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What the Bible says about Our Responsibilities to God
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 5:38-42

Normally and customarily, self-defense is a legal right in virtually every nation on earth, but in the Christian's case, God says, "No, it is not a right. There is a better way to do things."

Notice verse 39: "But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also." He speaks of a slap, something every culture views as insulting rather than damaging. It may do damage to the person's ego, but it is not something ordinarily intended to harm. Rather, it is intended to put down. Not only does a person get a slap on the right cheek, even worse is to be backhanded on the left (most people are right-handed). A whack with the back of the hand is even more insulting than the first slap with an open palm.

Jesus is trying to open our minds to something here. He is describing cases involving offense or insult. Such insults or offenses may not come by means of an actual slap but through gossip or maybe by being taken advantage of at work. The boss finds out that you are a good worker, so he piles more on you than you can actually handle. Then your good attitude begins to sour because the boss is taking advantage of you, and you begin to feel offended.

The first action (or reaction) in such cases is usually to retaliate, or to get even in some way—to get some measure of satisfaction. "It's our natural right, isn't it?" we might argue. Natural, yes, but spiritual, no!

God instructs us to submit because He is teaching a Christian to think in a certain way: to think of his duties, his responsibilities, not his privileges. To whom are our duties and responsibilities? They are to God, not to the self. Our first responsibility is always to God. The first and great commandment is toward Him (Matthew 22:37-38). The second is toward ourselves and others (Matthew 22:39). He is telling us, then, to submit to Him in instances in which we are insulted.

He wants us to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). It takes two to fight, and when one refuses, the fight usually goes out of the other person quickly. They may not lose their anger, but the fight usually stops. Once peace begins to be restored, then a Christian can appeal his case and begin to work matters out.

This passage shows us that we are to make a certain kind of response. We can do it either as a grim duty to be resented or as a service gladly rendered. We need to do it, not so much for the other person's benefit, but for God's—out of deep respect and godly fear. We thus have a choice as to how we can respond. Jesus has instructed us about how He wants us to respond. He wants us to be willing to go the extra mile.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Submitting (Part 2)

Matthew 25:14-29

The admonition here is that God, in His calling and gifting by means of His Holy Spirit, has equipped us to perform our responsibilities for Him before the world. He makes sure we understand that He is carefully judging how well we do with what we have been given. Always remember that He abundantly shows us how considerate and merciful He is in His judgments, but He also reminds us that, if we cannot live up to even His generous judgment, there is a time of reckoning.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Two): Works

Romans 11:19-22

Paul directs this passage toward Gentiles as part of an admonition he wanted them to consider regarding their calling into the church. We, too, must seriously consider God's goodness and severity. God is not only what we commonly think of as love. His character is perfectly balanced by a sense of justice for all concerned and for His purpose too. To be just is to be fair, evenhanded, and impartial. God will always be fair because even His justice is executed in love and is an act of love.

God is not only supreme in power and authority, but He is also supreme in judgment. His mind pierces through all of the justifications we make to excuse our bad attitudes and conduct as measured against His righteous standard. So, if we desire to live by faith, we must seriously consider His sense of justice because what we may think is a small matter, an event of no great magnitude, may trigger God to react with terrible swiftness and severe consequences that leave us wondering why. Scripture records a number of these sudden, violent reactions.

We must begin by understanding that we do not see the entire picture as God does. The reality of God's justice helps us to perceive three important factors to living by faith: 1) The wages of sin is indeed death (Romans 6:23); 2) we are headed toward death and do not know its time; and 3) God means exactly what He says.

Jesus declares an important principle in Luke 12:48: "But he who did not know, yet committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more." We need to think about the seriousness of our calling, knowing that human nature contains a strong strain of self-deception. This verse should remind us that because we have been given so much, our judgment will be sterner.

God states in Romans 1:18-20 that mankind is without excuse regarding His existence, but it is easily seen in the immoral conduct committed throughout the world that people are paying little or no attention to their responsibilities to God. As people go about their daily activities, they ignore Him; a relationship with Him is not perceived as a vital, everyday necessity to life.

Some may talk of Him on occasion and even pray, but they are not seriously committed to true devotion to Him. They are neither learning more of His truth nor further broadening and deepening obedience to Him. Besides those folks, some are openly and aggressively antagonistic toward Him and His laws.

However, in the face of these attitudes, we cannot allow ourselves to disregard the fact that God is very serious about His intentions to fulfill His purposes for His creation and most especially in the lives of His children. His purpose has been revealed to us, and we are more responsible than others.

Though by our reckoning of time God's justice often seems long delayed, the prophecies will be fulfilled and His Kingdom established under Jesus Christ. God commands that we must live by faith, so we cannot let down. We must push on in faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Living by Faith and God's Justice


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