In the beginning there was a garden and a tree here on earth. God was there. People were there. There was no other place (Gen. 2:8-9).
In the end, there is a garden and a tree here on earth. God will be there. People will be there. There is no other place (Rev. 21-22).
So, we live between the trees but the question is how do we live? How do we live in a way that is faithful to God? What is our goal? What is our mission?
What have we seen far?
After God creates a good & beautiful universe, people corrupt it by rebelling against their creator culminating in violence and the quest to seek not just vengeance but vengeance “seventy-seven fold” (Gen. 4:24).
So, God decides to start over (Gen. 6) but even that new beginning falters (Gen. 11).
Yet, God refuses to give up. He calls Abraham to serve as the catalyst for his resurrection rescue plan (Gen. 12:1-3).
He chooses Abraham for very good reasons for he trusts God (Gen. 12:1) and is the type of man who prays for his enemies even those who oppress and rape (Gen. 18:22-33).
God even rescues Abraham’s children from an evil empire (Exodus 3:7-12) where their worth and identity is in making bricks to a mission to save the world.
Yet , Israel rebels and seeks to establish it’s own empire. God, however, in his radical faithfulness to His people and His plan, calls them back to mission through the prophets.
By the time of Jesus there were essentially 4 different views as to how to live in between the trees:
-The Pharisees who believed they needed to be the moral police so that God would have no choice but to bless them.
-The Zealots who believed that it was time to grab a weapon and eliminate the enemy.
–The Essenes who can be viewed either as the hippie/Jesus people who separate and wait for things to be groovy or the fundamentalist sectarians.
-The Sadducees who believed that you just go along to get along to enjoy your best life now and make a few bucks on the way.
-Then there was the way presented by Jesus…
Matt. 5:38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ 39 But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. 40 And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. 41 If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
–the way of Jesus involves many things and one of the toughest is forgiveness and non-violent resistance.
Why should we refuse to take vengeance? Why risk being taken advantage of? Being ridiculed? Looking weak?
Because we believe in something.
We believe that in the end, there will be a resurrection. In the end, there will be a judgment. In the end, there will be an eternity here on earth where weak is strong. In the end, we will see that our sacrifices meant something. In the end, we will see that praying for our enemies meant something. In the end, we will see that prophetically calling the church back to misssion as well as visiting the sick, feeding the hungry and turning the other cheek is a means of victory not defeat. In the end, love wins. Love always wins.