• Tony Birkhead

Messy Grace Week -3

How messy I am willing to get will be determined by the value I place on the people!


Have you ever served on a jury? If so, describe the trial and what it was like to be an administer of justice. Do you feel like justice was served in your particular trial?

Is it possible for a justice system to be truly just? Why or why not?

What responsibilities do you think Christians have to pursue issues of justice in the world today?

The system of justice is one of the backbones of society. Its purpose is to punish those who do wrong and defend those who are innocent. As great as our justice system is, however, it is far from perfect because it is in the hands of imperfect humanity. When we think about the type of justice Jesus wants His followers to model, we can’t view it through the lens of the human race. We have to remember that it is modeled on God’s perfect justice, which is rooted in mercy and love.


Matthew 5:38-48

“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.


Read Matthew 5:38-42.

What was the original meaning of “eye for eye” and “tooth for tooth” (Ex. 21:24; Lev. 24:17-20)?

How was this law being twisted by the religious teachers of Jesus’ day?

The command about revenge is in Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:20; and Deuteronomy 19:21. Without a law like this, the loss of, say, one tooth, could lead to the revenge of knocking out two teeth, which could then escalate further. The command was to make payback proportional to the damage caused. In its Old Testament form, this law kept legal judgments from being over the top.

How did Jesus’ interpretation of this law differ from the Pharisees’? How did this raise expectations for His followers?

What stands out to you about the four examples Jesus gave His followers in verses 39-42? How do these apply to our lives today?

What qualities are to replace our desire for revenge when it surfaces?

In the first century, this law was an excuse for taking personal revenge. Some religious teachers—forgetting the principle of mercy—thought equal payback was always required. Jesus, however, taught a better way for His followers. Those whose hearts He has cleansed have no need to fight back. They don’t need to get even. They can give up the right to vengeance, believing that ultimately the Lord will judge all evil. When God’s people refuse to retaliate, they show they trust God to judge all things fairly in the end. In verses 39-42, Jesus offered four examples of what it means not to fight back when evil is done. In each instance, the natural tendency to fight back is overcome by a heart changed by Christ, a heart rooted in mercy, grace, compassion, and love.

How did Jesus’ life display His teaching of love-shaped justice?

What do we communicate to God and others when we take Jesus’ command in this passage seriously?

Because we have experienced the love of Christ, Jesus’ followers will act with greater kindness and more love than the law requires. Love requires us to resist the tendency to retaliate and instead to work for the good of those seeking to hurt us. Think about ways you could serve others by self-sacrifice. Remember the truth that giving up your rights, possessions, and time shows respect both for God and for others.

READ Matthew 5:43-48.

Jesus quoted a Scripture His audience knew: “You shall love your neighbor.” Here Jesus included an additional part of the saying people knew but was not found in Scripture. The command to hate your enemy was a twisted corollary of the command to love one’s neighbors. Yet because we find it easy to hate our enemies, we can understand why religious people of Jesus’ day thought it was the right thing to do.

What was the main point of the law to love your neighbor and hate your enemy? How did Jesus’ teaching differ from the Pharisees’? How did this change what His followers expected?

Have someone read Romans 12:17-21. How does God’s command in these verses compare with His command in Matthew 5:43-44?

How did Jesus’ life demonstrate this teaching?

Jesus’ understanding of the command to love your neighbor was to put no limits on who our neighbors are. Neighbors include even our enemies and persecutors. Our Lord Himself is the ultimate model of this. While on the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). He set the ultimate example for us when He showed love to His enemies by forgiving those who crucified Him.

Why is it so hard for us to love our “enemies”?

Read verse 48 again. What does it say about God that He demands perfection from us, and yet when we can’t achieve that, He fulfills His own requirements in our place?


  • From the expectations Jesus gave in today’s passage, what are some things love requires of us?

  • How does the gospel help you follow Jesus’ command to react with grace in the face of injustice?

  • How can we as a small group help each other respond correctly to the messy people in our lives?


Divide into smaller groups for today’s prayer time. Spend a few minutes sharing areas for improvement where God’s love needs to have more impact on your attitude and response to difficult situations. Pray for the needs addressed by those in your smaller group.


Matthew 5:38-48

As many do today, the scribes and Pharisees of Jesus’ day must have taken the “eye for an eye” passages (Exod. 21:24; Lev. 24:19-20; Deut. 19:21) as a reason for hurting others at least as badly as they had been hurt. The law was not given to call for revenge, but to bring justice. Breaking the law has consequences, but these passages have often been wrongly taken as a guide for fighting back. What Jesus clarifies is that they were always intended as a maximum for retaliation, and that mercy was always acceptable.

For the Christ follower, “letting the punishment fit the crime” falls short. We must actually consider blessing the one who has done wrong. Mercy (withholding deserved punishment) and grace (giving undeserved gifts) are the right conduct.

The one mile (5:41) refers to the practice of the Roman soldiers requiring people to carry their burden for one mile. By Roman law, the soldier could require no more than one mile of a single person, but Jesus’ kingdom servants (in representing the gracious spirit of their king) are to go beyond what is required of them.

The first part of Jesus’ quote in 5:43, “Love your neighbor,” is one of the central commands of the Bible (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:34-40). But mistaken thinking came with the second portion: “and hate your enemy.” Here again, the human desire is revenge, which might seem logical, flowing out of the first statement. But the reality is that “hate your enemy” is far removed from God’s intended meaning in “love your neighbor.” In the parallel passage in Luke (10:25-37), Jesus explained through the parable of the good Samaritan that every human we have contact with is our neighbor. Therefore, by definition, Christians are to love everyone and hate no one.

Jesus used a different approach to make the same point. He emphasized two principles to urge His followers to love all people. First, He urged them to follow the example of their Father in heaven. The Father gives gifts (sun and rain) to good and evil alike, and so we, as believers, ought to love and pray for our enemies (Luke 23:34; Rom. 5:8). By this we will show ourselves “sons of your Father in heaven.” He teaches us to love everyone because God does.

The ultimate expression of this pattern is the command to imitate the Father in 5:48, Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Jesus used teleios, a Greek word that means “having reached its end, mature, complete, perfect.” The goal for the kingdom servant is to behave like his Father, and so to reach the mature level of transformation.

Second, Jesus urges us to show ourselves to be different from the rest of the world. This is actually the flip side of the first argument, to be like the Father. If we show partiality and if we love only those who love us, we are like unbelievers. If, on the other hand, we show love to all, guided by grace and mercy, then we show ourselves to be different, and we shine before the world (5:14-16), bringing glory to the Father. All six examples are strong, but this one in particular stands out as showing mercy and grace, the supernatural qualities of God’s people.



The QT Guide is designed to help you MOVE with God through Bible Reading, reflection and prayer. It can be completed in about 9 minutes.

UPWARD: 1⁄2 Minute Preparing Your Heart:Invest the first 30 seconds preparing your heart. You might pray, “Lord, cleanse my heart so You can speak to me through the Scriptures. Make my mind alert, my soul active, and my heart responsive. Surround me with Your presence during this time.

FORWARD: 4 Minutes Listening To God:Take the next four minutes to read the Bible. Your greatest need is to hear a word from God. Allow the Word to strike fire in your heart. Meet the Author!

INWARD: 2 1/2 Minutes Talking To God (Prayer):After God has spoken through His Book, then speak to Him in prayer.

OUTWARD: 2 Minutes Preparing your Action:Ask yourself this question: How can I take today’s Quiet Time and put it into action throughout my day?


but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

Gosh, I hear this a lot in Christian circles that it’s un-Christlike to not “like” someone. Well that’s a bunch of hogwash. All of us have different personalities, and it is unrealistic that you will “like” everyone, or be in relationship with them. There are four Greek words for love, two used in the Bible specifically: phileo and agape.

Now, phileo is a deep friendship type of love. This would be those people you hang with, your besties, the people you actually like to be around and “click” with. The other type of love is agape. Agape is a willful love, a purposeful love of the heart and the mind, that shows kindness in spite of whether or not you “like” someone. Hence, it’s a stronger love. It was agape love that drove Jesus, not because He liked people or what they did, quite the contrary. He liked a few close friends. He chose willfully to show kindness and mercy to even His enemies, those who profaned Him. It was agape love that kept Him on the cross so that His enemies could become sons and daughters.

We are told, “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.” (Eph 4:32) This is agape love, that you willfully show kindness, even when you don’t “like” someone; that you willfully forgive, even when you don’t feel like it. This purposeful agape love, therefore, makes it possible to “love your enemies and do good to those who misuse you” even when you don’t “like” them. If you’re struggling with this today, draw on His strength and His power!

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

John 13:35

Love is powerful. So powerful in fact, Jesus summarized the entire Ten Commandments using only love: “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love others as yourself (Mark 12:30–31).” “[Jesus said,] I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other (John 13:34).”

Now, when it comes to loving those closest to us, we should, of course, tell those people that we love them—and often. However, in reality, doing so requires very little faith on our part because chances are our love will be returned to us in equal measure. (Read Luke 6:32–33) Once we’ve experienced the true nature of God’s unending, unconditional love, the only reasonable response is to share that love with others who have not yet experienced it. But this is where Jesus asks us to lean on our faith. He gave another commandment that often seems illogical and at times, impossible. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you (Luke 6:27).” We are called to love the unlovable.

This selfless love He’s describing can only be expressed with the supernatural help of the Holy Spirit. When we put aside our emotions and trust the healing power of the Holy Spirit to help us and work through us for the benefit of those on the receiving end, we become a witness of God’s transforming love and power.

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.com


We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

2 Thessalonians 1:3

Have you ever said to yourself, “I need to increase my faith”? Maybe you have read a book, or listened to a sermon series that encouraged your faith. It’s fairly common for us to review our relationship with God, but less common to focus on the outward expression of our faith, which is love. Do you ever look at your life and think “I am not loving others enough, therefore my faith is lacking” ? Faith isn’t simply head knowledge of the Bible or Jesus; even Satan and his demons believe that Jesus died and rose from the dead (James 2:19). We must realize that true faith produces fruit, and that fruit is love.

Paul understood that the church in Thessalonica was increasing in their faith because their love for each other was also increasing. Paul told Timothy that he is to love from a pure heart, good conscience, and a sincere faith (1 Timothy 1:5). Our faith is ultimately in a God who showed love towards us his enemies, through the death of his son on a cross (Romans 5:10). Unfortunately, many who are outside the church see it as a people who have faith in a God or Bible that produces the fruit of hate and condemnation instead of love. Our faith in Jesus should show through our love towards those both outside and inside the church. Do you feel as though your faith is strong, yet you seem to not show love towards others?

Adapted From: http://shortdailydevotions.org


“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28 bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

Luke 6:27-28

As stories of the persecuted church reach us, we learn about Christians who respond to imprisonment, beatings, and harassment with unimaginable grace and dignity. These saints have learned to obey Christ’s command to “love your enemies” (Luke 6:27), even in the harshest of circumstances.

We may never face physical persecution for our faith, but we will run across people who hate and mistreat us. The most natural response is to dislike them in return, but harboring ill will and bitterness chokes our witness and poisons our souls. Instead, Jesus instructs us to love our adversaries and treat them well.

The Greek word for this kind of love is agape—this is not a feeling based on the other person’s likability or favor toward us but, rather, an action of the will that does what is best for the other person. It’s the type of love God has and, therefore, is not something we can muster within ourselves. But as the Holy Spirit produces His fruit in us, agape love will flow through us, even to our enemies.

When someone wrongs or hurts us, it’s an opportunity to be a witness for Christ. Rather than harboring animosity or seeking revenge, we are told to pray for our adversary. Instead of begging the Father to defeat our enemy, we can ask Him for the strength to express genuine Christlike love in the face of opposition. That’s the kind of prayer God is delighted to answer. And when we are privileged to meet the need of one who despises us, we might just see an amazing change in his life.

Adapted From: http://intouch.org


And then he added, "It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person's heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.

Mark 7:20-23

Three enemies that we contend with as Christians are the world, the flesh, and the devil. The world with its allure is the external foe. The flesh with its evil desires is the internal foe. And the devil with his enticements is the infernal foe. These are what we deal with on a daily basis.

The problem is that we become frenemies with the world. A frenemy is someone whom you normally don’t get along with, but if it serves both of your purposes, you temporarily become friends. Or, it might be a love-hate relationship: You are on. You are off. You are on. You are off. Then again, it might be a description of a relationship that is poisonous, and whenever you are around that person, it drags you down spiritually. Thus, he or she becomes a frenemy.

Some of us have become frenemies with the world. When the Bible speaks of the world, it doesn’t mean the planet Earth. It is speaking of a pervasive philosophy that infects everything, everywhere. We are told in 1 John 2:16, “For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world.”

The world is enticing. But for its pull to work, we must desire what it is offering. Jesus said, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you” (Mark 7:20). Why do we do the stupid stuff that we do? It is just our nature—our human, sinful nature. We have to be aware of the combustible, evil, sinful nature that is inside every one of us. The answer is not within; the problem is within. So when we give in to temptation, we have ourselves to thank.

Adapted From: http://harvest.org


One of the best ways to fight temptation and grow in your daily walk with Jesus is to memorize His Word. Begin to commit His words to your memory this week.

Memorizing may be as simple as repeating the passage aloud 10 times each day or writing it 5 times each day. It may be that you place a 3x5 card on your mirror to remind you each day. Whatever it takes you won’t be let down with His Word in your mind and heart. Consider this…

“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,

Matthew 5:43-44

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