Huddles: September 18th, 2019
Rescued to a Kingdom: No Heart for Retaliation
Below is the plan for you to follow as you lead out this study. At the end of this post we have attached the full curriculum that includes some very helpful Bible background and commentary to help you as you prepare to lead. Our prayer for you is that the Lord will bring this Scripture to life in your own life and that your leading will be an overflow from that! Let us know if you have any questions.
The Main Idea
This is the third lesson in tour examination of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. As you know, it’s a great framework for thinking about our lives as those who have been rescued from sin, who are children of God, and who live as members of God’s Kingdom. This lesson will look at Jesus’ teaching against retaliation. This is the first of two lessons that will deal with relationships. This lesson will challenge us to re-think how we deal with people who may harm us in some way. The goal is to challenge us all to respond as people who have been rescued to a new, Gospel-centered life.
The Lead In
FIRST, ask if there are any pranksters in the group, who really love to scheme up pranks on their friends. Allow some feedback, then show the video (https://youtu.be/wdvcc3ayjBc), playing it until the 1:30 mark. When you’ve finished showing the video, ask:
- What was your favorite prank?
- Did a specific prank cross the line?
- Who had the best response to being pranked?
THEN, ask everyone to comment on what they think the downside of being pranked is. Allow them to explain. Remind them that the worst part of pranks is revenge. Once you really prank someone, you never know if they are going to come after you for revenge. You can spend your days worrying about when or if it will come. Or even worse, you can forget about it and be caught totally off guard when it happens.
NEXT, ask students to share some stories of when pranks have gone wrong, or revenge has gotten out of hand. Lead them to see that when it comes to pranks, revenge may seem harmless, and most of the times it is. But when it comes to real life, the concept of revenge is pretty harmful. If we’re honest, there are probably times in our lives where we’ve all, at least for a moment, wanted someone to “get what they deserve.” Let students know that in this lesson, you’ll be talking about revenge and retaliation. Say something like:
- Jesus spent some time talking about revenge. Spoiler alert: He’s not exactly in favor of it. But instead of just saying, “Hey, don’t do it,” He gives some examples of how it works that are really, really challenging. Let’s dig in.
THEN, give students a refresher about the background on the Sermon on the Mount. Say something like:
- In the past couple of weeks, we’ve been talking about the Sermon on the Mount, which gets its name from the fact that Jesus preached it on a mountain. Creative, right? But “Sermon on the Mount” probably isn’t the best name for the teaching Jesus did that day because it doesn’t really tell us what Jesus was talking about. The Sermon on the Mount is really about how Jesus expects His followers to live. As we’ve seen, Jesus asks a lot of His followers—He asks us to live in ways that are very, very different from the world around us. Today is no different. In fact, there’s a chance that some of you might even feel a little uncomfortable about what Jesus asks of His followers in the short passage we’re going to look at today.
NEXT, have everyone turn to Matthew 5. While they are finding it, provide some context for the passage using the Bible Background section of the lesson plan. Then, read or have a student read Matthew 5:38. Then, ask:
- When you hear “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth,” what comes to mind?
- Answers will vary. Point students to the idea that usually this phrase is used to indicate revenge of some sort.
- “Eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” actually comes from the Old Testament in Exodus 21:24, so the people listening to Jesus would have been familiar with the idea. In ancient Israelite culture, if someone hurt another person—especially on purpose—the sentence carried out on the one who committed the assault would be to receive the same injuries that they inflicted on the injured person. Is there any part of you that sometimes wishes the people who have hurt you could receive that punishment?
- The purpose of this question is to get students thinking about how we usually desire justice—if not all out revenge—for the people who hurt us. If students are willing to share personal stories, give them time to do so.
THEN, have a student read Matthew 5:39. Ask:
- It’s one thing for Jesus to say that we shouldn’t try to get back at those who hurt us. But how is what Jesus is saying different from, “Hey, don’t seek revenge on someone who hurts you”?
- Answer: Jesus says that we aren’t to even resist someone who wants to insult us (an “evil” person).
- Is that actually something we can do in real life?
- Answer: Of course it’s something we can do, but on the surface, it doesn’t seem very practical. At this point, your goal is to get students to wrestle—both intellectually and emotionally—with this difficult teaching.
- The “if anyone slaps you” example is the first of four examples we’ll see Jesus give about how to not resist someone who wants to harm you. A backhanded slap was a cultural sign of insult. Our modern-day example might be someone who talks about you behind your back or makes fun of you to your friends. So, let’s contextualize this. Imagine that you’re sitting in the lunchroom at your school, and another student starts making fun of you to your lunch table. According to Jesus in this verse, what should you do next?
- Answer: Jesus literally says to offer the other cheek to be slapped as well. If you have a dry erase board, you may want to write “Turn the other cheek.” Help students put this into modern terms by asking for some examples of what this looks like.
NEXT, walk students through the rest of the examples Jesus gives of how His disciples could choose not to resist someone who wants to do them harm. Have a student read Matthew 5:40-42. Ask something like:
- Jesus gives three more examples of how to “not resist the one who is evil.” The first one is about giving a coat (or cloak) to someone who is suing you for your shirt (or your tunic). What do you think that’s about?
- Answer: Jesus asks His disciples to—rather than defending themselves in court—give the person suing them not only what they want, but their coat as well, which was much more valuable than the shirt. This was extremely radical for Jesus’ hearers because Jewish law actually said that to sue someone for their coat was excessive because it was needed as protection against the cold (Exodus 22). Write “Give your coat, too” on the board.
- At this point, what do you think the people who have just decided to follow Jesus—as well as the crowds—are thinking about Him?
- Answers will vary and could include: perhaps He’s crazy, that He demands too much, or that He’s compassionate.
- The next example is of a Roman soldier who asks a disciple to carry his stuff for a mile, which was allowed by Roman law. The Jewish people hated doing this, not just because it was so hard, but also because it was a reminder that they were not a free people. Why do you think Jesus asks them to go an extra mile?
- Answers will vary. Help students begin to work toward the main point that Jesus isn’t just saying not to retaliate. He’s suggesting that His followers should give to and serve people who would seek to harm them. Write “Go the extra mile” on the dry erase board.
- The last example is to give to everyone who begs or asks for something from us. Do you really think Jesus meant everyone?
- Answer: The reality is that Jesus did say “everyone” (or “to anyone” or “the one”). Allow students to wrestle with the implications of following Jesus’ teaching here to the letter. Write “Give to everyone” on the dry erase board.
THEN, help students connect the dots between the different examples that Jesus gave. Ask:
- What do all of these examples on the board have in common?
- Answer: Each one has to do with loving instead of retaliating; Jesus is asking us to do the opposite of what we want to do when we’re wronged; Jesus asks us to give people what they don’t deserve rather than what they do
- Why do you think Jesus asks His disciples to live so differently from the world around them?
- Answers will vary. You’ll get to the answer to this question in the 1 Peter passage.
FINALLY, read or have a student read 1 Peter 2:21-23. Provide some context for the passage if you choose. Then, ask:
- How does what Peter says here connect with the teaching from Jesus we just heard?
- Answer: Jesus lived out perfectly what He asked His disciples to do in Matthew 5:38-42.
- Look at verse 23. Jesus didn’t retaliate against those who tortured and crucified Him, but what did He do?
- Answer: He trusted God, who is a just Judge.
Remind students that Peter asks us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps in verse 21. Explain that you’re going to talk more about how they can do this in their own lives in a minute. But remind students that our lives are supposed to look like Jesus. We’re supposed to mirror Him and His character. When we model His teachings about loving and forgiving those who harm us, we’re actually acting in the way God acts toward us. We’re showing mercy and grace in a similar way to how God shows us these very things.
Ask if there are any questions, then transition into The Last Word.
Last Word & Application
FIRST, let students know that they’ll be coming up with ways to communicate what Jesus taught about retaliation that make sense in their context. Ask something like:
- So when was the last time someone sued you for your tunic or a Roman soldier asked you to carry his stuff?
- Answer: They probably have yet to experience this in their lives.
- The examples that Jesus gave were things that His disciples dealt with or at least were familiar with. Our next step is to take what Jesus talked about and come up with examples that He might give if He was talking to us today. Let’s start with “Turn the other cheek.” Turning the other cheek is all about not feeling the weight of an insult and not being defined by it. What is a situation that most teenagers deal with, or at least are familiar with, that would be a similar example?
- Answers will vary. Allow students time to come up with ideas. Push them until they have an example that really is comparable to “turn the other cheek.” For example, if someone insults you or makes fun of you in front of other teenagers, remain calm and keep a positive attitude. Maybe even make light of the situation by suggesting another insult. Write the example under “Turn the other cheek.” Then, ask the same question for each of the other three examples from the lesson.
NEXT, challenge students to think through the implications of the examples you have just come up with. Ask something like:
- These are good. But they are really hard, aren’t they? Which one would be hardest for you to put into practice in your own life?
- Give students time to answer.
- OK, so here’s something that bugs a lot of people when they study Jesus’ teaching: if we really live this out, aren’t we just giving people permission to hurt us however they want? I mean, if we gave to everyone who begged, couldn’t we eventually run out of money and be unable to support ourselves? Or, if your parents did this, couldn’t they get to a point where they wouldn’t have enough money to take care of you?
- Allow your group time to wrestle with this idea. If you have time, bring up other examples as well.
Remind students that this is really hard! So hard, in fact, that they’ll never get it right. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t keep trying. Say something like:
- So as we wrap up, here’s how I want you to think about it: in The Rescue, we’ve talked about how when we decide to follow Jesus, we renounce our citizenship in this world and become citizens in God’s Kingdom. In this world it’s normal to get back at someone who hurts us. But, if we are followers of Jesus, then we aren’t citizens of this world. In God’s Kingdom, God asks us to replace the desire to retaliate with the choice to love. That’s really what Jesus is getting at. And, of course, as Peter pointed out, Jesus didn’t just tell His disciples to do it, He led the way.
FINALLY, help students walk away with a concrete example so that they can put this idea into practice. Ask:
- Living this way seems overwhelming at first, not just because we aren’t used to doing it, but also because it’s so backwards from how our world works. So let’s ask God to help us start in one place. What is one area in your life where you can put this into practice this week?
- Encourage everyone in the group to share one thing.
Close your Bible Study in prayer, perhaps praying for the one area each student identified where they can put what you’ve discussed today into practice.