“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.
“Love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that?” Matthew 5:38-42; 44-46
Jesus wants us to manifest a different attitude personally as representatives of His kingdom and as His disciples. He wants us to refrain from retaliating. He wants us to resist the obligation to even the score. In other places in Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, God says that vengeance is a factor of His judgment; He will repay the evil done. We are not in the business of evening the score.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20
Okay, I’m going to do a little shameless bragging. Not about me, mind you, but about my wife and three women.
Marti has a discipleship group. They meet once a week via video conferencing. It matters not that one is in California, one in Texas, and one in Washington; they meet for two hours every week face-to-face. They are Catch MemberPartners Marti has gotten to know through volunteer work and counseling. She picked them because they were teachable. It was the same quality Jesus found in His disciples. It mattered not who they were, or their station in life, or the personal baggage they carried; they were teachable, and they were faithful, and that’s all that mattered. Look what Jesus did with His group. They changed the world.
“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!”
– Matthew 6:5-8
In May, 2014, Catch reader Dave Butler came to us to ask if we would be open to a Prayer Ministry. We said most definitely and asked what we needed to do. Dave said, “Do nothing. Wait until people come to you asking if their gift can be used.” Sure enough, within a month and unknown to each other, eleven other Catch readers came to us asking if their services could be used exclusively for the Catch Ministry and its people. Since that one month, no one has approached us until just recently, and we can’t help but think that is to take the place of our dear founder who has since passed away.
Dave instructed us to read every request before sending them to the Prayer Warriors. We had done demographic research, but none of that told us the reader’s stories. It was the first time we really got a handle on the Catch community.
“Look at my Servant, whom I have chosen.
He is my Beloved, who pleases me.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not fight or shout
or raise his voice in public.
He will not crush the weakest reed
or put out a flickering candle.
Finally he will cause justice to be victorious.
And his name will be the hope
of all the world.” Matthew 11:18-21 (Isaiah 42:1-4)
These are not red letters, but they are words about Jesus, describing His character and His mission. They are words from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah recalled by Matthew in his gospel. They present the gentleness of Jesus — something we rarely see or talk about. It’s a prophetic observation about what the Messiah will be like. Had the Jewish leaders been more aware of prophesies like this about the Messiah instead of who and what they wanted Him to be, they would have recognized Jesus immediately.
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
Step out of line, the men come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what’s that sound?
Everybody look what’s goin’ down
– Buffalo Springfield, 1967
“So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” Matthew 6:31-34
Don’t worry; be happy.
– Bobby McFerrin
“Stop! What’s that sound?” The year was 1967. Something was going down in the streets. In a year, (50 years ago now), Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy would be dead — cut down by an assassins’ bullets. The war and confusion in Vietnam would escalate. In two more years four university students in Ohio would be shot down by our own National Guard troops; and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young — the former Buffalo Springfield — would be singing a new song: “Four dead in O-hi-o.” Paranoia indeed strikes deep.
Morning sun rising
There’s sleep in our eyes
And echoes of nightmares
Taunt us with lies
But this is a new day
This is the dawn
There is a new way
Calling us on
Hunger and hatred
War and disease
The debt of the devil
Is never appeased
Truth is the weapon
Faith is the shield
Love is the power
For those who will yield
Don’t trust in armies
There’s no hope in guns
Don’t count on missiles
That block out the sun
For nothing below us
And nothing above
Can ever extinguish
The fire of His love
We have won this war
We have won this war
The fight may not be done
But the war’s already won
– From “We Have Won This War,” by John Fischer
Carole, a loyal Catch member, has an amazing story to tell about how God saved her from an armed attacker who forced his way into her home and held her at gunpoint in her own kitchen. I would tell the story, but it is so compelling that the story would become the point when it is not the point. The point is that God is in control. We are powerless against the forces of evil. To think that training, weapons, pepper spray, and self-defense can protect you is to put your faith in the wrong place.
“But I warn you—unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven! Matthew 5:20
In other words: Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the most holy people you know, don’t even try.
This was one of the main things Jesus accomplished in the Sermon on the Mount. He established a new order. He put the law on a new basis. He made the law harder (indeed, impossible) to obey, but easier to fulfill. If that sounds like the same thing, it’s not. Think of it this way: If you are setting out to make yourself righteous on the basis of following all the laws of God … forget it. But if you want to know the point of the law — the reason behind it — so you can know why God gave it in the first place, and what to focus on, because you want to please Him and align your life in close proximity to His will … then you can do that by following only one law: the law of love.
Faith alone will not protect you in a house of God. Dylan Roof, who fatally shot nine congregants in a Bible Study in a Charleston South Carolina church, didn’t start shooting until the parishioners closed their eyes to pray. So keep your eyes open when you pray. Closing your eyes makes you a target. If you do not have an armed presence in your church, you are simply not ready. Here are some tips for keeping your churches safe: Lock the doors (presumably after everyone is inside); study every person who enters; watch the parking lot; have Sunday school and day care teachers carry pepper spray; and teach people to throw projectiles at attackers. Oh, yes, and don’t close your eyes when you pray.
Such were some of the messages delivered to a roomful of mostly men at a seminar on church security in a prominent evangelical church in southern California recently by a pastor and retired police officer and members of the California Rifle and Pistol Association. The overall message was: should we come under attack in a worship service by a deranged shooter, WE WILL NOT GO QUIETLY!