All of us I suppose remember our teachers at school, the ones that we liked and the ones we didn’t like. The ones that were kind to us and the ones that we thought were not good to us. Although we thought at the time that the teachers who were the softest and let us do we want were the best of the teachers, we have come to realise that they were maybe were not what we thought they were. Instead the ones that demanded a lot from us, explained the hardest of things, helped us to understand, stopped us from carrying on, got us down to work proved to be the best of teachers.
The teacher who stood over you and made you write better, the teacher who made you think, the teacher who made you run faster, the teacher who gave you extra homework proved to be the better teacher – those who challenged you and stretched you and made you learn were with hindsight worth their weight in gold.
Jesus is that kind of teacher. Challenging, demanding, wanting high standards.
What could be more demanding or challenging than allowing someone to strike you a second time, take your cloak when they have your tunic, go two miles when you have already gone one mile with them. What could be harder than loving those who don’t love you.
This is hard lesson, a high standard to expect: a forgiving love, a giving and generous love, a love that doesn’t look for anything in return.
Most of us understand what love is. Love is a two-way deal, you love me and I love you. You give to me and I give to you. You make me happy and I make you happy. Most of us know it has to be 2 way, if it is not that then it doesn’t look like or feel like love.
But Jesus speaks of a different love. A love that gives without looking for anything in returns. A love that forgives an enemy. A love that is rebuked and still loves. Surely at the end of the day this is not going anywhere, you will appear foolish, it will be one-sided, empty.
I think what Jesus is describing here is God’s love for us: he doesn’t count the cost, he continues to give even when there is nothing in return, he loves us when we don’t love Him, he offers our cheek to him even when we have struck him once already.
It’s as if he is speaking to us about a love that is a notch higher, that is up a level, that is not just looking for what it gets in return.
It is possible to love like this - even when it doesn’t seem that you are able to do it – because at the end of it there is something more pure and stronger and more real and more lasting.
Infact the sermon on the mount is being lived daily. When someone forgives their enemy. When someone gives without looking for anything in return. When someone is rebuked and yet still loves.
I think when we realise that we are doing this we are playing at a different level, we have upped our game. That we have learned something which puts us in a different division.
A wife visits her sick husband who no longer knows who she is.. A member of a family pays a family members debts without looking for the money to be paid back. A person is insulted, spoken behind their back, spoken of ill of and yet forgives, overlooks the offence, sees beyond it. A parent still loves their child even when they are awkward, cold and indifferent to them. A person still loves their friend even when they have been mean to them. A person still loves someone when they have done great harm to you. A wife loves her husband even although he has grown cold to her.
People are living these things every day. They have found a love that is more pure, a love that loves just because it loves.
In life Jesus is our teacher and we are the one who learn from him. Life and ordinary situations are the lessons that he speaks to us through. Daily we are being invited to live the sermon on the mountain, daily we are being asked to live this kind of love.
In the sermon on the mount he asks us to come up a level, to raise our game, to find that extra dimension to life.
The teacher in the life that taught us most wasn’t the easiest person but that teacher that taught us most was the most valuable to us. In life Christ is our teacher, demanding and challenging. The end result is growth, real growth. Who wouldn’t want that?