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Moving Along

Moving Along

The travel gods must have recognized the difficulty of our trip to visit Oklahoma, because our return voyage was much more pleasant. On our flight from New York to Paris, the cosmos deemed it acceptable to give Mikey and me a row of four seats each. So, thank you to whomever prayed for our trip.

For many people around the world, another school year is well underway. Sahel Academy, where I teach and where Mikey attends, follows the general American schedule. We started classes toward the middle of August.  

At the international school, I teach English Grammar and Composition, British/American Literature, and a high school Bible class. At the local Bible institute, I will be teaching Introduction to the New Testament, a two-week block course.

The pictures in the featured image are clay representations of the devil and Jesus. You can guess which is which. They were lovingly created by one of my classes (the juniors and seniors) at the international school.

I’d like to share with you an analysis of a passage of Scripture that was the focus of one of my classes.

Matthew 5
Jesus’ famous teachings in Matthew 5 could be summarized in this nutshell: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye and tooth for tooth.’ … But I tell you: Love your enemies” (38, 44). Many scholars describe Jesus as replacing Moses in the role of God’s great law giver. Matthew 5 contains a portion of the Law.

Jesus quotes the Law of Moses regarding the concept of an eye for an eye. Modern readers think of payback, no matter how equal, to be rather antiquated. This is, after all, the very concept that has led to innumerable school-yard brawls and certainly more than one military battle.

However, at the moment of human history when Moses penned it, it was quite forward-thinking. Up to that point, much of earthly society was governed by the idea that the fear of brutal reprisal would cause people to treat each other with careful respect. Genesis 4:15 says that anyone who kills Cain “will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Of course, humans are not careful, and humans do accidently (or somewhat accidently) hurt each other. Under ancient ethics, the act of a clumsy farmer that inadvertently injured a neighbor could lead to tribal warfare. Moses enters the ethical conversation and begins a progression by declaring that retribution will be equal to given circumstances. No longer should a family pick up weapons in order to avenge broken ribs. Whoever broke the ribs will have their ribs broken, not their back.

Then Jesus arrives on earth and proceeds with the moral progression begun by Moses. In Matthew 5, he prescribes: “Pray for those who persecute you…. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (44, 48). Jesus commands forgiveness. In verses 40 to 42, he advises blessing enemies with clothing, unforced labor (the literal extra mile), and loans that look like grants. Jesus is not saying here that his followers should be destitute. But he is demanding a servant spirit. Jesus knew that, during moments of unnatural kindness, enemies and non-Christians would begin to wonder about the reason for such grace.

I often ponder an illustration that I heard in Bible college. [As a side note, it seems oddly relevant that the New Testament professor who presented this illustration is no longer a Christian, and spectacularly no longer a Christian.] The illustration draws contrasts between justice, forgiveness, and grace. Justice dictates that a person who punches another be punched in return. Forgiveness makes room for the offender and the victim to be reconciled. However, grace would see the victim walk into a kitchen and bake a cake for the offender.

Below are some simple videos.