It’s always important to know the rules. We have rules at school, work, and at home. We establish laws to govern traffic: speed limits, stop signs, turn lanes and signals. We pass laws for family, marriage, commerce and civil conduct. We spend billions of dollars to employ law enforcement officials, judges and lawyers to make sure the rules are obeyed.
We even have rules for play. Every sport has its rules with umpires and referees to ensure that the rules are enforced. We’ve added instant replay to make sure their rulings are fair and objective. Still, arguments erupt and tempers flare when either side believes it has been unfairly judged. People are still arguing the stewards’ ruling that disqualified Maximum Security at the Kentucky Derby.
Some rules are unwritten. We assume we know them from birth. They’re common to every culture on earth. They are simple rules: love your family and your friends. Do good things for them. Love your country. If someone hits you, hit them back. First come, first serve. Lend to those who can repay with interest. Look out for “number one.” Protect your property. Defend yourself. Get even. They’re the stuff of most movies and novels. They’re the rules by which we live our lives.
Jesus’ words sound strange when compared to our natural assumptions about how life is supposed to work. “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” (Luke 6:27-36).
Jesus rewrote the rules.