I know what you’re thinking. Why on earth would someone write a biblical message on the Sermon On The Mount as a Star Wars story? If you’re familiar at all with the Star Wars saga, you know there are many different themes in the films, and one of them is revenge. Now, I promise not to spend the entire message digging into Star Wars, but we are going to use some examples of the movie, especially the life of Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader), and how his turn to the dark side is a powerful example of how revenge can destroy our lives.
Have you ever been hurt by someone you loved? I could personally give many examples of this, but for the sake of this message, we will stick to Star Wars. In the film Revenge of the Sith, Anakin has turned completely to the dark side, and has become Darth Vader. His wife, Padme, goes to the planet where he has been sent to kill members of the Trade Federation, and without her knowledge, Obi Wan Kenobi, Anakin’s former master, stows away on her ship. When she reaches Anakin, he is very excited to see her, until he sees Obi Wan. At that point, he believes her to be in league with him, and that she brought Obi Wan there to kill him. His desire for revenge ends up almost killing his wife. One of my favorite verses is Hebrews 12:15 (NIV), which says “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” See, we are not only to show grace to those who have hurt us, but we are also told not to allow any root of bitterness to grow up and cause trouble. We’ve all been hurt by someone, and it’s usually the people who are closest to us who end up hurting us the most, and who need the most grace.
At the end of this series, we will begin a series on grace, and we will come back to this verse many times in those messages. Today, we are looking into Jesus’ teaching on revenge, and we will go over some ways to fight against it. There are several verses we will be looking at today, but our main focus will be in Matthew 5:38 – 42 (NLT), as we continue to run through our Sermon On The Mount series.
First of all, let me just say that I have thoroughly enjoyed going through this message with you all. It has been wonderful to spend these last few weeks digging into this incredible sermon that Jesus gave, and it has been very challenging for me personally, as I have had to reflect on how these topics have affected my own life, the decisions I’ve made (and continue to make, for that matter), the way I approach certain situations, even the way I talk to my friends, family, and even my kids. This sermon, in my opinion, is a great illustration of how to live as an authentic, passionate follower of Christ.
Now, I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I am not in any way trying to say that the hurt caused to you was not real, or that you should just let it go. I understand all too well how real the pain some of us go through is, and how severe it can be. I’m not saying you should ignore your pain, or even that you should forget the things that have been done to you. The great theologian Yoda said “The greatest teacher, failure is.” While I’m convinced that that is true, I also believe pain comes in second by a very slim margin. Today, we’re going to look at why pain is a great teacher, but how revenge is never the answer for it.
Matthew 5:38 – 42 (NLT) says “You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth. But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” My first point is this:
1. No Matter The Response, Grace Is Your Responsibility
I was having a conversation a few months back with a woman, and she was telling me about the relationship between her and her mother. It was strained, and there was some negative thoughts there, despite her trying to reach out to her mother in a godly way. Minus the physical trauma that I endured as a child, it sounded very similar to the way I grew up, and to the relationship I continue to have with my mother, even in adulthood. I explained to her that, even if her response is negative, hers should always include grace. That is what we are called to in this passage. When Jesus says “Do not resist an evil person.”, He is telling us to show grace. There’s an expression I’m sure we’ve all heard at least once in our lives that says “Hurt people hurt people.” While it may not be an easy thing to do, we need to look at what is causing the person that is hurting us to act the way that they do, and try to respond to that hurt with compassion. This is not an easy thing to do, especially when the hurt goes deeper than just an unkind word, a time of being ignored, or even a physical altercation.
1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NLT) says “See that no one pays back evil for evil, but always try to do good to each other and to all people.” When I first started this ministry over two years ago, it was a way for me to get through the pain that I had held in for so long. It wasn’t just one thing. There were so many hurts in my life, and I couldn’t handle the pain anymore. I was lashing out at people I love, making them suffer because I was suffering, and putting a lot of my hurts onto people who didn’t deserve it at all. I had a DVR full of painful memories, and I just replayed them and replayed them until the pain was so real that it was like the offense had just taken place when, in reality, it had been years. One of the people that I probably lashed out at the most was my grandmother, who is the very definition of the salt of the earth. As I look back on those times, I am most definitely ashamed, but I also remember that she showed grace in every instance, even when I was undeserving of it. Throughout the prequel trilogy, which tells the story of how Anakin Skywalker became Darth Vader, there are several scenes where Anakin acts like a petulant child, which is how most of us are acting when we are lashing at our the people we love. There’s one scene in particular where this stands out more than most. It’s in Episode 2, and it’s towards the end of the movie. The Jedi have just battled the evil Count Dooku and his droid army in an arena, and Obi Wan, Anakin, and Padme are chasing Dooku down after he has escaped on a speeder. Padme is knocked off the ship, and the following is an exchange between Obi Wan and Anakin.
Anakin Skywalker: Padme! [to pilot] Put the ship down!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: Anakin! Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way! [to pilot] Follow that speeder.
Anakin Skywalker:[to pilot] Lower the ship!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: I can’t take Dooku alone! I need you! If we catch him, we can end this war right now! We have a job to do!
Anakin Skywalker: I don’t care! [to pilot] Put the ship down!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: YOU WILL BE EXPELLED FROM THE JEDI ORDER!
Anakin Skywalker: I CAN’T LEAVE HER!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: COME TO YOUR SENSES! What do you think Padme would do were she in your position?
Anakin Skywalker:[resigned] She would do her duty.
Anakin is very upset, and really throwing a fit over the woman he loves not being right next to him, but he is reminded of the duties in front of him, and how she would behave in that situation. That’s what Jesus is calling us to in this passage. We are to be good to everyone instead of repaying evil for evil. This brings me to my second point.
2. When We Try To Get Revenge, We Are Essentially Saying That We Are More Important Than God
Hebrews 10:30 (NLT) says “For we know the one who said, ‘I will take revenge. I will pay them back.’ He also said, ‘The Lord will judge his own people.’” The Hebrew writer is reminding us who is judge and jury, and whose job it is to give payback. If we try to take matters into our own hands, we are basically saying that we don’t trust God to do it, and that He will not follow through on His word. This really leads back to fear. When we take it upon ourselves to get revenge on the people who hurt us, it shows our fear that God is not who He says He is, and that we cannot trust Him to keep His word. I’m going to do something here that I promise I’ve never done in one of these messages before. I’m going to quote the great theologian Yoda for a second time (I promise I’ve never done this before). In the Star Wars prequel trilogy movie The Phantom Menace, Yoda is talking to a very young Anakin Skywalker. He says to him, “Fear is a path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”
As much as some of you may laugh at me for quoting a little green man from a science fiction movie twice in one message, there is a lot of wisdom in what he is saying, as well as a lot of prophecy. There is a scene in the follow-up movie, Attack of the Clones, where Anakin finds his mother has been killed by a race of people called the Sand People. After finding her just in time to witness her death, he goes on to kill every one of the sand people, which I think most would agree is the beginning of what becomes his eventual turn to the dark side, and his becoming Darth Vader. The scene that follows is one of Yoda showing physical signs of agony, and he goes on to say, “Something terrible has happened. Young Skywalker is in pain, terrible pain.”, which of course fulfilled Yoda’s prophecy from the first movie. You see, the Sand People killed Anakin’s mother, so he took revenge on them, which, in the end, caused him even more pain. The movie goes on to show Anakin and Padme talking, and Anakin tells Padme of what he has done. He tells her, “I killed them. I killed them all. They’re dead, every single one of them. And not just the men, but the women and the children, too. They’re like animals, and I slaughtered them like animals. I HATE THEM!!!!!”
Colossians 3:25 (NCV) says “But remember that anyone who does wrong will be punished for that wrong, and the Lord treats everyone the same.” How many times have you been hurt by someone, and the first thought to cross your mind is you want to hurt that person even worse than they hurt you? I know it’s happened to me before. What I’ve noticed is, it’s usually over something that really doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. At the climax of the second movie, Obi Wan and Anakin have caught up to Count Dooku, and are about to engage him in battle. The following is an exchange between the three of them.
Anakin Skywalker: You’re going to pay for all the Jedi that you killed today, Dooku.
Obi-Wan Kenobi: We’ll take him together. You go in slowly on the left…
Anakin Skywalker: No, I’m taking him now!
Obi-Wan Kenobi: No, Anakin, NO!
[Dooku easily defeats Anakin, using Force Lightning]
Count Dooku: As you can see, my Jedi powers are far beyond yours. Now, back down.
Anakin wanted revenge right then, and it ended up costing him. A few years ago, my mother and I were on our way to see my daughter perform at a Christmas musical at her school. We were driving down Interstate 20 when a piece of metal came off of the back of an 18 wheeler and hit the passenger windshield. Thankfully, it didn’t go through the window (I wouldn’t be here if it had), but I remember getting so angry that I wanted to do more to the truck driver than he had done to me. I was ready to physically fight a man that I had never met before. Almost 3 years later, that accident really has no effect on me at all, but if I had allowed myself to do the things I wanted to do at the time, my entire life would have changed. I would have gone to jail, and that man would have gone on with his life. That brings me to my last point, which is this:
3. Revenge Can Destroy Your Life
In the prequel trilogy, Anakin seems to have it all. He is quickly on his way to becoming one of the greatest Jedi to ever live. He ends up marrying the woman of his dreams (despite the fact that she’s quite a bit older than him). He and his wife even end up getting pregnant at the beginning of the third movie. It would seem he is well on his way to a pretty amazing life, but he starts to allow his fear to control him. At the climax of the last movie of the trilogy, he has given himself fully over to the dark side and become Darth Vader, all in an attempt to save his wife from death. His wife comes to find him on a fiery planet, and in their encounter, she says to him, “You’re going to a place that I can’t follow.” He ends up losing everything, including his limbs and most of his face, all because he seeks out revenge on the people that loved him the most. This is a great metaphor for what can happen to us if we seek out revenge. There are three choices that we have when it comes to our pain. Two of them can cause significant damage to our lives, and the last one can be the thing that sets us free. I’ll go over each of them quickly for you.
Many of us take our pain, and we hide it away. We may not necessarily seek revenge for the things that have been done to us, but we hold on to it. We try to bury it deep down in us, but it eventually comes out, often in explosive and destructive ways.
As I said earlier in the message, I used to have a DVR full of painful memories that ran almost nonstop in my head. I could pull up each one on demand, just as you do a movie on Netflix, and watch it in pretty great detail any time I wanted. The problem with that was it just brought that pain back up all over again, which did more damage each time it happened.
This may not be the easiest one to do, but it is by far the most effective. When you let those painful memories go, you’re really letting go of the power you’ve given them over your life. You’re also letting go of your need to get revenge. It took me a long time to realize how incredibly freeing it was when I let go of those pains, but it was a great revelation.
I’m sure that some of you will write this message off (some of you did the first time I mentioned the name Star Wars), but for those of you who do end up reading this, I would like to offer up a challenge. The next time you think about how bad you’ve been hurt, and how unfair it was to you, remember that it’s God’s job to punish those who hurt us, not ours, and then, let it go. Release it, and I promise you that you will find a freedom you could have never imagined.
We thank You that You bear the burdens we can not. Today, we let go of the right to take revenge on those who have hurt us, and we give that right to You. Lord, I know personally how heavy of a weight it is to carry around the hurts that I’ve suffered, and I am so grateful that You give those who are burdened rest, and You carry their burdens for them. Father, I pray for all those who are hurting today, who are still carrying the weight of those offenses. Lord, may they finally reach a point where the weight is too much, and they surrender it to You. Father, please be with our leaders. Help them to look to You to be their decision makers. Guide their hands and their hearts, and help them to lead our country back to You. Be with all those who are hurting, whether it be physical or emotional. Help them to know that You are the Great Physician, and that You are capable of healing every ailment. Father, we just thank You for who You are. It’s in Your Name we pray,