who use the law or other means to take advantage of others. Instead of demanding your rights and fighting fire with fire, settle the matter peacefully and graciously. Give more than is asked with the hope of winning over the person. Seek the highest good!

ILLUS – My counsel when there is a dispute.

c. If asked to go one mile, go two. (41) In that day, a Roman soldier could “press” a person into service against their wishes (i.e. carry a load or take a document to a military post), like Simon of Cyrene.

Matthew 27:32, As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross. 

APPL – Don’t “resist” requests for help. Go the extra mile.

d.Give to those in need. (42) Be generous!

1 John 3:17, But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?

APPL – This does not mean that you should enable laziness or sinful choices. Discern the best way to meet the need.

2 Thessalonians 3:10-12, … if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies. Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.

APPL – So when our “justice meter” goes off and we feel like we won’t get justice, we must remember to seek the highest good. It is not for us to seek revenge because…

B.God will settle all accounts

1.When wronged, the flesh wants to return evil for evil. We want our “pound of flesh”!

ILLUS – It’s time to get your house in order.

2.When wronged, we must rely on the Holy Spirit and give God room to move on our behalf so that we are not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good. It’s a choice! The Apostle Paul’s words echo Christ’s command.

Romans 12:17-21, Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

3. Jesus set the example for us. He was falsely accused, mocked, beaten, and crucified. He did not retaliate. He overcame evil with love and we must too.

1 Peter 2:20-23, But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

APPL – To summarize, Jesus was declaring that even though we may have the right to exercise our rights, as Christians, we must seek the highest good. When love wins, God is glorified!

II.Love Your Enemies (43-48)

  • The scribes and Pharisees taught that Israel should love those near and dear to them. 

Leviticus 19:18, You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

  • They also taught that by hating their enemies, God was using them to judge their enemies.
  • Jesus corrected their false teaching and taught that God’s people must love their enemies and pray for their persecutors so that they might be sons of their heavenly Father (44-45)! 

A  .God loved us when we were His enemies

1.God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good. He also sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (45).

2.Jesus was declaring that our Father is a God of grace and mercy. He is kind to those who do not deserve His kindness.

3.Why does God show kindness towards His enemies? Because He loves them and wants them to repent of their sin.

Romans 2:4, Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?

B.  Be perfect as God is perfect

1. Verse 48 is the ultimate crescendo to this amazing chapter.

2. Jesus declared that standard is God. If we are God’s children, then we must think, speak, and act as God would have us think, speak, and act.

3. Here, the word “perfect” does not mean sinless perfection for that is impossible on this side of heaven. Rather it is a call “maturity” or “completeness”.

4. Jesus is describing an authentic relationship to God through Jesus Christ so that a person’s heart is changed.

a. Instead of hating our enemies, we can love them because God loved us when we were His enemies.

b. Instead of praying about our enemies, we can pray for them. When we pray for our enemy, it softens our hearts because God gives us His heart for them.

c. We can rise above the worldly standard which tells us to love only those who love us and greet only those who are worthy of our greeting.

APPL – If ever there was a time when this message needed to be embraced, it is today!

  • There is so much hatred, violence, and division.
  • As Christians, we are called to love.
  • But this means our own hearts need to be healed from the hurts that we have suffered so that we stop hurting others. The chain must be broken, and it must begin with us, the body of Christ

ILLUS – Joseph’s example

Genesis 45:19-20, Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.

APPL – How was Joseph able to say comforting words and not seek revenge? The names of his two sons reveal that God had healed his heart…-

Genesis 41:51-52, Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” he said, “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.” He named the second Ephraim, “For,” he said, “God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.


God wants you to give you a Manasseh and an Ephraim. He wants to heal your heart and make your life fruitful!

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