GUEST EDITORIAL: Why Did Jesus Teach in Opposites?

by Marsha Dowell

Why did Jesus frequently present opposing ideas like these: “You have heard that it was said, an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but I say to you…if someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other” (Matt. 5:38-39), and, “You have heard that it was said, love your neighbor and hate your enemy, but I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:43-44)?
Jesus does this quite often. Was He a rebel, trying to change what people usually accept as normal? Trying to stir things up?
His apostles were brought up short by this one: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9: 35). It is understandable to respond, “This makes no sense!”
Nicodemus was incredulous when Jesus told him: “Unless one is born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). And the crowds laughed at Jesus for saying: “Why do you weep? The child is not dead but sleeping” (Mark 5:39).
I believe that the goal of Jesus’ teaching was to demonstrate the proper perspective on life and on this world. Jesus alone has been in Heaven as a spiritual being, and has been on earth as a physical being. He alone sees simultaneously from God’s perspective and man’s view (Philippians 2).
Remember the saying that there are two sides to every story? There are two perspectives to your life story: man’s flawed view and God’s perspective, which is, in fact, reality: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isa. 55:8).
Jesus’ teachings are meant to help His followers live life through God’s perspective. When Jesus healed the blind man in John 9, everyone’s perspective was that the man was born blind due to his sin. Jesus taught them God’s perspective: “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be made manifest in him” (Verse 3).
Today, His Words are there for us when we face life’s tragedies, when there are no words that we can say to bring comfort. As we try to reason, make sense, or justify what has happened, we cannot see the whole story, but God does. Jesus’ teachings give us insight into God’s perspective, which is quite the opposite of man’s view.
Consider these two verses: “In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33), and “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matt. 5:11).
When life turns upside down, or when you are confused with the path that life is taking, or when you wonder if it has happened to you so “that the works of God might be made manifest,” sit in silence with God and try to see things from His perspective. Meditate on Jesus’ words, on the entire Word of God. And trust God when you can see no further: “For the wisdom of the world is foolishness with God” (I Cor. 3:19).
The answers are there with God.

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